Wiggins: I can win the Tour de France

EXCLUSIVE: Britain’s Bradley Wiggins believes he stands a good chance of winning the Tour de France in July if he can avoid crashes and illness.

Eurosport

The Team Sky leader agonisingly crashed out of last year's Tour with a broken collarbone but has been in scintillating form this season, winning both Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandie.

"I think if I stay upright and I continue with what I’m doing for the next couple of months, and get the last bit right, then I’ll be in the ball park," Wiggins told Eurosport.

"On paper you could say I could potentially win it now, but we still have a long way to go and it's not a foregone conclusion. It's not going to be easy."

Speaking exclusively to Eurosport, Wiggins talked about the ecstasy and agony of last season, when victory in June's Criterium du Dauphine was followed by his early withdrawal from the Tour after a pile-up during stage seven.

Disappointment turned to determination as Wiggins recovered from the setback to net a podium finish in the Vuelta a Espana before leading out compatriot and new Sky team-mate Mark Cavendish to the world championship road race title in Copenhagen.

Wiggins, who finished fourth in the 2009 Tour for former team Garmin, built on last season's late successes with a hard winter training schedule. He then "hit the ground running" this year with victory in Paris-Nice and Romandie, in which he won both a bunch sprint and the mountain ITT, the latter despite dropping a chain early on.

With his main rivals showing patchy form this season, and the 2012 Tour de France route featuring almost 100 kilometres of time trials, 32-year-old Wiggins finds himself a big favourite ahead of the Grande Boucle, which kicks off with a prologue in Liege on 30 June.

"On paper it's a fantastic Tour," said Wiggins, who stressed that his trademark time trialling ability had not suffered from all the extra work he has done in the mountains.

"But you can always have a bad day in the Tour," he warned. "It's the most consistent rider who wins the Tour de France and not necessarily the most outstanding. It's not the days where you’re really flying high on a summit finish – it's the days when things could go wrong, like my chain drop in Romandie, that you win the Tour."

In the absence of Spain's Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Wiggins rates reigning champion Cadel Evans as his main adversary for the Tour, despite the Australian BMC rider's poor form this season.

"Cadel grinds it out year in year out," said Wiggins. "Last year's winner has got to enter as the favourite. He's perhaps not had the same run as he did last year, but things are different, perhaps his motivation changed a bit after his win."

Despite the inclusion of three time trials and just three summit finishes in the race, Wiggins believes that the Schleck brothers of the RadioShack-Nissan team will still play a huge role in the race for the fabled yellow jersey.

"Frank and Andy, you never discount them. They may not be where they ought to be in their preparations, but they're tried and tested. And Andy's probably the biggest talent in cycling when he gets his act together."

While Wiggins's superb form has made him a man to watch in France, the Briton is quick to remind fans that unlike his rivals - who have all notched multiple podium finishes in Grand Tours - he remains a huge outsider.

"I've only really done it once (in 2009) so as much as people say I'm a favourite, there's still a massive, long process to go through - and as you saw from last year, anything can happen: crashes, illness..."

Nine days after the Tour concludes in Paris, there is the small matter of the Olympic time trial event at the London 2012 Games. While the Tour remains the season's priority, Londoner Wiggins believes he has a good chance at taking an Olympic medal on home soil.

"I really feel I can win the Olympic time trial but it won't be easy with Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara," he said.

Web users can click on the links under the picture for more from Bradley's interview with Tony Gibb while mobile users should scroll to the bottom of the page. "Bradley Wiggins: Sky's the Limit" broadcasts on Saturday 26 May at 8.10pm on British Eurosport.

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