Bradley Wiggins has described missing the Tour de France as the turning point in his season and believes that he is in the best possible form ahead of Wednesday’s individual time trial at the world championships in Florence.
The Sky rider was unable to defend his Tour title due to a nagging knee injury but he arrives at the Worlds on something of a high after winning the Tour of Britain at the weekend.
In an interview published in L’Équipe on Tuesday, Wiggins revisited his abortive bid to win the Giro d’Italia, a race he abandoned due to illness having already repeatedly lost ground on descents in the opening ten days of the race.
“At the Giro, I had the form but not the commitment,” Wiggins said. “Mentally, it wasn’t going right, I was behind on the descents and I didn’t want to risk everything. I was asking myself what I was doing there. And a lot of other things going on behind the scenes didn’t help.”
That Giro campaign had begun with confirmation from manager Dave Brailsford that Chris Froome would lead Team Sky at the Tour de France, and Wiggins admitted that the speculation over his status in the team had taken its toll psychologically.
“At the time, I was fed up with all the debate around the leadership for the Tour de France. The turning point was not doing the Tour, it’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” he said.
Wiggins’ own declarations in the early part of the season did little to dampen speculation surrounding the leadership of Team Sky at the Tour, of course. After he told the British media in May that he was hoping to win both the Giro and Tour, Froome and then Sky were moved responded with press releases underlining the hierarchy for the Tour.
“Yes, but you get asked questions and clearly, we were both asked to do the same thing [by the team] and it had a snowball effect,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t like this season until the moment I knew that I wouldn’t do the Tour. Before the Tour, everything is directed towards the Tour. Even at the Giro, people ask you questions about the Tour.”
"I didn't envy Chris"
Wiggins told L’Équipe that he is now uncertain of his future as a Grand Tour leader at Sky, pointing out that Froome’s dominance at this year’s Tour makes him the natural favourite for the race for the coming seasons.
“Clearly, a lot depends on Chris. He won the Tour this year, so it’s his place now and it would be incorrect on my part to try and remove him from that. From the way he rode this year, he could win it for the next three or four years.”
Asked if he was saddened by the prospect of never winning the Tour again, Wiggins said that he hadn’t truly enjoyed his victory in 2012, pointing to how the pressures of wearing the yellow jersey were exacerbated by innuendo surrounding the Sky team.
“I love the Tour, but I’m not underestimating what it takes to win it. And even on the Tour itself, I didn’t enjoy it a lot, there was a lot of pressure,” he said. “I think Chris has seen that this year, with the constant questions on doping. The general atmosphere of the Tour was bad, and particularly towards Sky. Guys like [France Télévisions co-commentator Cédric] Vasseur fed that hatred a bit. I didn’t envy Chris in having to deal with all of that.”
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s time trial in Tuscany, Wiggins pointed to Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara as the other contenders for the rainbow jersey, but said that all he could do was focus on his own performance.
“It’s the best I’ve ever been for the time trial, I’ve trained for thirteen weeks to improve my pain threshold over an hour and five minutes,” he said. “I know what I’m going to do, but I can’t know that for Tony and Fabian. I love time trials because you can’t control what the others are going to do, and vice-versa. It’s just you against your bike. I’ve always loved that.”