Bradley Wiggins’ first challenge in this Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix will be riding alongside the favourites. If he makes that first step, only then can he think about winning.
“To be honest, it’d be nice to be in their company in the final,” Wiggins said ahead of Scheldeprijs today. “That’s going to be my biggest challenge, to be in a position to be with those guys. That alone will be quite something. Thoughts of how to beat them haven’t even entered my mind because it’ll be a big honour just to be with those guys in that position.”
According to Unibet the favourites for Sunday’s Hell of the North include Cancellara, Tom Boonen and Sep Vanmarcke. Wiggins remains a long shot with 41:1 odds.
“I won’t know [if I can match the favourites] until the race. On paper, you’d say ‘yes’ in terms of time trial ability and flat speed, but riding on the cobbles after 230, 240 kilometres, is a completely different thing than doing a 50-kilometre time trial or a prologue. That’s why those guys are the best in the world at what they do.” Wiggins said.
The British Tour winner finished Tirreno-Adriatico in March with a third place in the time trial but then skipped the Volta a Catalunya for a training cap. Sky called him in to their Tour of Flanders at the last minute after Ian Stannard and Chris Sutton crashed in Ghent-Wevelgem the previous weekend.
“I’m in really good shape. I had really good legs on Sunday. I’d be lethal if I could ride positions,” Wiggins said. “Just trying to get that mindset of leaving it all on the road. Obviously, I have no bigger picture so I can afford to take these risks, whereas a few years ago I rode Roubaix but always with one mind on the Tour.”
Wiggins reconfirmed his goals are Paris-Roubaix on Sunday and the Tour of California in May. Despite reports saying he might race the Giro d’Italia, he said that he would not. “I want to do well in Roubaix, it’s no secret. You don’t start that race unless you want to do well,” he explained. “I wouldn’t have risked it at Flanders if I didn’t want to do well in Roubaix. Whether it happens or not is another thing.”
He travelled south from his team’s base in Kortrijk, Belgium, and previewed the final 100 kilometres of the 257-kilometre course yesterday with his team-mates, including Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel and Geraint Thomas. “I think that G [Thomas] still has the legs, for sure, he’s more likely to be the leader,” Wiggins said. “It’s just good to have numbers in the final really, then you see who has the legs.
“It’s so difficult to put all your eggs in one basket in Roubaix, as we’ve seen in the last few years, there’s always a surprise, always someone in the top ten that maybe you wouldn’t have predicted to be there. Like last week, G was the leader, he crashed halfway through the race and it was as if he was going to climb off, he just lost it. But he kept going, kept going, and finished eighth, Roubaix’s the same, you just never give up.”