Bradley Wiggins, London’s cycling ambassador, intends to target victories
in road stages of next year’s Tour de France, not just the showpiece Prologue
time-trial in his home city which he enthusiastically says is almost “too
good to be true”.
“This year I realised how easy it is to win stages in the Tour, really,”
said a clearly relaxed and confident Wiggins just minutes after flying the flag
for London cycling at the launch of the 2007 Tour in Paris last Thursday.
Having almost surprised himself with the boldness of the comment, the normally
modest Wiggins quickly added: “That sounds quite self-conscious to say
something like that, but it is one of the only races I’ve ridden in the
whole of the year where there’s a lot of luck involved in the stages.
“You can be in a move that gets to the finish with five, three, two or
however many riders. And it’s easy to pick a stage. You’ve still
got to get there and work hard, but it’s not always the strongest man
who wins – until you get to the mountains that is!”
Next summer’s Tour kicks off with what is certain to be a spectacular
8km opening prologue in London starting in Whitehall, passing Buckingham Palace,
into Hyde Park, before finishing back on The Mall.
For a track pursuit specialist like Wiggins it is a huge opportunity, despite
the disappointment of an anonymous performance in his first Prologue this July
“It’s a great route, the prologue, certainly,” said the Cofidis
rider, as he gave interviews alongside London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has appointed
him as the city’s ‘cycling ambassador’.
“The first stage (to Canterbury) they say it’s going to be a sprint,
but you don’t know what to expect really. The whole weekend in itself
is a similar size to the Olympics, so it’s something not to be messed with from
my point of view definitely.”
Soley targeting the prologue as he did this year – his first Tour –
is not a mistake he intends to repeat. Reflecting on the past season, he said: “The way we always did things
was ask: would you rather win the prologue, or would you rather finish the Tour?
I said I’d rather win the prologue. So we just trained for that. We just
took that approach – but it didn’t work.
“I had quite good form through the race. This year I’m just going
to train like the others train, it’s as simple as that really.”
The triple Olympic medallist elaborated: “Looking at it objective wise
I’m not going to put everything into the prologue next year, I’m
going to train differently for the prologue.
“This year I trained just as if it was a pursuit, but I learned a valuable
lesson there. I want to be prepared for three weeks. That’s not to say
I won’t be specifically targeting the prologue, I’ll just do it
a different way.”
Reflecting on London hosting the Tour’s ‘Grand Depart’ he
observed: “People don’t seem aware or have quite taken on that it
is actually coming to London. It seems too good to be true at the moment.
“You try not to think about it this far out. You can’t imagine
what it’s going to be like until the Wednesday before doing the medicals
and things, and the pressure starts to build, and the occasion starts to build.
“I can’t imagine it not being taken to the heart of the British
people, even the non-cycling public.”
He added: “It still seems quite a long way away to start getting excited
about it. A lot can happen in six months in cycling as we have seen.”
Although Wiggins hasn’t yet been able to study next year’s Tour
route in detail to target particular stages, he is already certain that he won’t
be fighting for a result in the two long, hilly and probably hot time-trials.
The first, a 54km test, comes unusually late in the Tour after the Alps but
just before the Pyrenees on Saturday July 21 in Albi, while the second exactly
a week later is 55km from Cognac to Angouleme
“I’m not too worried about them,” said a remarkably relaxed
Wiggins. Before adding, with the confidence that could only be expressed by
a naturally brilliant tester: “They’re the rest days really – they
were this year for me.”
Wiggins first impressions of the 2007 Tour route overall was that it was perhaps
not quite as brutal as some had feared, particularly no ascent of either Alpe
d’Huez or Mont Ventoux on the 40th anniversary of Tom Simpson’s
“My general impression is that it doesn’t actually look that hard,”
he said. “I heard rumours that the Ventoux might be in. Whether that’s
a movement that (Tour boss Christian) Prudhomme’s making now, to make
the race slightly easier, I don’t know. But until you actually see the
profiles of the stages it’s hard to say.”
Amid that optimism, Wiggins cautioned: “You don’t
get a sense of how hard the Tour is when you see it on a screen like that. Until
you see the profile the week before the Tour and you start looking at the stages
and the profiles of the mountains – then you start to realise how hard it is.”