Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) confirmed that he can be an overall contender in the Tour de France with a strong ride on the first mountain finish to Andorra Arcalis.
Wiggins brought the bunch home in the final hundred metres, with only Cadel Evans (Silence) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) beating him to the line. He finished 3-47 behind stage winner Brice Feillu (Agritubel) and only 21 seconds behind Alberto Contador. He is fifth overall, 46 seconds behind new leader Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r).
Many of the overall Tour de France contenders were surprised to see Wiggins up there on the first mountain-top finish of the Tour but he admitted to team Christian Vande Velde that he would have attacked had there been a chance of winning the stage.
Wiggins rode so well, he embarrassingly got to the Garmin team car before any of the staff. They should have given him the car keys.
After a quick wipe down it was easy to see he was proud of his ride.
“I’m pretty pleased. I’ve worked my arse for this…” he said, sharp as ever, even after 224km of racing.
“I’ve been saying all along that I’ve got the physical capabilities to go well here. I did well in the prologue and showed I had the climbing legs. I was trying not to get too excited because it’s only the first mountain stage and I will get tired as the race goes on but I felt great. It got hard towards the end but everyone was hurting.”
“I’m 29 now, it’s time I got my arse into gear. I’ve been going at this for nearly eight years and I’ve just played at the road really. I’ve had some success but never really given it a good go. I’ve got a great team behind me this year and the confidence of Jonathan Vaughters and guys like Dave Millar have in me has helped me a lot. I’ve finally got the confidence to go for it.”
“I’ve switched from a world-class track rider to becoming a roadie. I said my goal is top 20 and that still remains the goal. Christian (Vande Velde) is still the leader and he’s getting better and better. I don’t know what the third week holds for me, I’ve never been in this position, so I’ll just keep plugging away. I think I can get through the Pyrenees in good condition, then it’s just the Alps. That’s the big thing for me, the third week. I’m going to take it day by day and see what happens. There is still two weeks to do in the Tour de France, two weeks tomorrow is the Ventoux. If were still in the same position then, it’d be great.”
YOU’VE GOT TO MOVE ON
Wiggins could have perhaps been in the yellow jersey if he had not lost 41 precious seconds on stage three to the Grande Motte, when Armstrong got away with the Columbia attack. He regrets missing out on yellow but has already moved on and is looking ahead to the rest of the race.
“That’s bike racing. You can’t take your eye off the ball for a minute in the Tour de France and I did on stage three and I paid the price. I’ve ridden a near perfect race except for the one day when we got caught with our pants down,” he said.
“When it happens you’ve got to put it behind you and move on,” says Wiggins. “You can’t dwell on your mistakes. You saw Cadel doing an attacking race today. He’s four minutes down and had a terrible first week but that’s the sign of a champion. You’ve got to take spirit from those guys and see how they ride. There’s no point in sulking and giving up, you’ve got to keep persisting.”
“Every day has been a mentally hard but its the same for everyone. you get in a position where you think you’re the only one hurting, the only one suffering, the only who wants to go home to see his wife, but you realise at some point that everybody is feeling the same and at that point you realise it’s just a mental game, about who can hang on and who can suffer the longest.”
Wiggins studied the other riders in the front group to gauge his ride and gain the self beleif that he really is a world class stage race rider.
“I kept looking at the faces to calibrate that I wasn’t going too bad but that it was hard,” he said.
“I think I was actually p**sing a few riders off. Frank and Andy Schleck kept getting the hump with me because they’ve never seen me in that position. I think they thought ‘would you just p**s off, get out of here and let us get on with our job’. But we’re all in a bike race and all got a number on our back.”
The Schlecks and everyone else better get used to seeing Wiggins at the front on the climbs. He is definitely in this bike race.
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