BOURG EN BRESSE, France (VN) — Bradley Wiggins underscored his leadership in the Critérium du Dauphiné on Thursday by distancing his rivals in the stage 4 time trial. The other race favorites lost from one to almost 11 minutes and ahead of the Tour de France, must be thinking, “Just how are we going to beat him?”
Sky’s captain flew into Bourge en Bresse in the leader’s yellow jersey. He won the stage and gained more time on his rivals. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) lost 1:43, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) around three minutes and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), due to a crash and puncture, lost more than 10 minutes.
Stage hunter and world TT champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was also behind Wiggins. Having Martin behind, and by 34 seconds, only underlined Wiggins’ domination.
Martin beat Wiggins for the gold medal last year in the Copenhagen worlds. Wiggins, though, has been on a rampage since the start of the year. He placed third in the Volta ao Algarve, won Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie. Even with the mountain stages yet to come, he appears ready to defend his 2011 Dauphiné title. The top challenger, Evans trails by 1:44.
The implications are huge with the Tour de France just three-and-a-half weeks away and featuring over 100km of time trialing. Wiggins, though, warned journalists not to jump to conclusions.
It doesn’t mean, “too much, it’s the Dauphiné. We are still six weeks away until the last time trial [of the Tour],” Wiggins said. “Cadel was down by a similar amount last year in the Grenoble time trial here. By the time the Tour came around, that last time trial, you know, I think I would’ve struggled to beat Cadel that day. It just showed how he turned that around. It’s not a form guide; a lot will change… It doesn’t set a precedent.”
Wiggins sat with his long legs stretched out and appeared relaxed after his victory. He tried to remain modest, but he said that he was proud of his stage win. As he crossed the line, he pounded his chest with his fist.
“The emotion just came out. All the training, hours on the time trial bike, through the winter… To finish and beat the world time trial champ… I haven’t beat Tony many times and to beat him by a clear margin is due satisfaction,” he explained.
“We’ve been chasing Tony for a long time. He raised the bar at the worlds last year and won by a significant margin. That was a starting point for us to try to get close to him. That’s by no means going to be the same in every time trial from now on.”
After Wiggins left the press conference, heavy rain replaced the strong winds that battered riders on the course. The weather was right for reflection ahead of the Tour.
Wiggins feels he’s done the hard miles to be ready, he’s in a position to win the Dauphiné and he has answers for the critics. When he hears that he’s peaked too soon, he replies, “No, this is training for July.”
The response wouldn’t be comforting for Evans, Nibali and the others. They’ll be looking at the rain coming down outside and searching for ways bounce back as Evans did last year.