The Vuelta a España was never part of Bradley Wiggins' programme for the 2011 season, but a crash at the Tour de France forced him to change his plans. The Sky rider is now taking full advantage of his first start in Spain's Grand Tour to garner key insight into how he responds to racing a three-week race full-bore followed by the transition to time trial mode shortly thereafter in his pursuit off a time trial world championship.
The time interval between the conclusion of the upcoming Vuelta and the elite men's time trial world championship in Copenhagen is similar to the gap between the end of the 2012 Tour de France and the Olympic Games time trial in London, both enormous goals for the Briton.
"Give or take a couple of days, if I'm correct there's nine days between the end [of the Tour] in Paris and the [Olympic Games] time trial next year," said Wiggins. "So it's an opportunity to do three weeks basically flat-out and get a GC result and then obviously to keep that momentum going, keep your head on, and go into time trial mode for the world championships.
"It's a bit of an experiment and also a good dress rehearsal. Obviously there's only one way to find out if you can do it or not and that's to go through the whole experience."
While the time trial appears to be Wiggins' primary goal at the 2012 Olympic Games, participation in the track events such as the individual or team pursuit is still very much a question mark at this stage.
"There is a possibility I may enter the [British] track championships directly after the world championships, although I'm not too sure at this moment. I don't know what events I could do to see whether I could transfer straight from the road world championships to the track with a view to doing the team pursuit in the Olympic Games as well.
"The only difficulty with that now is I've given my word to Mark [Cavendish] that I'd do the road race for him in Copenhagen so 300k a couple of days after the time trial isn't going to be the same as the Olympic programme. I haven't really looked past the time trial at this stage, it's one thing at a time really. It may be that I look at some track tests to see if after doing a world-class time trial I can get up five or six days later and do a world-class time on the track, whether that's in a team pursuit or an individual pursuit.
"At this stage it's three-week Grand Tour, nine days, and then the time trial of your life."
Wiggins hasn't raced since crashing out of the Tour's seventh stage on July 8th with a broken collarbone, but he's raring to go at a time of year when normally the motivation is difficult to muster.
"It's nice at this time of the year to be feeling fit and feeling healthy, normally you're trying to get back on the bike and the motivation is really low since you've come off the back of a hard Tour de France. It almost feels like the start of the season. I've never been in that position where I'm ready to go and looking forward to racing right into the back end of the season with the Vuelta, the world championships, and then races like Piemonte and Lombardy.
"The coaching staff tell me, with the training I've been doing and the way I've been going, I think I'm capable of getting on the [Vuelta] podium. Now whether that actually happens or not is a different thing. The course is suited to me in some aspects in that it doesn't go into high altitude a lot. It's a good mix and match of stages.
"I'm looking forward to getting into the day-to-day, the mundane-ness of it and hopefully staying upright this time."
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