With his overall Tour de France ambitions shelved for this year, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) began Tuesday's sixteenth stage of the Tour de France determined to get in the day's main break.
The Englishman made it into a move that was captured at the foot of the Tourmalet, but missed the counter-attack that followed and stayed clear. Later, however, he was as upbeat as he has been during this Tour when he emerged from his team's bus to speak to fans.
He then identified Saturday's time trial as his next big target, and said that he is likely to adopt a different approach to next year's Tour, which could see him skip the Giro d'Italia.
Wiggins also admitted that his honesty after Sunday's stage to Ax-3 Domaines - when he said, "I haven't got it this year" - removed a lot of pressure. "The minute I came out and said it, it felt like a weight off my shoulders," said Wiggins.
"I just thought, what's the point in trying to hide the fact, and kid myself? That was the real wake up call the other day. Every disappointment I'd had before then, I kept thinking, well, tomorrow I could rectify it. But it came to the point where you accept that it isn't going to happen.
"A lot of the guys who are up there had disappointing Tours last year, but they've come back this year and they're right up there. Look at guys like [Denis] Menchov and [Carlos] Sastre, who came to the Tour after tough Giros last year, but they're back up there this year."
As Wiggins said, this is the first year he has come to the Tour with ambitions of a high placing on general classification. And he claimed to have learned one important lesson.
"I won't do the Giro again," he said. "I think the severity of the Giro this year and also the fact I couldn't go to the Giro this year like I did last year, unrecognised and sitting at the back, made it more difficult. It's just too demanding now, the way the Giro is. Look at Basso, Evans - the guys who did well in this year's Giro are not up there in this Tour.
"I'm already thinking for next year that the Classics-Tour approach might be the way to do it, maybe experimenting with some altitude training as well, because I've never done it.
"This is the first year I've taken on this role of being a team leader and putting yourself up there to be shot at, I suppose. So it's been a huge learning curve this year, but I think, now, that I've come round to thinking that if it doesn't work out performance-wise, it's not the end of the world.
"Sometimes - certainly at points this year - it became such a big thing: what if I fail? But actually, all we'll do is come back next year and try again."
Before then, though, Wiggins is looking at Saturday's time trial. "To be honest, I don't know whether to persist and finish in 23rd or 24th overall or really put everything into that last time trial now. I'll have a chat with Dave [Brailsford, the team principal] and see, but I'm looking forward to the time trial.
"Looking at how everyone is, everyone's on their knees - [Fabian] Cancellara and all those guys. I've maybe got a chance of picking up a stage win, but I don't know."
Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.
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