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Bradley Wiggins has admitted to the Sunday Times that comments he made at the 2010 Tour de France undermining Floyd Landis’ credibility when he revealed the extent of the doping programme in place at the US Postal Service team “look really stupid now.”
Wiggins raced with Landis’ former teammates David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde at Garmin, and with Michael Barry at Sky, and said that their descriptions of Landis coloured his own thinking on the matter during.
“People were saying that he had four or five Twitter accounts and he was posting crazy stuff,” Wiggins told the Sunday Times. “Then you walk out of the Team Sky bus, someone says, ‘What do you think of what Landis has said?’ and you reply with some throwaway remarks that are misinformed and with the benefit of hindsight you would never say. I wasn’t going well in that Tour, I was feeling the pressure and it was easier for me to spit out from the tent than spit into it.”
In January 2011, Wiggins had told Cyclingnews that he had “always been a bit of a fan” of Lance Armstrong and said that he “sided on the side of innocent until proven guilty with him. There isn’t an athlete or a cyclist out there that isn’t more tested than he is.”
Speaking to the Sunday Times, however, Wiggins looked to offer an explanation for his stance in 2010-2011. “Lance was still a powerful figure in the peloton and it was just easier to say something that meant he wasn’t going to be on your case,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins also claimed that he was surprised by his former teammates Zabriskie and Barry’s confessions of doping in USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the Armstrong case. Both men confessed to doping while riding for Armstrong’s US Postal team.
“When it came out that Zabriskie confessed I was surprised because I never imagined they were doing it. I mean, he wasn’t winning any races when he was at Postal,” said Wiggins, overlooking Zabriskie’s 100-mile solo breakaway to win a stage of the 2004 Vuelta a España while at US Postal.
As for Michael Barry, Wiggins said that he never thought he was part of a doping culture and said that his own stance on Landis had been informed by the aspersions Barry cast on the American’s mental state.
“You get asked about Floyd and you feel like you’re in a gang and you say what everyone in the gang is saying. You become part of that, because it’s easier. A lot of people look really stupid now, as do some of the comments I made,” Wiggins said.
In the intervening period, Wiggins has developed into a Tour de France winner and has had to face questions regarding his own dramatic improvement his recent years. He reacted angrily to doping innuendo during last year’s Tour and explained his ire to the Sunday Times.
“I would rather not have won the Tour at all than win it and later test positive. I would rather go back and work in Tesco, not win the Tour, not be knighted, not have all the other stuff and just be a father that my kids are proud of,” Wiggins said. “When people say I dope, they’re saying I’m lying to my kids. I’m not having that.”
The other great taboo subject of Wiggins’ press conferences at the Tour was his relationship with Sky teammate Chris Froome. Although Wiggins described Froome as “one of the best climbers in the world, maybe even the best,” he admitted that Froome’s acceleration on the road to Peyragudes at last year’s Tour had lingered in the memory.
“I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten last year, especially the attack in the Pyrenees, but enough time has passed and I just accept it now. Chris and I have a professional working relationship and I believe we’ll both do what’s right for the team,” Wiggins said.
With Wiggins lining up at the Giro d’Italia next week, Froome has been named as Sky’s leader for the Tour de France, but Wiggins was bullish about his chances of being on top form in both May and July.
“I see it as a Giro/Tour project. The Giro comes first so that is the priority, but the minute the Giro is finished, it is not a case of going back to normality. I will be preparing as seriously as I can for the Tour,” said Wiggins, pointing to the post-Tour form that yielded Olympic gold last year. “I believe I can come out of the Giro in the same shape and be seriously competitive in the Tour.”