Bradley Wiggins has confirmed that he will ride with Team Sky for one more year before focusing on the track and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with Great Britain. He has conceded that he will never again target overall success at the Tour de France and knows he will have to play a 'super domestique' role in support of Chris Froome if he rides the Tour de France for a final time in 2014.
Wiggins finished 91st at the Eneco Tour, opting to finish in the peloton on most days. He targeted the 13.2km time trial stage but finished fifth on the twisting technical course. He has already put on several kilogrammes as he beefs up for the world championship time trial in Tuscany and admits he will never return to being the skinny stage race rider of recent years.
"I'm going to continue to the next Olympics and try for a fifth gold on the track. That's the plan," Wiggins told The Times newspaper in a major interview published in Monday.
"Having lost weight and muscle the last few years, I wouldn't be able to walk back into that team pursuit squad, so I'm not taking it for granted, but I am working towards that. It would be nice to finish the career with another Olympic gold."
Wiggins was not selected to ride this year's Tour de France due to the knee injury that forced him out of the Giro d'Italia. He admits it was not easy to miss riding the 100th edition of the Tour as defending champion but accepts that Chris Froome has now proven he is a Tour de France winner, who could dominate the race for the next few years.
"I don't mind admitting that Chris is probably a better Grand Tour rider than me. He is a much better climber, he can time-trial well. He has age on his side, he has no kids. That's fine."
"If Chris wants to, he could potentially win five Tours now. So if I want to win another Tour, I'd probably have to leave the team." Would he leave? "No," he said. "I love this team. This is my home. I'm not going to go, 'I want to be the leader still, so I'm off.'"
Wiggins said he would "love to go back to the Tour" next summer and "do a job as a super-domestique" and "maybe win a time-trial stage" but he also questions openly whether "there is a place for me on that team". He will be 34 next April and knows he will have to fight for his place in the Team Sky Tour de France squad. Even if Froome misses the Tour through injury, Wiggins would not be able to step in and go for overall victory.
"Because of the work I am doing. I am p****** on my chances for that," he said.
"I can't put all this weight on and then suddenly lose muscle and do GC again. Anyway, the next person in line, the natural successor, is Richie Porte. He really is the next one who could potentially win the Tour."
Bad blood with Froome
Chris Froome often describes the alleged tension between him as Wiggins as something stirred up by the media but Wiggins admitted their spat caused the spilling of a lot of bad blood. Things reached a low point before the Giro d'Italia when the two took swipes at each about Tour de France leadership in interviews. Wiggins has now had time to reflect on his career and his future while missing the Tour de France.
"I know that at the last press conference I gave before the Giro, saying that caused quite a stir from Chris's camp. I remember at the start of the Giro, there was a lot of s***, and, to be honest, it affected me," he said.
When Team Sky opted to back Froome as team leader and for the future, Wiggins was forced to do a lot of soul searching.
"At that point it was clear," he said. "We've got this 28-year-old guy [Froome] who looks like he can dominate for the next few years and they are going to back him. Then there's me: 32, knocking on a bit. In a sense I kind of accept that," he said.
Wiggins described himself as being "in an acceptance phase, tussling with events, his past, his ambitions, the reality of the present and his ego.
"There was a lot of reflection. A lot of it is just ego," he explained, suggesting he has now accepted how things are.
"I was thinking: 'You know what, I am quite happy with my lot. I've achieved everything I want to achieve. I am good at what I am good at; I am good at the odd time-trial. I've already won the Tour de France, no one can take that away from me.'"
He is now able to put his 2012 Tour de France and Froome replacing him as team leader at Team sky into perspective.
"You can look at it two ways. You can go: 'F****** hell, he's got my crown.' Or, you can think: 'You know what, this race is unbelievable. I did this last year. How did I do it?'
"A year ago, I took everything in my stride, but a year later, you are on the outside watching it and it is inspiring in some ways, watching the guys doing what they were doing. And in a way I was like: 'I'm glad I'm not there because it looks bloody hard.'"