Bradley Wiggins is in great physical shape but admits he struggled mentally to overcome a series of setbacks at the Giro d’Italia last week.
Wiggins revealed his loss to compatriot Alex Dowsett (Movistar) in Saturday’s 54.8km time trial, in which he was outright favourite, was hard to swallow in what was overall a mixed opening week for the Olympic time trial champion.
Wiggins had hoped to win the stage – and with that put time into his maglia rosa rivals – but finished 10 seconds behind Dowsett for second having earlier suffered a front wheel puncture and bike change.
“Those time trials they’re such a big kind of mental focus building into it for a few days, and then you get to it, you build up all day for it, you’re so intense for that one hour out on the bike, and then it’s over,” Wiggins told journalists on the first rest day of the tour in Treviso yesterday.
“I put so much into those races that you don’t finish and go, ‘OK, I’ll put that to bed now.’ I find it very hard to forget about it, especially when the performance was there physically but it wasn’t one of my best time trials. I struggled with the disappointment of that.
“Then days like [Sunday’s ninth stage] where I should just be getting on with it, and it should be a relatively straight forward day physically, your mind is still elsewhere so you start dithering a little bit.”
Sky management refuted rumours on Saturday that Wiggins was ill. But the Tour de France champion did confirm yesterday he was managing a cold and tendonitis although stressed neither were affecting his performances on the bike.
“I’ve been licking my wounds a bit the last few days,” he reflected.
“It helps getting to the first rest stage because you get time to assess everything and it’s almost like starting a new race [Tuesday].”
Wiggins is fourth overall and one minute and 16 seconds off the pace of pink jersey Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) heading into the first high mountain stage of the Giro today.
Sky has three riders in the top 10 of the general classification with Sergio Henao sixth overall at 2-11 and Rigoberto Uran ninth at 2-49.
“It’s not a bad position to be in with Vincenzo in the lead and three of us in the top 10,” Wiggins commented. “It’s not what we’re used to. Last year we defended a lot and had people attacking and trying to get rid of us. It’s a different position we’re in now. We’ll try and take the advantage from that and play other cards.
“Certainly on some of these finishes in the next weeks if you have a bad day you lose minutes on these things, not just a handful of seconds, and with the times bonuses as well.”
Wiggins feels the cold and is hoping for fairer weather in the second week of the Giro, which according to weather forecasts doesn’t look likely with rain again predicted.
He has been tentative on wet descents since a crash in Friday’s seventh stage to Pescara, which he quickly recovered from but lost time to rivals.
The first stint of the Giro featured a number of medium mountain stages that suited Nibali and Australian Cadel Evans (BMC), who sits second overall and is in the points jersey, with Wiggins not on par with their short and sharp accelerations.
Sky has been unable to dictate terms at the front of the race, as it did at the Tour last year, thus far but that could change from today with the race’s first summit finish.
“Physically everything is great, it’s better than it’s ever been, so hopefully now with the longer summit finishes I get to put that into more action where it’s just down to the physical stuff rather than these tricky finishes that tend to play more of a part in the Giro,” Wiggins said.
“It’s going to be a mammoth task now but not impossible and I think the last two Grand Tours I’ve done with Nibali he has had some bad days in the mountains,” he continued of his race winning chances.
“I beat him in the Tour by six minutes and 19 seconds. The Tour is a lot different to this, but we actually put time into him on some of the mountain days last year. He’s as good as I’ve ever seen him. It’s his now to win, or to lose whichever way you look at it.”
Giro d’Italia 2013: Previews and race info
Giro d’Italia 2013: Stage reports
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Photos by Graham Watson