Bradley Wiggins prepares to defend Tour de France title after all

Bradley Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins has gone back on his decision not to defend his Tour de France title, raising the prospect of going head-to-head with his Sky team-mate Chris Froome for cycling's ultimate crown.

On the back of a successful return to training in Mallorca after his close encounter with a car in early November Wiggins appears to have changed his mind although in September and October he was saying he would most probably focus his attention on the Giro d'Italia and then support Froome in the Tour. "My goal is to win the Tour next year," Wiggins told BBC Radio. "Whether that is realised or not, I don't know really."

"I'm probably going to try and win a second Tour de France, so I don't know, maybe we'll have two leaders," Wiggins added.

In his recently published account of his Tour de France and Olympic success this year Wiggins said his biggest fear was returning to the Tour and failing to perform to his own high expectations. But according to his coach, Shane Sutton, his training in Mallorca in recent weeks has reassured the Tour winner and Olympic gold medallist that he is in better form than expected. In other words, that fear appears to have been dispelled.

"He's obviously going well, he's in a good place," Sutton told the Guardian. "He's realised that he's starting on a very high platform [of fitness] because of what he's done in the last two years. The volume of work he's done is clearly standing him in good stead. He's training well at the moment." Wiggins apparently completed 28 hours in training in one week recently in Mallorca and clocked up another 15 hours in the first three days of this week, with a seven-hour ride on Wednesday.

"He's already said he wanted to do a good Tour but coming in under the radar," said Sutton. "Now he's put his hand up. He will be ready to defend his title but, if he's given the order, he will work for Froomy." Wiggins said he felt it was now for Team Sky's management to work out how to accommodate both his and Froome's ambitions and admitted he had not explored how his decision to go for a repeat title would affect the team.

"I don't know – it's more [Sky head] Dave's [Brailsford] problem, really, to worry about. It's just how we service both mouths – that's more the problem to figure out." That appears to leave Sky in a similar situation to 12 months ago, when the issue was how to accommodate the needs of Mark Cavendish and Wiggins at the Tour de France. That one went the way of Wiggins.

However, while stating that he wanted to defend his Tour title, Wiggins repeated his assertions of earlier this year that he is prepared to support Froome if the team appoint him leader. "Whatever the team strategy is, I'll support that, otherwise you don't take the start line because there will be someone else who is willing to fulfil that job," he said. "It's a case of doing what's asked of you on the day, whatever that decision is."

Sky have yet to finish their analysis of the 2013 Tour de France and Giro d'Italia routes, which may help explain why the decision of who leads the team in the Tour has been reopened. But in 2009 Wiggins based his successful Tour de France – he finished fourth and was promoted to third after Lance Armstrong's disqualification for doping – on completing the Italian Tour.

Wiggins's racing programme for 2013 has yet to be finalised but has provisionally been based around his attempt to become the first Briton to win the Giro but, as Sutton points out, there is still space for him to try to win the Tour as well. "He would have 50 days of racing in his legs after the Giro, which is more than normal, so it's going to be vital how we handle his recovery. But we know how to pay attention to that."

If Wiggins goes for the Giro he is likely to miss Paris-Nice, which he won this year, in favour of Tirreno-Adriatico, the Italian stage race which is held at the same time. He would also then race the Giro del Trentino in late April. His season is likely to start either at the Tour of Algarve on 13-17 February, in which he won a stage last year, or with racing in the series of one-day events in Mallorca from 3 February.

Powered by article was written by William Fotheringham, for The Guardian on Thursday 13th December 2012 19.26 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Bradley Nikolaj