A report in Portuguese newspaper A Bola claims that Bradley Wiggins (Sky) will be taking part in the 2012 Tour of the Algarve, an early season stage race in southern Portugal, running from February 15-19.
If confirmed, the date clash with the London round of the World Cup, which runs from February 16-19, means that Wiggins’ participation in the track series would not be possible. It would also mean that Wiggins will not ride the Tour of Oman over February 14-19.
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The five-day Tour of the Algarve, which usually includes a final time trial and a tough uphill finish, has been used as a first race of the season by many Tour de France contenders, like Wiggins, in the past. Last February, Alberto Contador and Tony Martin made their ‘debut’ there, with Contador winning it outright in 2009 and 2010, and Martin this year.
So far five WorldTour teams have been confirmed for the Portuguese race: Sky, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, RadioShack-Nissan, Vancansoleil and Lotto. Another 11 teams, including four local squads, are expected to take part.
Wiggins is the first top name to be listed by the race’s organisation as participating, although Sky have yet to confirm he will be taking part. The Tour of the Algarve reportedly has had serious problems finding enough sponsors to go ahead in 2012, but these appear to have been resolved.
Cycling Weekly believes that Wiggins will ride the road race and time trial events in the London 2012 Olympic Games, rather than defending his Olympic titles on the track.
Wiggins enjoyed his best season yet on the road in 2011, winning the Criterium du Dauphine and finishing third in the Vuelta a Espana and Paris-Nice. He ended the season in eighth place on the Union Cycliste Internationale’s WorldTour rider ranking.
Wiggins’ 2011 Tour de France hopes were dashed after he crashed out of the race with a fractured collarbone. In September, he played a key role in setting up Mark Cavendish’s road race world championship win in Copenhagen.