TOURNUS, France (VN) — For Bradley Wiggins, it’s about missing life’s little moments that tick by, frame by frame. The school assemblies, the birthdays, all of that.
Wiggins shelved his entire life this year for a shot at the Tour de France. That much was clear in the Tour’s first week. He’s on the razor’s edge, hip bones pressing into his skinsuit. This a physical apex, but whether his mental strength can carry him to Paris is a question that needs answering — recall that snap at the cynics after stage 8.
“Everyone makes sacrifices, more for my family. They have to live with me. My children hardly ever see me. I miss their birthdays. I miss their school assemblies,” Wiggins told reporters at a rest-day press conference.
“Just little things that are meaningless to a lot of people, but when you have two kids, and they don’t really understand why you have to go away all the time, or why you have to live on top of a mountain or why you’re sleeping in the spare bedroom in a tent… and they come knocking on the tent and you’re like ET in there — you can’t come out.”
Wiggins, after that single-mindedness, finds himself in control of this Tour de France. He can take time out of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in the final time trial, barring a massive crack, and will only have to limit his losses in the mountains if he wants to win this Tour. He was favored coming in, and we’ve all seen why. He’s nearly two minutes up on the defending champion before the true mountain stages, which commence Wednesday morning in the Jura.
“It’s a dream situation to be in, it certainly is. In all honestly, I don’t think I need to take any time in the mountains or take any huge risks in the next few days,” Wiggins said. “I’ve still got that time trial to come in just over a week. Which is longer, flatter, more suited to me.”
Evans, of course, will contest this race. He’s looked better in the road stages of this Tour than he has in the time trials. He is poised to test the Briton’s jaw. Wiggins knows this.
“BMC have by no means given up. Lotto have by no means given up. So, if it is over, we might as well go home. Home a week early. But it’s not over,” Wiggins said. “It’s by no means over.”
If he does hold on and win, it will debunk a bit of popular wisdom, in that a rider cannot turn peak form into a plateau for an entire season. Over a three-month period, he won Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné in the run-up into the Tour.
“I never really set out to try to make a point. I just had a lot of motivation from crashing last year,” Wiggins said. “I had a great winter… I wanted to hit the ground running. And a lot of that was about me building confidence and belief that, if I was going to be able to win the Tour, I should be able to win something like Paris-Nice or Tour of Romandie,” he said.
A bulk of Wiggins’ Tour team has ridden alongside him all season. It was clear on La Planche des Belles Filles (and in the Dauphiné) that they had done this before in training. Wiggins and company have hidden away on Tenerife for three high-altitude camps since the beginning of the year.
“We’re a little bit like a little family. We spend that much time together,” he said. “We know each other inside out. We all work and die for each other, really.” “
No, this Tour is not over. As we’ve heard from both the BMC Racing and Sky camps, it’s a long way to Paris. And something has been made here of Wiggins’ ability to descend with the other general classification contenders (we’ll find out). Those attacks will come, and soon. The question is: if remarkable descender Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) will actually be negated by Evans (a likely ally in the arms race against Sky) if Evans is caught out and forced to bridge to the Shark, dragging Wiggins along with him.
“You’ve always got to go downhill,” Wiggins said. “Vincenzo will try on the descent… But I’m not a bad descender. I just try to take very calculated risks, and assess all the time.”
It is, as everyone will say, far from over. But there is now a feeling that it is certainly Wiggins’ Tour to lose. He was heavily favored before he clipped in in Liège after becoming the only rider in history to win Paris-Nice, Romandie and the Dauphiné in the same season.
“You just never know in cycling,” he said. “If there’s a chance where you could take some time, if someone has a bad day or it’s been on and the group’s splintering and you feel like you could go, then, yea, maybe I’ll take that. But it might be opposite, you know? You just don’t know in cycling.”
No, you just never know.