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Wiggins confirms love for Giro d’Italia and its pink jersey

MILAN (VN) — Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins (Sky) confirmed his priorities for 2013 on Wednesday and the Olympic champion is targeting the Giro d’Italia in May.

“I love the pink jersey. I already said it in 2010; for me it’s an icon,” Wiggins told La Gazzetta dello Sport during a team training camp in Spain.

Wiggins confirmed reports that he will race the Giro, May 4 to 26, and leave the door open for teammate Chris Froome at the Tour.

“First I’m thinking of the Giro. Who’s to say what shape I’ll be in afterwards? If things go to plan, my teammate Chris Froome will have priority in the Tour. Probably, he’ll be the leader,” Wiggins said. “I hope to race the Tour at a high level after the Giro, which is another challenge. Another podium, maybe. And then for the team to have two cards to play is better than having only one. Between Chris and me there won’t be any problems. No doubts about loyalty. He was ready to win in 2012 if something had happened to me, the roles could be reversed in 2013.”

His words are music to the ears of Giro organizers at RCS Sport. It has been successful in attracting big stars in the past — like Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador and yes, even Lance Armstrong — but often suffers as the Tour takes priority for many grand tour riders.

“I want to get the Giro up to that level where they are able to consider both a great race, not just think, ‘First the Tour, then I’ll decide,'” race director, Michele Acquarone told VeloNews a year ago. “The riders need to know that the great champions won both races. Those days of preparing only for the Tour like Armstrong are over. The fans want something else.”

Wiggins won the 2012 Tour with dominance in the time trials. In Paris, he finished 3:21 ahead of Froome and 6:19 ahead of Vincenzo Nibali, who will target the Giro for Astana.

The 32-year-old Brit went on to win the Olympic time trial in London before ending his season early.

“It was not an improvised decision. But after I conquered the Tour, which I chased for many years, I asked myself, ‘And what do I do now?’ and I began to think of the Giro,” Wiggins said. “After I saw the parcours, very hard, but not excessively hard as it has been in the recent past, I decided. The Giro d’Italia is my new challenge, my new inspiration. It’s the new flame that burns inside of me. I think that to win it, for various reasons, it will be harder than the Tour.

“The difficulty of the Italian climbs. And there will be riders, Nibali comes to mind, who are better prepared than they were at the 2012 Tour, and who already know how to race to win the Giro.”

Some say the Giro has been custom fit for Wiggins. The organizer included a 55.5km time trial at the end of the first week. However, with the Giro being the Giro, the percorso heads to the north in the final week, where it covers numerous mountain passes. The final two mountain legs alone — a long slog over the Gavia and Stelvio to Val Martello and the return of Tre Cime di Lavaredo — should help balance any advantage the time trial riders receive.

Wiggins is preparing now.

After the training camp, his racing season starts at the Challenge Mallorca in early February. He will continue with the Tour of Oman, an altitude training camp, Volta a Catalunya, Giro del Trentino and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.