Wiggins hails team strength

Wiggins hails team strength

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Wiggins hails team strength

28th June 2011
Report: Press Association Sport

Twelve months on from his Tour de France 'humiliation', Team Sky leader Bradley Wiggins is ready to challenge for the Paris podium once again.

In Team Sky's debut season, the focus was on one rider and one race - namely the Tour and Wiggins, who finished fourth in 2009 - but the Briton suffered under the expectation and additional pressure of being leader, placing 24th.

Now a broader approach for Team Sky has reaped dividends, including for the three-time Olympic champion, who won traditional Tour warm-up the Dauphine Libere earlier this month.

Wiggins, who was last week named in Team Sky's Tour squad alongside fellow Britons Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift, and who won the national title in Northumberland at the weekend, believes he is in better form than two years ago, when he equalled Robert Millar's 1984 best-ever finish by a Briton.

"We are now in a better position than I've ever been in. Top 10 seems more than achievable now and actually it seems getting on the podium is achievable."

Wiggins was talking in the collective as he has now embraced the responsibility which comes with being the team talisman, the switch in mentality coming when he received a severe rebuke last autumn from Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton, who the 31-year-old regards as a father figure.

After his rude awakening by senior management, Wiggins asked if Sutton could become his full-time coach and the Australian, performance manager at British Cycling as well as a Team Sky coach, accepted the challenge.

Wiggins is now more confident and visibly more relaxed than at the same time last year, when he was spearheading Team Sky's debut Tour campaign.

He added: "It's a complete contrast. I sat here a year ago trying to convince the world that everything was all right when secretly I knew it wasn't going to happen.

"The results speak for themselves, the season speaks for itself and I'm in a great position.

"Having that year of absolute disappointment and public humiliation behind me last year, it's culminated in making a lot of changes.

"I had unfinished business with this Tour de France thing. I had two contrasting years - a year where I could do no wrong and finished fourth to a year where all the pressure and expectation was incredible.

"When we had this talk last year we didn't set the bar too high - we didn't say we wanted to win the Tour de France.

"Top 10 in the Tour de France next year would be a fantastic achievement. It seemed like an achievable goal."

Certainly his win in the Dauphine has revived his spirits.

Team Sky's Tour squad is the eight-man line-up for the Dauphine - Wiggins, Thomas, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Juan Antonio Flecha, Simon Gerrans, Rigoberto Uran, Xabier Zandio and Christian Knees - plus Swift.

But despite the result being hailed as the best of his road career, Wiggins has refused to dwell on the success, immediately switching focus to the Tour, which begins on July 2, by altitude training in Italy.

He added: "It was a little bit like when you're going for the first Olympic medal - it was put in the draw and forgotten about to focus on the next one."

Wiggins intends to ride his own race, at his own pace and by minimising losses, rather than chase the explosive riders on the Pyrenean peaks and Alpine ascents where the Tour is won.

That means Wiggins is unlikely to be seen challenging Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck in the mountains next month.

Contador, who was champion in 2007, 2009 and 2010, has been cleared to race as he waits to learn whether the Court of Arbitration for Sport will overturn a Spanish cycling federation decision to clear him of any wrongdoing following a positive test for clenbuterol at last year's Tour.

The hearing was postponed last month and will now be heard from August 1-3.

Wiggins is frustrated the saga has dragged on.

"I personally don't believe he's guilty - I'm a big fan of him and think he's an incredible athlete," he added.

"I think it's a shambles and a farce the way the whole thing has gone on for so long now and hung over the sport."

Meanwhile, Wiggins also said he would like to do the Tour ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, then compete in the men's road race, with a view to racing for a medal in the road time-trial, and possibly also the team pursuit on the track.

He added: "The course in London for the time-trial suits me and the way my time-trialing has come on my chances of a gold medal have improved."