LEON, Spain — Bradley Wiggins (Sky) continues to set the bar ever higher.
A year after winning the Tour de France and the Olympic gold medal, Wiggins is taking aim at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour. And on Friday evening in Spain, he suggested he might race the Vuelta a España, too.
“The chances are I will probably do the Vuelta a España as well,” Wiggins told journalists after Friday’s stage at the Volta a Catalunya. “The plan is still Giro, Tour, and managing that fatigue. That’s the challenge, like the Tour and the Olympics like last year.”
Wiggins didn’t expand on whether he was seriously considering on riding to win all three grand tours this year.
The notion of winning two grand tours in one season is considered a stretch by any measure. Only seven riders have won the Giro and Tour in the same year, and no one has won all three grand tours in a single season. Alberto Contador was making noises about racing all three when he moved to Saxo-Tinkoff in 2011, a notion that quickly fizzled.
Fewer riders even manage to complete all three grand tours, and the ones that do are usually sprinters or domestiques. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) was the last to do it last year, but he was far from the sharp end of the action.
Even if he’s serious about the Vuelta, Wiggins’ first major goal is trying to win the Giro.
He admitted it was difficult to find the motivation to start training again after his near-perfect 2012 season and the adulation that came with it, but said the challenge of racing to win the pink jersey is just what he needed.
“At times, I think it’s motivation. When I look at what I’ve done since January, I’ve done more than last year. I enjoy training. I don’t really enjoy the racing so much,” he said.
“When it came time for the hard work, I was, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ I am pleased with the level I’ve gotten back to. There were times when I thought I would never get back to that level.”
Wiggins, 32, spent much of his time training on Mallorca or Tenerife, preparing for the looming Giro clash.
Wiggins’ comments Friday came during a sit-down with journalists near the end of the seven-day Volta a Catalunya, where he was hoping to challenge for the overall victory.
Instead, he was sitting fourth place overall at 46 seconds behind Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) with two stages to go.
“It’s been a good week. My last race was Oman and I didn’t get much out of it. It’s been a good test. It hasn’t been easy with the summit finishes,” he said. “Maybe the biggest surprise so far is Dan Martin leading. Everyone expected [Joaquim] Rodriguez, or me, or [Alejandro] Valverde.”
Wiggo’ misses Yates
The Olympic time trial champion also admitted he’s sorely missing the presence of former Team Sky sport director Sean Yates.
Yates abruptly left the team last fall, citing health problems and his desire to spend more time with his family.
Team Sky, which also saw the exit of other key staffers after it introduced a controversial zero-tolerance anti-doping stance last fall, is trying to find a new sport director to fill his shoes.
The 38-year-old Marcus Ljungqvist, a former pro, is leading the team this week at Catalunya.
Yates, a former pro and Tour stage-winner, was a key member of Wiggins’ support staff and helped guide him through the pressure cooker of the Tour.
“Sean was pretty much irreplaceable,” Wiggins said. “There is a bit of a learning curve for everybody. I’ve found it hard, because I really relied on him a lot, with his information, his expertise. We’re trying to make the best of it.
“I haven’t noticed it so much until this week, once I am back and starting to target something. You realize the little things he says to me constantly. He seems to know every climb in Europe. He’s got so much experience from previous years. We’re trying to work with the new guys.”
Roubaix on radar
Wiggins, never one to shy away from major challenges, also confirmed that an attempt at Paris-Roubaix is on his radar.
Tackling the cobbles to win would mark a major departure both in terms of training and racing style.
A shift to the classics would require him to pack on some weight to handle the punishing pavé, and he hinted that any attempt to take on Roubaix would come at the end of his career.
“I would like to. That’s my other big thing that I’d like to have a crack at,” Wiggins said. “It’s one of the biggest races in the world.”
Wiggins is no stranger to the Hell of the North, having raced it three times during his career. He was 49th in 2006, 25th in 2009 and 90th in 2011. He’s also raced at other northern classics, such as Ghent-Wevelgem, Driedaagse van De Panne (Three Days of De Panne) ad Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
For Wiggins, it’s all about the love of the game.
“It’s the Tour, the Giro and Paris-Roubaix. They’re the three biggest for me,” he said. “They are what they are. They’re the best races in the world.”