Bradley Wiggins says he may aim for the ambitious double of overall victory at the Tour de France and Olympic gold in 2012.
Team Sky's latest recruit told Sky Sports News this week that although balancing the two objectives will be complicated, he was enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming the first rider to achieve such a feat.
"It's going to be quite a difficult challenge but that's the attractiveness of it to be honest," Wiggins told Sky Sports News. "Come 2012, how close it is to the Tour de France finishing may be an issue - we'll have to take a look at the programme. That's part of the big challenge though - trying to win the Tour and an Olympic gold in the same year would be quite something."
No rider has won the Tour de France and Olympic gold in any event in the same year. Between 1912 and 1992, Olympic competition was only open to amateur athletes, however in the professional era since two Tour-winning riders, Miguel Indurain (1991-1995) and Jan Ullrich (1997), have also claimed Olympic gold medals during their careers.
Indurain won the individual time trial in Atlanta in 1996 and four years later Ullrich won the road race at the Sydney games.
Unlike the Spaniard and the German, Wiggins would aim for gold on the track, rather than the road. With the individual pursuit – an event Wiggins has won at the past two Olympics - no longer part of the games programme, he said he will focus instead on the defence of the team pursuit he and his Great Britain teammates claimed in Beijing last year.
Any attempt at the Tour de France-Olympic double would rely on Wiggins's ability to deal with a rapid turn-around from the French race, and the potential conflict with the yet-to-be-announced track schedule for London. With the games scheduled to start on July 27, the Briton may have less than a week to refocus for the track.
Three years out, Tour tops the list
With three years to go before the next Olympic year, Wiggins's priority in the intervening seasons will be to secure an improvement on his fourth-place finish at this year's Tour de France with former team Garmin. "Whether we [Sky] win the Tour [next year] or not, it won't be for the want of trying and we'll be there 100 percent ready to go," he said.
"I went through a whole season and didn't really target anything but was good at everything so next year with a bit more focus, and obviously the Tour de France is the main goal, we feel we can be a lot better."
Wiggins is likely to face a broader challenge at the 2010 Tour with Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong deploying the respective resources of their Astana and RadioShack squads. Wiggins finished only 37 seconds adrift of Armstrong in Paris, but said he had drawn some key lessons from the experience.
"Just riding side-by-side with [Armstrong] up some of those climbs and talking to him - because he's a nice bloke - you're just learning from him all the time. The way he judges his effort, the way he handles the media as well. He's just the best at everything really."
Although close to the seven-time Tour winner in July, it is improvement on the 6:01 deficit to Contador is will be the biggest hurdle for Wiggins to overcome. He acknowledges that the Spaniard is the marker for all of the Tour contenders.
"He's set the benchmark, he's dominated the Grand Tours for the last couple of years and he's the man we all aspire to beat now."