Fresh off a victory over world champion Fabian Cancellara in the Bayern-Rundfahrt time trial, Bradley Wiggins is bringing fine form into this year's Critérium du Dauphiné.
It will be the Team Sky rider's first participation in the race since his prologue victory of 2007 there launched the road career of the track champion.
Now, since the Briton topped Cancellara by 33 seconds on a flat 26km course in Germany last week, he is being tipped as the top favourite to win the 5.4km prologue tomorrow. "Beating Cancellara is a big satisfaction and it gives a lot of confidence," said Wiggins.
Wiggins has come a long way on the road since devoting himself fully to the discipline following his Olympic gold medal performances in 2008 on the track. In 2009, he emerged as a Grand Tour contender after placing fourth overall in the Tour de France.
However, last year Wiggins wasn't able to reproduce those results, and he faults his programme leading up to the Tour. His build-up included the Giro d'Italia in 2010, just as it had the previous year, but after he won the prologue and held the leader's jersey for a day, Wiggins said he put too much effort into the general classification.
This year, he's not making the same error, and skipped the Giro to focus fully on the Tour. The result has been a string of successes, including a third place overall in Paris-Nice, second in the Critérium International time trial, fourth in the Tour de Romandie test and his recent victory in Germany.
"It's a world apart from where I was 12 months ago; finishing the last weekend of the Giro just exhausted, starting to get slightly ill and realising at that point that I may have overcooked it and had five weeks to sort of turn it around and get it right for July. What a difference a year makes," Wiggins said on the team's web site.
"Everything is coming together fantastically now and I’m just really excited for the weeks ahead. We’ve got the Dauphiné to come next, then the Tour is what the whole season has been about and we're in a great position at the moment."
Not only will Wiggins be primed for the opening stage of the Dauphiné, but also for Wednesday's Grenoble time trial, which is a dress rehearsal for the penultimate stage of the Tour de France.
While the Dauphiné will be the end of serious racing and training before the Tour, the work doesn't end after this week, Wiggins said. "We're going back to altitude to top that up and we'll also look at a couple of the [Tour] stages.
"Then in the last three weeks before the Tour, there's not that much work to be done. It's more about recovery and things like that, looking after yourself and doing all those little things that will get that last couple of percent out in July."
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