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An interview with Bradley Wiggins, October 23, 2007
Next goal: Triple gold in Beijing
Bradley Wiggins made great strides in his professional career this season, but his biggest priority in 2008 will be on the track rather than the road. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes talked to T-Mobile's new signing about his recent successes and his future plans.
British professional Bradley Wiggins had a year to remember in 2007, taking several important wins on road and track as well as showing he has a real future in races such as the Tour de France. The 27 year-old had already some very important results to his credit, such as gold, silver and bronze medals at the last Olympic Games plus several world championship and Commonwealth Games titles in the velodrome, but it was only this season when he really made the breakthrough to the top level on the road.
The Briton's best performances of 2007 included victories in the prologue of the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Dauphiné Libéré, first on the stage four Time Trial at the Tour du Poitou Charentes and at the Duo Normand two-man TT. Additionally, Wiggins placed second on stage three of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe et Pays de la Loire, fourth in the prologue of the Tour de France and fifth in the first long Time Trial in the same race.
Astana riders Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin placed first and fourth in that Albi TT, of course, but have subsequently tested positive for blood doping. Wiggins' good showing meant he should have been one of the favourites to win the final Time Trial, but he like the rest of the Cofidis team were forced to pull out of the Tour after French team-mate Christian Moreni tested positive for testosterone in a random control taken on Stage 11.
Cofidis' exclusion was a cruel blow to the Briton, who has long been outspoken against drug use in the peloton. The current climate in cycling made it practically impossible for the squad to continue to Paris, but this forced withdrawal was nevertheless a factor in Wiggins' decision to leave the team he had begun racing with in 2006.
He's now signed a contract with German ProTour squad T-Mobile and should fit in well with the magenta lineup. "It is good to change, especially with what happened in the Tour with Cofidis," he said, one day after placing 10th in the elite Time Trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. "That kind of made my mind up, to be honest. I don't think we should all have been pulled out and so that was part of the reason for my decision."
Wiggins will head into 2008 with greatly increased confidence, thanks to his strong performances of this season. He had taken some decent results in the past, including victory on stage eight of the Tour de l'Avenir in 2005 plus a win on stage two and fourth overall in the Circuit de Lorraine Professionnels that same year. However he was unable to build on this in 2006, with his top results being seventh in the prologue of Paris-Nice and 16th in the opening TT of his debut Tour de France.
Given this, it's perhaps unsurprising that last season Wiggins sounded demoralised with road racing at times. But things have totally turned around this year, with his results on the road, plus the gold medals he earned in the individual and team pursuit at the 2007 track worlds, rekindling his motivation.
He feels it was subtle changes rather than any one identifiable step which caused the turnaround. "The difference is simply that I didn't make a lot of the mistakes that I had made in 2006, really," Wiggins said. "I just moved on. I looked at the mistakes that I had made before and changed things. 2007 was good, really, it was very satisfying.
"Last year was hard," he added. "I had put so much into it and it didn't seem to be working, really. But I was trying different things at the time and I think it has just taken a while to figure things out. Simon Jones [former coach of British Cycling] left as well and I had to take control of my own training. But it has all worked well. I think it was just [a question] of taking charge of my own situation."
Wiggins' past success in the velodrome meant that he is regarded one of the worlds best on the boards. This year he's closed the gap somewhat between his road and track abilities. Part of that may be down to his work with former top prologue rider Chris Boardman, who had commented in the past that he was a little puzzled that his fellow Briton had not been able to convert his track speed to short Time Trials on the road. Whatever the reasons, Wiggins has raised his game significantly.
"I think the Dauphiné was the biggest step up for me, really," noted Wiggins. "It was ProTour and the likes of George [Hincapie] and others were there. So I would say that was the biggest result. The Tour Time Trial was good, too, it showed I'd a bit of consistency as well.
"I didn't quite expect that one," he elaborated. "I knew that I should be up there in the prologue because that is what I had been working towards, but the Albi result kind of surprised me. Certainly doing that so far into a stage race like the Tour was a bit unexpected…I was quite tired by that point, so I was pretty surprised to pull out a ride like that one."
Given his performance - and also his mammoth 190 kilometre solo break on stage six - he could realistically expect to return to the race next season and do something big. Instead Wiggins will be absent from the line-up due to his target of chasing more Olympic gold medals.
"Preparing for the Games means that I will miss the Tour, basically," he said. "I won't do the race." It a big decision to make, but his superb track history means that T-Mobile are happy to give him a chance to prepare for Beijing as he sees fit.
There's certainly grounds to believe he'll do well. At the last Games he won the individual pursuit, finished second in the team pursuit and netted bronze in the Madison. He was the bronze medallist in the team pursuit in Sydney some four years earlier. Wiggins has also taken an impressive clutch of world championship medals, namely gold in 2003 [individual pursuit] and 2007 [team and individual pursuit], silver in 2000, 2001 and 2003 plus bronze in 2002 [all for the team pursuit]. Factor in his junior world pursuit title in 1998 and his two silver medals in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and you can see why T-Mobile think he's an Olympic horse worth gambling on.
"Next year I'll have a normal programme up to the Tour," he said, explaining the structure of his season. "The road will give me the endurance base I need, then I'll focus on fine-tuning things for Beijing. It is an important year, really."
In Athens three years ago Wiggins became the first British sportsperson since athlete Mary Rand in 1964 to take three Olympic medals at the same Games. It's a measure of his ambition that he is actually a little dissatisfied with how he did. "I'm aiming to equal that, if not do better," he said. "It  was good, but not brilliant. I under-performed in the last two events, really. So I think we are certainly aiming for three golds next year. That's the target."
Should he manage to do that, Wiggins will become one of the all-time legends of British sport. Most would crumble under the pressure of such goals but if his preparation goes to plan, he'll head to China fully believing that it is possible.
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Images by Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews.com
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Régis Garnier/www.velofotopro.com