Bradley Wiggins tested his legs on the final stage of the Giro del Trentino on Friday, getting into the thick of the action on the stage’s final long climb as he prepares to take on the Tour of California (May 11-18).
That Wiggins is in good shape is beyond doubt – a ninth place at Paris-Roubaix in an elite group containing Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen proved as much. Another decent show was put on in Trentino’s opening team time trial, where Sky’s six-man line-up placed third among teams with a full complement of eight riders. Wiggins then worked for team-mates Kanstantsin Siutsou and Philip Deignan in the following two hilly stages.
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But what Wiggins is lacking this year so far is a good show in the mountains.
The last stage of the Giro del Trentino offered the perfect opportunity for the 2012 Tour de France champion to see how his climbing form matches that of some of his rivals, including Trentino overall winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
After Deignan had had a turn in the day’s 12-man escape group, Wiggins placed himself in a small group of contenders that hit the final 10 kilometres up Monte Bondone together. Though Wiggins was distanced at one point, he rode back up to the group containing Evans with five kilometres to go, and eventually finished the stage in 11th place, one minute and four seconds down on stage winner Mikel Landa (Astana).
Wiggins rode himself from starting the day in 42nd place in the general classification, to 19th place.
Sky directeur sportif Dario Cioni said it was all part of the plan: “We had a meeting before the stage and the execution was perfect. We didn’t want the break to go to the end so we made sure Philip was in there. It gave him a chance to get out there and ride but his decent GC position also meant that BMC had to chase a bit.
“The plan was for Kosta to go hard for a GC place and for Brad to look to see what he could do on the stage. Brad managed to get up there with the select lead group which was good to see and he has been climbing better and better this week.”
Next stop, the Tour of California. The second of Wiggins’s two early-season targets after Paris-Roubaix and he’s in much more familiar territory than he was in the Hell of the North. The eight-stage American race features a 20.1-kilometre time trial on stage two, which plays right into the reigning Olympic time trial champion’s hands.
The profile of the third day’s stage to Mount Diablo State Park is uncannily similar to the final Trentino stage, several lumps followed by mountain-top finish. There’s one further key mountain-top finish on stage six to Mountain High to negotiate before the race concludes in Thousand Oaks.
After that, Wiggins has his eye on a place in Sky’s Tour de France roster – a good performance in California will undoubtedly help the team’s selectors make a decision on whether to field two British Tour de France champions when the race starts in Yorkshire on July 5.
Sir Bradley Wiggins starts Giro del Trentino in Italy on Tuesday, aiming to impress Sky's Tour de France selectors
Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins comment on their seventh and ninth places in 2014 Paris-Roubaix