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Flecha and Wiggins during stage 11
Team Sky captain puts his ride into perspective
Despite not flying the Team Sky flag as high as he'd like at this point in the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins hasn't written off his race this year - rather he's focusing on his strengths to help deliver something in the final week.
While the Briton looked good on the Col de la Ramaz during stage eight he suffered losses of 1:45 on the final climb of the day to Morzine-Avoriaz and finished the next day to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in 30th, 4:55 behind stage winner Sandy Casar.
It's added up to 16th place overall, 7:39 down on race leader Andy Schleck and far from the lofty heights of last year's Tour, which saw him finish fourth overall in Paris. Wiggins says the 2010 Tour is a different beast and consequently he's playing it differently.
"If I don't come fourth or better this year it can be seen as failure by some people, so I set myself up for this last year," Wiggins told British newspaper The Guardian. "You always want to back yourself, otherwise it would be like going to a boxing match and saying you don't give yourself a chance. You always have to give yourself a chance, but I wasn't going to say my goal was top 15 or top 10 or top five.
"Physically I'm good, mentally I'm OK," he continued. "I had one instant of disappointment when I realised I wasn't with the best of them [on stage eight], but you can either sulk or try to make the best of it."
A means of "making the most of it" is by putting in a strong performance in the final time trial, where he could make up that time lost to the mountain specialists earlier in the race and entrench himself in the top 10 as a result, as he explained.
"It was a case of recovering through the Alps; I'm two minutes off ninth place today and I can get two minutes on most of the guys in the last 50km time trial. I still believe I have a top 10 ride in me. Consistency will be the key in this Tour. It's a question of not having great days or bad days. If I can do that I can be within touching distance of a lot of guys in the final time trial."
And according to Wiggins, two significant factors in why this year's Tour has panned out so differently are the incredible form of the top two, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, and the format of la grande boucle in 2010.
"You can't account for how good Alberto Contador is, you don't know how controlled a race it's going to be," he said. "I didn't begin to realise what the best I could do in this Tour was until this stage in the race.
"The reality is that I'm not with Alberto Contador or Andy Schleck, but then behind those two there is a big gaggle of guys down to about 15th, and the order we are in could well be tipped on its head in the Pyrenees.
"At this point last year, we hadn't had anything like the stages we've had now," he said. "There was a long prologue, a team time trial that separated the GC [general classification] contenders quite a bit, a summit finish where I held on to a 15-rider lead group, and Contador, [Lance] Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden all in the same team and up there overall."
Despite admitting that some will be disappointed in his performance if he doesn't match his feats of 2009, Wiggins is maintaining perspective on his progress from Olympic medal-winning track specialist to Grand Tour general classification contender.
"This is the first year I've been doing this," said Wiggins. "Last year I didn't set out to come fourth, and this year my build-up programme was based around last year. We may change things in the future, perhaps we won't go to the Giro d'Italia. I was seventh overall with a week to go there, perhaps I went too deep.
"Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre and myself all rode hard in the Giro and aren't in the front echelon here. Last year, on the other hand, Leipheimer, Armstrong and myself did the Giro and we were up there in the Tour.
"It took me years to master the pursuit. I know the pursuit and the Tour are two different kinds of race, but it took a time to get the preparation for it nailed.
"I will always remember one thing that [Garmin manager] Jonathan Vaughters said to me last year: if I get a route based around my strengths I can finish on the podium. Last year I was 30 seconds off third place; this year I will take whatever I can get."