Bradley Wiggins described himself as being both proud and relieved having produced a performance that not only gave him victory in the Besançon time trial, but also enabled him to open up a substantial gap on his main rivals for the yellow jersey. Speaking soon after he had taken his first Tour de France stage win, the Sky team leader admitted he was still in a bit of a haze and is now looking forward to Tuesday's rest day. What will you do then, he was asked? "Rest!"
Wiggins has said many times that he has come into the Tour with no expectations whatsoever. He's accepted the label of race favourite and all of the hoopla that goes with that, but says that above all he has been determined to focus on his own race. That was the case once again today when he went up onto the start ramp for what was undoubtedly the most important time trial of his career so far.
"The noise when I rolled off the ramp was incredible. I tried not the let that faze me in terms of not going off too hard," he said. "I'm really pleased with the way I put the ride together and mentally how I put the day together. That's what I've been focusing on, so my main emotions are relief and pride in myself for doing all this.
"When I get back to the hotel tonight I'll start thinking about the context and how it fits in to the whole Tour. That's when it will all starting sinking in. You've got numbers being thrown at you, ‘You've got this on Cadel, you've got that on Nibali.' For the moment it's a whole lot to take in."
Although Wiggins is a novice when it comes to dealing with the unique pressures that wearing the Tour's yellow jersey brings, he's gained plenty of experience at the Olympics and other major championships of how to focus on a given objective, and he made use of that again today.
"I'm kind of oblivious to a lot of things that are going on. I just go out there and concentrate on myself, do my ride," he said. He admitted he has more difficulty in dealing with that follows. "At the finish you get the presentation, then you're expected to sum it all up in the most articulate way. It's all still a bit of haze.
"I've won the stage, which has almost been forgotten about because it's all about the GC battle and watching for Cadel and Vincenzo and those guys. The stage almost becomes irrelevant so thinking about the stage win as well means I've got a lot to take in."
Wiggins added: "All I'm really trying to think about and focus on is my own performance. I pat myself on the back for the way I've dealt with the attention and the tension building up to this race and then the way it was in Liège, and also now that I'm in yellow."
Asked how the rated his stage win against other achievements during his career, Wiggins replied: "I've been building towards this for a very long time and it's certainly the high point."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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