Wiggins Q & A: Tour over Olympic gold
Three-times Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, having finished third overall in the Vuelta and won silver in the road world championships time trial, will target the Tour de France next year even if it hampers his chances at the London Games.
The Briton, who pulled out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone last July, has stressed again that he has unfinished business with the world's greatest stage race.
Team Sky rider Wiggins sat down with a couple of reporters at his Team GB hotel in Ballerup, Denmark, to reflect on a dramatic 2011 season and look ahead to 2012.
Question: You said you would decide in the Winter what you were going to do in 2012. What is going to help you decide?
Answer: We've got a good chance to win the gold medal in the team pursuit but obviously I want to do the Tour next year. And I want to try and win the Tour so if I try and win the Tour it's going to jeopardise slightly winning gold in the time trial. (German) Tony Martin is the clear favourite and he is going to ride through the Tour with one ambition -- win an Olympic gold.
I'm not able to do that because I'm going for GC (general classification) in the Tour. I've certainly got a chance to get a medal in London in the time trial but we've also got a strong chance of winning gold in the team pursuit.
So for sure it's 100 percent the Tour, no doubt about it, and everything training towards the Tour but then obviously it's deciding what I'll do after the Tour -- whether I go straight to the time trial and do the team pursuit or I just leave the time trial and aim for the team pursuit.
That's something we've got to sort out in the next few weeks, we have to make a decision either way. I think there's an option to do both or dropping the time trial and doing the team pursuit. I think after yesterday and having done and finishing the Vuelta third and coming here and finishing second it's doable.
I can get a medal and compete in the Tour but in terms of winning the Tour then coming and winning the Olympics time trial is very, very difficult with the level Tony is at... It wasn't like he beat me (on Wednesday) by 20 seconds but by a minute 15.
Q: How much did it take you power wise on Wednesday coming off a grand Tour?
A: On this occasion it did not take a lot. I had my best ever performance yesterday on a time trial over one hour. The Vuelta wasn't the main goal so it's not like I prepared for the Vuelta like it was the Tour and everything had come perfect.
I came onto the Vuelta under-prepared and I came through the Vuelta and just got better and better so it's not quite the same circumstances next year, when I'll be in the peak of my attention at the start of the Tour.
So it's slightly different in that sense because obviously I did not ride my bike through much of July but it still gives me information nonetheless.
I've got too many options and that's the problem. This year I've done pretty much everything from (the Tour of) Qatar, to team pursuit World Cup in Manchester, to Three Days of De Panne, Dauphine, Tour de France, Vuelta, world championships time trial. I'll do Lombardy and Paris-Tours, I've done pretty much everything this year and competed well in everything so I've got so many options.
I know what I'm capable of doing now. I have to slim it down and make one or two goals and really stick to them. At this stage I can't afford to miss the Tour, given how open it was this year.
The Tour seems more doable than ever before -- watching the performance of (Frenchman Thomas) Voeckler (fourth in the Tour de France) this year, (Australia's Tour de France winner) Cadel (Evans) was inspirational too and I think cycling has changed so much in the last few years for the better.
Q: There are not many riders in your position. You are quite unique having performed in grand Tours, on the road and on the track...
A: I'm getting pulled left and right from a lot of different areas. The team pursuit want me, the road want me, Team Sky want me on the Tour. But my saving grace is that I've got one boss who is Dave Brailsford so I think that's also a nice position to be in.
Q: What is Dave's take on your schedule for next year?
A: It has become apparent this year that you can't miss the Tour, it would be crazy to not do the Tour next year. As big as the Olympics are, being in London, it's kind of 'Been there, done that'. I've made so many improvements in (grand Tour) GC this year...
The guys who will get the medals in the time trial and the Olympics (on the road) will certainly come from the Tour, that's the way road cycling works.
The track is completely different obviously. These Aussie kids will have one goal next year: to prepare solely for the team pursuit, they're going to be bloody hard to beat.
We are going to have to be careful not to chase too much next year. The priority is the Tour de France and then we'll go on from the Tour and do the Olympics.
But the good thing is you can come out of a grand tour, hold form, recover well, although the Vuelta is completely different from the Tour in so many ways -- the emotional side of it if you do well at the Tour, you can't underplay (it) because that's something that the Tour isn't matched by any other race, the media circus...
Q: If you had finished the Tour this year, you would not have competed in the Vuelta. How would your expectations have been coming into the world championships time trial?
A: I don't know because we hadn't thought past the Tour. We had no plan in between the Tour and here. It was like 'Let's get the Tour done and see'.
The Vuelta was a massive bonus. I ended up with the (overall leader's red) jersey and surprised myself and finished third and then came here, got second. This wasn't ever really planned. Look at the guys who did well at the Tour, Voeckler, Cadel, they're nowhere now. I think that's the Tour, it just takes so much out of you.
Q: What was your feeling after you pulled out of the Tour?
A: The initial first few days I though 'oh well... whatever'. The first week of the Tour had been so stressful anyway. It was almost like it was irritating every day, it was so abnormal, crashes every day... You were always waiting for that crash to come so when it happened it was like 'Finally, I knew that was coming'.
Then I had my operation, came back home and started to watch the first few Pyrenees stages. I saw the one to Luz Ardiden and I saw them climbing behind (Spanish stage winner) Samuel Sanchez with (Italy's Ivan) Basso, and Voeckler was hanging in there and I thought I could have been there in that group (of favourites). Then the next day to the Plateau de Beille nothing really happened.
Then I started training again and did not watch for a few days and started watching it more as a fan and the last few days were bloody hard. That looked brutal. I could have buckled and finished nowhere. I thought all I can do is go back next year and try again.
think I could be better on the Tour by targeting it more. After 2010, I kind of tried to avoid the Tour for as long as possible by getting results early in the season whereas now I just accept that's part of the pressure aiming for the Tour -- I do need to have an easier start to the year.
Q: The fact that team mate Geraint Thomas will miss the Tour to prepare for the Olympics is not going to help you.