Bradley Wiggins took a long swig from the huge bottle of champagne he was given after winning the opening time trial at the Giro d'Italia in Amsterdam and clearly savoured the moment.
He had ridden a great time trial, constantly fighting the risk of crashing on the wet and technical corners, and was very proud to have pulled on the maglia rosa, describing it as one of the iconic symbols of cycling.
"It kind of sounds corny, but I'm such a fan of the Giro and always have been since I was a kid. I know a lot about the history of cycling. To wear the pink jersey in the Giro is special. It's such an iconic jersey," he said.
"I grew up watching videos of the Giro, seeing [Maurizio] Fondriest and [Gianni] Bugno wearing it. I realise what I have on my shoulders. And that's quite special in itself because it will hang on my wall for the rest of my life. It means a lot to me. To be able to enjoy that moment tomorrow, whether it’s for a day, two days, or however long, it's very special. To take it in such style in Amsterdam, is probably even more special."
A successful future for British cycling
Exactly 12 months ago, Mark Cavendish pulled on the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia after HTC-Columbia won the opening team time trial. English speaking cycling and especially British cycling is growing rapidly and Wiggins believes his pink jersey will lead to even more success.
"I think a lot of us have grown up together and the success has bred success. I saw what Mark achieved in 2008 and I was inspired by that and decided I wanted to do something on the road," he said.
"Last year me and Mark did great at the Tour de France and that's inspired the next generation, the guys who came though the track programme, people like Ian Stannard, Steve Cummings Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas have seen what we've achieved and they know we've done it with 100 per cent hard work and have the belief and attitude from being on the track programme. Sky coming into the sport has given us a chance to shine. Them committing like they have is fabulous for the sport and for us. I believe this is just the start of maybe the next 10 or 15 years. It's going to be great."
"I think a lot of it is an attitude thing. We're not thinking all the time about what everybody else is doing or if they're on this or how is it possible to compete. I spent years on French teams where they said 'There was no way to compete with these guys, they have a fifth gear that we don't have.' i.e. drugs. The whole thing with Dave Brailsford and this team is that it's all performance based and about getting the best out of yourself with other things like diet and equipment. It's been drilled into us at British cycling and it's just an attitude you grow up with and take into the pro ranks. The British team has always been the backbone of British pros, whatever team we ride for. Now I'm back home."
Attitude against doping
Wiggins has often spoken out against doping during his career and often bluntly speaks his mind via Twitter when riders test positive. However, he revealed a more a pragmatic approach to the problem during the press conference.
"At Team Sky we have a philosophy about that [doping] but we don't preach to the world about what we do," he said, when asked if his success can help the Giro after several years of doing scandals.
"We believe in what we do and stick with it 100 per cent, but we don’t go out there and accuse everyone else because they don't follow our philosophy. We do what we do and we don't care what anyone else does. We not one for walking round preaching about not taking drugs. We're not fighting to be 100 per cent clean. It's just the way we do it and the way I prefer to compete."
"After Liege there was this thing with Vinokourov. But the guy has made a return to bike racing and he's allowed to race under the rules of cycling. As long as that's the case and he's in the team which complies with the blood passport, we have to get off his back and give him the chance to race. There's a lot of hypocrites in this sport. It's quite sad the sport sometimes gets dragged down by bringing up the past. You have to assume everyone is clean until they test positive."
Wiggins won the time trial in Amsterdam by two seconds and promised to defend the jersey as long as possible. But he knows that road stage winners are awarded a 20 second time bonus and admitted he continues to see the Giro as a stepping stone to the Tour de France.
"The plan was never to do that," he said, when asked if he will try to win the Giro. "But now we're in this position we'll fight hold on as long as possible. We'll fight to hold it. If we lose it we'll fight to get it back it at some point. The plan is to race this race, not just sit back and enjoy it."
"We'll take it day by day. We can't think three weeks down line and there are some really tough days to come. But if I'd been in this position in last year's Tour de France, nobody would have given me a chance in hell to finish fourth, so who knows."
"There are some riders who are really prepared for overall victory. I prepared for this time trial. My big goal is the Tour de France. This is Dario Cioni's first big goal and he's 100 per cent for this. My goal was the prologue and keep the jersey for as long as possible, but after that I'm here for him."
Wiggins first day to savour his posession of the pink jersey will be during Sunday's first road race stage from Amsterdam to Utrecht.
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