Bradley Wiggins was in a reflective mood after finishing third in the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial, hinting to Cyclingnews that this year's Tour de France could be the last of his illustrious career before he switches focus to the track and riding the team pursuit at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Wiggins desperately wants to be part of Team Sky's squad that will line-up in Leeds for the Grand Depart and is ready to work for Chris Froome in a key lieutenant's role. However, his ambitions to win a fifth Olympic gold medal, his age and the end of his major contract with Team Sky seem to be aligning to mark the end of his often difficult relationship with Le Tour.
"After the Tour de France, we're 18 months out from the Olympics and that's really when you've got to get back on the (track) programme. It could be that this is my last Tour. If it is, I'd better make it a good one," he told Cyclingnews, with his usual self-effacing irony.
Wiggins seems ready to sacrifice riding the Tour de France for one last campaign on the track.
"It's likely I'll be on Team Sky for the next couple of years, even if I'm on the track programme, because that's what the team was created for: to help the track guys. But in what capacity I will race could change drastically as I put on more weight for the track and specialise for it," he explained.
Wiggins has seen how poorly the Great Britain men's team performed in the recent track world championships [a young team finished 8th in qualifying and did not make the finals -ed] and believes he can again help the national cause.
"I think I can get in the team. Look at what they did in the Worlds. I don’t think it's going to be a tough team to crack into," he explained.
"It'll need a few guys coming back, people like Pete Kennaugh and others but perhaps Geraint won't come back because his road stuff is coming on so well. But I'm not going to take it lightly. I could even be back on the track this winter for the qualification process."
No Hour Record attempt planned
The track is Wiggins' first love and is likely to be his last as a professional athlete. He does not see himself going for the Hour Record, despite Fabian Cancellara's planned attempt reviving interest in the record.
"I don't think so," he told Cyclingnews. "It's something I could look at doing but I haven't given it any thought. The thought of riding around the track for an hour doesn't do anything for me."
"I remember seeing Boardman do it in 2000 and it looked horrible and not something you'd take on lightly. Especially if you have to sit in that traditional position."
"Just to warrant the time it needs makes it so difficult. There's so much other stuff going on. I think the only way to do it is to come off the Tour de France and treat it like the Olympic time trial. As a project you'd have to dedicate eight to ten weeks and I think it'd be difficult for riders to do."
Focusing on Paris-Roubaix
Wiggins is currently focused on preparing for Paris-Roubaix.
Fabian Cancellara scoffed at Wiggins' chances of winning on the pave when speaking to the media at Tirreno-Adriatico, but Wiggins is genuinely keen to be part of Team Sky's assault at success in northern France.
"Fabian is a bit like that. He's like a big kid at times," Wiggins said, putting the Trek Factory Racing rider firmly in his place.
"I think it’s his way of dealing with the pressure and a way of getting the respect he thinks he deserves as someone who has dominated the races."
"At Roubaix, you can't under estimate anybody and there's been some surprise winners in the past just as there's some clear favourites like Tom Boonen and Fabian. It'll be interesting; that's the beauty of Roubaix. I've ridden well at Paris-Roubaix in the past and I think I'm strong and part of a better team this time."
Wiggins is ready to be a team player along side his teammates Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas.
"It's not a case of me being team leader. Ian and Geraint both deserve that role with the form they've got," he said.
"But having several riders up front after the Forest of Arenberg is important. My goal is to be with those guys and be in the selection. After that it's about having the legs, so you can do something or help your teammates. You never know it could split early, like when Van Summeren won. We want to be in that position and then play it out on the road."
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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.