Bradley Wiggins was in his element as he greeted the press ahead of this Sunday's Tour of Flanders. A day after his first victory in the rainbow stripes of world time trial champion at De Panne, Wiggins held court in Team Sky's Kortrijk based hotel. Wiggins is used to being the star of the show, while his chance to shine is a little over a week away, this weekend it is all about his teammate Geraint Thomas.
Wiggins will be working for Thomas, who has put himself forward as the man to beat this Sunday with his recent success. It is a chance to repay Thomas and he has already been dreaming up scenarios of how the race will play out – all of which end in Team Sky taking the victory.
"Don’t think I haven't had an image of how that's going to look either. I see myself going up the Kwaremont one last time, doing damage, peeling off and watching Geraint attack," Wiggins laughs, knowing all too well that best laid plans aft go awry on the cobbles. "That's an ideal scenario, and soloing to the finish. Obviously life's not like that and I'm sure it will be a lot messier than that. If Geraint Thomas won on Sunday then, Jesus Christ, I don't think we'd be there on Sunday.
"We've won those bottles already," he indicates to the three magnums of champagne that the team have collected from E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Wiggins' latest victory at the Three Days of De Panne. "We'd probably open them all up on Sunday night. I think we'd be sending the B team to Roubaix. What a thing that would be."
Wiggins will bow out of Team Sky following next weekend's Roubaix, as he switches to the Continental team that bears his name and focusses his efforts on the track for the final 18 months of his professional career. The 34-year-old joined Team Sky in its founding year and has seen it through some of its biggest achievements and toughest times. While they soon cracked the Grand Tours, it is only this year that the Classics team has reaped the success they desired.
After his time trial victory at De Panne, Wiggins noted that this weekend was Britain's first opportunity to take top honours since Tom Simpson's victory in 1961. The 34-year-old's win at the 2012 Tour de France marked a revival in the passion for the sport in the country and three years down the line he's happy that the passion has spread to the cobbles.
"Obviously with the absence of Tom and Fabian, everyone is talking about Geraint Thomas. It's brilliant for cycling, it's brilliant for everyone… and just to be part of that it's really great," said Wiggins. "Everyone was going on about the Tour de France in the last few years and winning the Tour de France and the classics get overlooked a little bit. Now we've got these guys who could potentially be the guys. I don't remember this much media attention last year when I turned up this day last year to win the Tour of Flanders."
A game changer
At Flanders, Wiggins and Team Sky will get their first opportunity to test their new Pinarello Dogma K8-S under racing conditions. The bike, which was unveiled on Thursday, was designed in collaboration with Jaguar - who also sponsor Sky - and is Pinarello's first classics specific bike. Wiggins was integral in the development of the new race bike, testing it on the cobbles over the winter and he was effusive in his praise of the end result, calling it "a game-changer."
"The difference is unbelievable. It's really hard to describe unless you're on those cobbles at 50-60 k an hour and hitting Arenberg at full tilt and the vibrations going through the bike but this thing it changes the whole feel of it so much," said Wiggins. "It's funny because if you go back to last June when they launched the F8. As beautiful a bike that is there was a lot of hoo-ha about it and I think they won one race on it in four months. It just shows you that the bike is one part of it, you still have to have the legs. It's not all about the bike, you still have to have it physically and work for it but to add that bike on as we’ve done this week, it could be the difference between winning and losing.”"
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