Wins at Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie have marked Bradley Wiggins (Sky) out as one of the principal contenders for Tour de France victory, and the Englishman has expressed his desire to impact history of the sport “in a positive way” in July. Though fulsome in his praise of defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC), Wiggins decried the scarcity of credible Tour winners in the modern era in general.
“It would be nice to be part of it in a positive way, because there aren’t a lot of Tour winners who you can believe in,” Wiggins told L’Équipe. “For the first time last year, you had a Tour winner who everyone could believe in [Evans – ed]. He is a fantastic ambassador for the sport, he works hard, he didn’t win by showing off, but with great determination. So to be able to follow on from somebody like him would be nice, rather than doing it after somebody had a positive test hanging over his head for a year or two.”
Wiggins himself has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis in recent seasons, changing from a track and time trial specialist into a grand tour podium finisher. He had never finished higher than 123rd in a grand tour before 2009, when he emerged at 29 years of age to take fourth place at the Tour de France.
Wiggins credited a switch in emphasis from the track to the road and the significant weight loss that resulted for his late arrival as a stage racer of some note, and he dismissed any suspicions about the nature of his transformation.
“There probably are [suspicions] but there weren’t for Cadel. For a lot of people, there was no doubt,” he said. “I don’t even have to respond to that question, I don’t have anything to prove. I’ve never been a shit rider.”
Before his mutation into a Tour de France contender, Wiggins enjoyed a sparkling career on the track, winning the world pursuit title on three occasions and taking Olympic gold in the discipline in 2004 and 2008. At the Beijing Olympics, he also won gold in the team pursuit.
“Nobody has ever been the Olympic individual or team pursuit champion and the winner of the Tour. That’s my challenge in a way,” Wiggins said.
With those victories in Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie under his belt, Wiggins approaches July among an elite cluster of favourites but he will not race again until the Critérium du Dauphiné in five weeks’ time. After a ten-day break in England, Wiggins travels to Tenerife for a two-week training camp at altitude. He had already undertaken a stint at altitude in April, ahead of the Tour de Romandie.
“It’s a solitary and boring life,” he said. “We’re approaching our objective, we’ll keep ticking the boxes, and for the moment, everything is going as planned.”