Bradley Wiggins returned to Tour of California this week for the first time since he won the race in 2014, but the 2012 Tour de France champion and Olympic time trial gold medallist was quick to downplay his chances to repeat his 2014 title during the pre-race press conference Friday in San Diego.
When Wiggins won in 2014 he was riding for Team Sky and fighting for a spot on the British squad’s Tour de France team that was hoping to defend Chris Froome’s 2013 Tour win. Wiggins was in stellar condition and proved it on the roads of California.
He’s retired from road racing since then, saying Friday that he only competes in a couple of road races each year; his mental preparation and physical training are now focused solely on the track. Wiggins rides for his own Team WIGGINS now, helping mentor younger British riders who hope to break into the sport’s upper echelons.
“This is only my second road race of the year,” he told journalists assembled for the press conference at the San Diego Yacht Club. “I don’t race on the road. I’m retired, but I get talked into doing a couple of races a year.”
Wiggins has only nine road race days so far in 2016, with his best finish a 77th place at the Dubai Tour. Most recently he dropped out of the Tour of Yorkshire on the first day.
On Friday, he joked that he and his teammates on the British Continental team will just try and stay out of the way of the WorldTour riders he shared the press conference dais with.
“We won’t get in the way of these guys – don’t worry – except for 10k to go we’ll come up to get on the tele, be a bit disruptive and then get out of the way,” he joked. “We did that in Dubai.”
Of course, race fans can expect a little more from Wiggins and his team, which also includes Mark Christian, Jonathan Dibben, Owain Doull, Samuel Harrison, Liam Holohan, Christopher Latham and Andrew Tennant.
“For the guys, it’s a big step up for them to be here.,” Wiggins said. “For me, I’m 12 kilos heavier than I was when I won the race, so I’m not going to be climbing with these guys anymore.”
Wiggins took the overall lead in 2014 during the stage 3 time trial in Folsom. The race returns there this year for stage 6 on the same time trial course. Despite his success the last time he was there, Wiggins begged off any suggestion that he was a favourite for the stage. The other riders on the podium that day in 2014, Rohan Dennis and Taylor Phinney, will be there again this year. Both Dennis and Phinney have been racing regularly this season, while Wiggins has been training almost exclusively on the track.
“I don’t know,” Wiggins said when asked how he thinks he’ll do when the race reaches Folsom this year. “I haven’t done a time trial for 14 months. I just pulled the bike out of the garage to check what chain ring is on it. We’ll see. I don’t know. Twelve kilos is a lot to be carrying around. It’s like a carrying a small baby on your back.”
How well Wiggins is going this year at the Tour of California should be revealed soon. The race starts with two likely sprint stages, but this year’s queen stage comes on the third day when the peloton rides from Thousand Oaks to the top of Gibraltar Road outside of Santa Barbara. Either way, this more relaxed Wiggins clearly intends to enjoy his time in California.
“It’s nice to be back at the race more than anything,” he said. “We’ll roll the sleeves and shorts up, work on the tan and then go back to the UK.”