"What does this mean?" Bradley Wiggins said rhetorically when asked on Tuesday evening how important taking gold in the elite men's time trial world championships would be for him if he succeeds in beating Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin, and the rest of his rivals in Wednesday's race.
"It'll probably mean the most of all the medals I've won," he said. "A lot of people wrote me off in May" - after abandoning due to illness in the Giro - "so this one event will mean a lot. Through July there was a lot of anger that acted as real motivation for this one."
"The Tour [de France] win was different, there was a different road to that. This is coming back from other places."
A silver medallist in the time trial world championship in Denmark in 2011, Wiggins said that following his victory in the Tour of Britain on Sunday, "my legs have recovered well. Sunday was not so difficult, it was a short stage, I'm feeling how I expected to feel."
Which is? "Well, tomorrow is the race of truth, it's going to be an hour and five minutes of effort, a good 15 minutes longer" [at 57 kilometres] than most. "Not many people often sustain power at that sort of level."
However, the objective since the summer has been all focussed on this effort. "I've done three stage races in the last three months, it's all been down towards doing this. It's not something put together at the last minute. Tomorrow's the one." There will be no time checks, the Londoner said, "just riding to power. It's a beautiful course, there's no hiding on it, you have to concentrate on effort and that's all, and the mundaneness of it will crack people."
He doesn't know if he is the favourite to become the first Briton to win the title since Chris Boardman back in 1994.
"I know what I'm capable of doing, and if that ends up being enough to win the Worlds, then great. But there's no accounting what the others can go. That's the thing I like [about time trialling], there's no bullshit, what you've done is out there." Likening time trial racing and the pain zone to "having a tattoo done", he said "It hurts for 10 minutes and then you get into a different state. You go numb to the pain, and it's only after you finish that you realise how much pain you've been in."
He will be using his usual 56x11 gear for tomorrow's course and weighs six kilos more than in Denmark, which means his climbing ability may have suffered, but he is prepared to live with that. Or as Wiggins himself says, rather than thinking about next year, for now "I've put all my eggs into one basket."
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