Dave Brailsford has admitted Bradley Wiggins’ London 2012 time trial performance is likely to be affected by Mark Cavendish’s bid for road race gold.
UCI rules dictate any rider picked to compete in the 27.3-mile time trial on August 1 must also be part of that nation’s road race squad, with Great Britain qualifying the maximum five riders for the 156-mile race on July 28, the opening day of the Games.
Three-time track gold medallist Wiggins has identified the time trial, which starts and finishes at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, as his primary target at London 2012.
But Brailsford believes the close proximity of the two events means any rider required to work in the road race is inevitably going to suffer come the time trial.
“The challenge is, once you ask an athlete to double up it’s going to compromise one event or the other,” said Brailsford.
“Tony Martin has got the same conundrum as Bradley in the German team. Let’s say [Andre] Greipel, [John] Degenkolb and [Marcel] Kittel are all up for road race then Tony Martin is going to have to play a role to make that happen.
“In order for him to do that to his full capability, it’s going to impact on the time trial; it’s the same as Brad.
“It’s something worth looking at but I can’t know how else you could do it. You could switch it round, or you could just increase the number of participants.”
The men’s road race peloton will leave London and tackle nine laps of a 15.5km Box Hill circuit before heading back to the capital for the finish in front of Buckingham Palace on The Mall.
The accumulative climbing in Surrey is likely to see a breakaway enjoy a considerable advantage but the flat run-in lends itself to a chase and sprint finish, although that is likely to be from a select group of riders.
And Brailsford believes Wiggins’ talents as both a time trialist and climber lend themselves to the terrain, while dropping a hint as to the potential make-up of the British team.
He added: “If you go to the top of the ninth lap of Box Hill, normally you’d expect there to be a break of X amount of riders within three of four minutes, then you’d like to think that your ideal rider is someone who can float around that course a bit – so it’s not going to take too much out of him every time – and you get to the top of the last lap and their [Wiggins and [Martin] time trial, or Rouleur-type ability, is phenomenal.
“In our case, if you took Bradley, Steve Cummings, David Millar and Chris Froome, then you couldn’t want for four better guys in that scenario.
“They’re probably four of the best guys in that world at doing that particular job. It does lend itself to that time trial-type effort to bring the break back because that’s what it’s all going to be about.”
In truth, the Olympic Games are a secondary consideration for Wiggins, whose year is built around the Tour de France, where the 31-year-old admits he still has “unfinished business”.
But Wiggins, speaking at Team Sky’s 2012 launch on Wednesday, brushed aside talk of 2012 being any more significant than previous years.
“I love that phrase ‘an enormous year’. It’s no bigger than 12 months ago,” he said.
“It’s just the inclusion of a one hour time trial nine days after the Tour. So the season is an hour longer than it normally is. It’s just a time trial in London – it could be a ’25’.”
It can be denied, however, that eyes are focussed on Wiggins to succeed at the Tour. The Sky leader arrived at last year’s race among the favourites having won the Criterium du Dauphine but saw his campaign ended with a broken collarbone after a crash on stage seven.
The Ghent-born rider re-built his reputation as a general classification contender at the Vuelta a Espana, finishing third overall, and believes he is primed for a big year.
“I had five weeks off after the worlds so was back on it after November and am way ahead of where I’ve ever been at this time of year,” he said.
“This last year is probably the first time I’ve trained properly for the road and have been pushed hard by myself and the people around me and that was evident in the results, and it’s been a continual process of that.”