Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has paid tribute to his new training philosophy after he took a firm grip of the overall standings at the Critérium du Dauphiné with a convincing victory in the stage 4 time trial to Bourg-en-Bresse.
The Dauphiné is only the fifth race Wiggins has started in 2012 as he builds for the Tour de France under the stewardship of Tim Kerrison, his Australian coach, with a training programme that has aroused considerable interest. Kerrison’s background is in swimming, and the structure he has devised for Wiggins bears many of the hallmarks of his former discipline, in particular his recommendation that the rider dispense with the idea of using races as training.
“My coach has not been in cycling for long, he’s come from swimming, so I’ve pretty much been training like the swimmers train,” Wiggins told reporters in Bourg-en-Bresse. “I’ve been constantly training through the year, so it’s not like the traditional way for cycling, which is starting in January fat or in really bad condition, and then building, building and showing form in these races.”
Wiggins began his racing campaign with 3rd overall at the Volta ao Algarve in February, then won Paris-Nice in March. After abandoning, the Volta a Catalunya, Wiggins won the Tour de Romandie in early May and now holds a commanding lead at the Dauphiné. In between, his regimen has included some lengthy stints of training at altitude in the seclusion of Mount Teide, Tenerife.
“It’s just trying to be 95, 97% all year and constantly working,” Wiggins said. “The only downside is that it’s mentally difficult, but up to now I’ve found it pretty good. I’ve only raced four races this year and I’ve had long periods between races to freshen up and do good blocks of training, so I’m not going from race to race.”
Wiggins wryly recalled how his victorious ride at Paris-Nice in March had seen many wonder if he had reached his best condition too soon. Stretching his gaunt legs as he spoke, Wiggins reiterated that his entire campaign is centred on the Tour de France.
“I’ve kept spouting on about this since Paris-Nice and it becomes old hat after a while, but we’re training for July,” he said. “We’ve always been training for July. When we won Paris-Nice, I was asked had I peaked too soon and I said, ‘no, we’re training for July.’ We get to Romandie and I’m asked if I’ve peaked too soon, and I said ‘no, we’re training for July…’”
Wiggins has sprinkled his preparation for July with an approach to racing that seems to have been lifted straight from the “you might as well win” school of thought. His emphatic win in Bourg-en-Bresse means that he is in pole position to add overall victory at the Dauphiné to an already impressive 2012 haul.
Martin and Evans
More immediately, Wiggins noted that his primary motivation on Thursday was to beat world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), and he duly obliged by putting 34 seconds into the German.
“I’ve not beaten Tony too many times in the past. I beat him in Algarve this year but that was by milliseconds,” he said. “But to beat him by a clear margin this time is a huge satisfaction really. We’d been chasing Tony for a long time. He won by a significant margin at the world championships last year and that was the start point for us – to try and get closer to him.”
In the longer term, however, Wiggins’ sights are clearly fixed on succeeding Cadel Evans (BMC) as Tour de France champion. At one point, he even seemed on course to catch and pass Evans, but although the Australian managed to hold him off, Wiggins’ margin of 1:43 was surely still a significant psychological blow ahead of the Tour’s final time trial at Chartres.
“It’s the Daupiné, we’re still six weeks now from the last time trial of the Tour. That’s a long time,” Wiggins protested. “For Cadel, I think there was a similar margin in the Grenoble time trial last year, but by the time the last time trial of the Tour came around, I don’t think I would have been sure to beat Cadel that day.
“A lot changes in time trials with conditions and you can’t hide when it you’re having a bad day.”
Or, it seems, when you’re having a good year.