Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) has openly admitted for the first time that he does not have the same form he had in 2009 but insisted he will continue in the Tour and try and secure the best overall result he can.
Wiggins struggled during the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees. He lost contact with the lead group of 30 riders three kilometres from the summit of the Port de Pailheres. He fought to limit his losses but finished 36th, 4:59 behind stage winner Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
Teammate Thomas Löfkvist finished ahead of Wiggins, in 19th place, at 2:30. Löfkvist is now 16th overall at 9:46, while Wiggins slipped to 18th at 11:30.
Wiggins has been guarded about his form throughout the Tour de France but the barriers came down and he decided to speak from the heart when asked a question by veteran Australian journalist John 'Iffy' Trevorrow.
"Do you want me to be honest with you Iffy? I'm f*ked mate," Wiggins admitted after spending a few minutes recovering in the Team Sky camper van at the summit of the climb to X3 Domaines.
"I just don't have the form. I'm not going to lie to you. So I'm trying my hardest and just battling on, rather than give up. It's as simple as that. I just haven’t got it like last year, it's as simple as that. I don't know why. I just feel consistently mediocre. Not brilliant, not shit, just mediocre. Just sort of plateau."
"I just haven’t got it right this year. We thought I had, but we haven't. Form is a funny old thing. It's hard to say why. You do everything right and you think you've got it right but I'm just not with the best guys this year."
Wiggins admitted that his fourth place in the 2009 Tour de France was a fluke.
"It was fluke in the sense that it wasn't planned. I fell into superb form and was riding on cloud nine for most of the race and held onto fourth place," he said.
"This is huge learning curve. This is the first year I've tackled it like this full on. It's easy to think you can improve and get it right. I recovered well from the Giro and did some good stuff in training that suggested it was all pointing in the right direction but obviously it's another thing producing it in racing and holding it day in day out. Is another thing all together. Then you can't account for what everyone else is going to do."
Despite losing time again and facing further losses and further suffering in the three remaining stages in the Pyrenees, Wiggins was
not about to throw in the towel.
"I'm not giving up on anything," he said.
"I'm going to keep pushing every day. I'm going to give my best and see what that is in Paris. There was a big shake up today and so
tomorrow is another day. It's a funny old race at the moment. I'm just going to keep on limiting my losses as much as I can. I might have a good day, you never know."
Wiggins seemed relieved that the pressure and expectation has finally eased. What had become a near permanent frown was replaced by a sense of serenity and relief.
"It's disappointing but that's the reality of it. You can’t kid yourself that it’s going to happen. That's the way it is," he said.
"All you can do is keep pushing on. The race is still going on and I think I have a duty to the team and their commitment, and to the Tour
de France. The amount of support out there is fantastic and I'd hate to just sit up and give up. I'll just keep pushing hard and then
comeback next year and try again."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.