That is what Wiggins was looking for when he targeted the second most important stage race of the cycling year but his attacks of the downhill yips in the past seven days bring an old adage to mind: be careful what you wish for. It has made enthralling viewing but there has been more novelty than he would have wished.
Defining precisely why a professional cyclist might lose his touch on descents is as difficult as explaining a golfer's yips or a striker's sudden inability to find the net. It happens rarely, most famously in the early 1990s; the double world champion Gianni Bugno suffered from it and only rediscovered his "flow" after being made to listen to Mozart to calm his nerves.
Descending a mountain on a bike looks simple to a television viewer when done well, but anyone who has tried it knows the opposite. The margins are extremely fine. It takes only a fractional over-application of the brakes on a rainy corner for disaster to strike. It is a weakness that can be readily exploited. One champion who attacked his rivals on descents to great effect was Eddy Merckx. It is also a weakness that, once exposed, is hard to cure overnight.
Wiggins is an experienced downhiller, with 10 years mountain riding behind him and the ability in reading the road that brings. Assuming his tyres are at the pressure they should be and his bike is of the correct design, two variables come into play; physical fitness, which affects reaction time, and confidence.
Physically Wiggins insists he is in better shape than last year, and he has avoided disaster in the first week to emerge in fourth place, only 1min 16sec behind the race leader Vincenzo Nibali. He can still win the Giro, but Tuesday's first really tough mountain-top stage finish and the stages that follow will give an accurate picture of his condition.
Here too the margins are fine, and, on top of the cumulative effects of extra kilometres spent chasing the peloton this week, there are a couple of subtle differences compared with last July. Wiggins's trainer, Tim Kerrison, has said that squeezing his preparation for the Giro into two months less than he had for last year's Tour has not been simple. Wiggins also opted to miss his last altitude training camp to stay in Mallorca with his family.
He went into the 2012 Tour having won three major races. The Giro, on the other hand, could be his only chance for a major win this year. That pressure cannot be underestimated and, compared with last year, Wiggins is without several experienced figures who were close to him. He built a winning relationship with Sky's former lead directeur sportif Sean Yates, but he has moved on, so too their road captain at the Tour, Michael Rogers.
The abrasive Shane Sutton, his long-time mentor, is no longer a full-time member of Sky, while Mark Cavendish, who left last year, has also had a galvanising influence in the past. The principle of aggregating marginal gains has brought much to British Cycling and Sky but it can also apply in reverse: take away a fraction of a per cent or more here and there and it begins to add up.
Wiggins's Tour de France win was seamless – he did not register a single puncture or crash, but it was a close-run thing. He was not far from getting caught up in both the major pile-ups – at Boulogne and Metz – which dictated the tone of the first week. His verdict on the Boulogne stage, in his memoir My Time, makes interesting reading in the light of what he has been through in recent days.
The stage, he wrote, was "a complete scramble" due to crashes and small roads. He got cold and he did not manage to eat enough because of the stress. "I had nothing left when we hit the finale. Without doubt I would have lost time on the others on the climb to the finish … luckily I was caught behind a crash." [which meant he was credited automatically with the same time as the winner].
That could sum up several days at the 2013 Giro, so it is not surprising it has not suited Wiggins. He is a rider who likes to be in control, who craves what he terms "open road", where he can forget outside factors and focus on the physical side. He found his open road, all of a sudden, in the second half of Saturday's time trial, and there he shone. Whether the Italian roads will open for him in the next 10 days is a fascinating sporting conundrum.
Wiggins's trying week
Tuesday Stage 4: loses 17sec at the finish in wet, cold conditions
Thursday Stage 6: gets stuck behind a crash with 32km to go; he and his team chase for 10km to regain the peloton
Friday Stage 7: crashes with 5km to go and loses 1min 24sec on rivals Nibali and Evans
Saturday Stage 8: has an early puncture in the time-trial stage; he still finishes second, but gains only 11sec on Nibali and 29sec on Evans
Sunday Stage 9: loses about a minute on a lengthy descent; his team have to chase for some 20km to bring him back to the front of the race
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image: © Bradley Nikolaj