Bradley Wiggins could return to the track at London 2012 as well as competing in the Olympic road race and time trial.
But the Londoner stressed that he would only compete in the team pursuit, where he won gold in Beijing, if called upon by British Cycling coaches.
Wiggins stated that his priority at his home Olympics in July and August would be the time trial, and pledged to perform whatever role was required of him in the men’s road race, where his new Sky team mate, Mark Cavendish, is expected to be the focus of the team’s bid for victory.
Relaxed and jovial, Wiggins discussed a range of subjects during a 20-minute conference call with UK journalists from the Sky training camp in Mallorca. Confessing that he was “still trying to get his head around” seeing Cavendish walking around the team’s hotel in the rainbow jersey of world road race champion, Wiggins outlined his goals and schedule for the year ahead and spoke of his enormous satisfaction at performances in 2011 that saw him win a silver medal at the world time trial championship, and play a key role in delivering Cavendish to victory in the world road race championship.
“Those two performances were hugely satisfying. People had written us off in the magical world of Twitter. By the end, we were the best thing since sliced bread,” said Wiggins.
The Sky team leader described his third place at the Vuelta a Espana as one that had confirmed his status as a climber,revealed that he would not ride alongside Cavendish until the Tour De France next July, and that had not yet studied the Tour’s 2012 parcours, insisting that doing so in December would be of no benefit.
Wiggins confirmed that while his personal focus will be on the time trial at London 2012, he will carry out whatever role is determined for him by British Cycling’s coaches in the road race. He also confirmed that he will make himself available for the team pursuit, an event in which he holds gold and silver medals from Beijing and Athens, but stressed that he will only compete on the track if called upon.
Wiggins said he was due to train with the track team in February, but added that a sustained track programme would not complement his preparation for the Tour De France, where he said he had only a few years left to reach his potential.
He described the opportunity to race on home soil as “fabulous” but added that British supporters had always made the effort to support the team, regardless of where they competed, even in Beijing. Wiggins welcomed the opportunity to rest after the Tour De France before “driving down the M6 to the holding camp, rather than flying to Australia or somewhere.”
Britain’s cyclists were overwhelmingly successful at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, winning 14 medals, eight of them gold. Wiggins added two gold medals to his tally of one gold, one silver, and one bronze from the 2000 and 2004 Games, but played down expectation for London 2012, highlighting the reduction in the amount of events.
“I don’t think we will be able to replicate what we did in Beijing,” he said.
Wiggins denied that sustaining the astonishing rise in the popularity of cycling in the UK post-Beijing depended on a similarly successful performance from Team GB in London, arguing that cycling had attained its own momentum, and that the public would be unlikely to “burn their bikes” if the team failed to match the extraordinary success of 2008.
Cavendish and Sky
Sky’s signing of Mark Cavendish at the end of the 2011 season is arguably the highest-profile of several big money moves that have created what some commentators have described as ‘super teams’ in the pro peloton. Many have speculated on Sky’s ability to accommodate the seemingly disparate goals of stage wins for Cavendish and overall victory for Wiggins at the Tour De France. Asked whether he believed Sky could race effectively for him and Cavendish, Wiggins said that while he hadn’t considered it, he was certain the team’s management had.
He said his road programme meant that he wouldn’t race alongside Cavendish until July and the Tour De France, and revealed that his early season schedule would include the Volta ao Algarve, Paris-Nice, the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, the Tour de Romandie, and the Dauphine Libere, a race he won last year in arguably his greatest victory on the road.
Sky are currently training in Mallorca at the team’s first gathering since signing Cavendish. Asked how the Manxman was fitting in, Wiggins said: “He’s just Mark. If you know him, he’s just Cav. I can’t get my head around him walking around the hotel in his world champion’s jersey.” Cavendish had been constantly checking the odds for victory in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year competition, Wiggins joked, while complaining that there weren’t any more races for him to win before voting closed. Wiggins compared the camp to being away with the British team, while welcoming the addition of the Austrian, Bernard Eisel, a team mate of Cavendish’s at the now disbanded HTC-Highroad squad.
Tour De France 2012
Ahead of the Olympics, the Tour de France will be Wiggins’ priority for 2012, where he will lead a Sky team for the first time containing Cavendish over a course with nearly 100km of time trials. Observers have commented that the amount of racing against the clock will benefit Wiggins, but he refused to be drawn on any possible advantage offered by the parcours, insisting he had not examined the route, and arguing that he would train to the demands of whatever had been presented by the race organisers. “To sit down in December and look at all three weeks – there’s no benefit. I try not to over analyse it,” he said. Wiggins described a winter of “graft” and “getting through Christmas” before Sky coaches begin to feed him information about preparing for the Tour.
In a year in which he rode to victory at the Criterium du Dauphine, as well as finishing on the podium at the Vuelta a Espana, Wiggins singled out his performances at the World Championships in Copenhagen as those that had brought him the greatest satisfaction. The Londoner won a silver medal in the individual time trial finishing behind Germany’s Tony Martin, but ahead of the Swiss two-time world time trial champion, Fabian Cancellara, a man whom Wiggins said had “raised the bar” for the discipline. And he spoke with obvious enthusiasm for the performance delivered four days later in the road race, where his extended turn on the front in the closing kilometres played a key role in Cavendish’s victory.
Vuelta a Espana
Just over four weeks after recovering from a broken collar bone sustained on stage seven of the Tour De France, Wiggins returned to action at the final Grand Tour of the season, the Vuelta a Espana, where he wore the leader’s red jersey before finishing third behind overall winner, Juan Jose Cobo, and Sky team mate, Chris Froome. Wiggins said: “It gave me a lot of answers. A lot of positives came out of it.” He said his performance in Spain had shown that he could climb as well as time trial, adding that his performances at the World Championships, just nine days after finishing the Vuelta, supported his decision to ride the Tour De France and the Olympics next year. The 2012 Tour will finish in Paris on Sunday July 22, just six days before the Olympic road race on Saturday July 28 and only 10 days before the Olympic time trial on Wednesday August 1.