LIENZ, Austria (VN) — Strained is the best way to describe Bradley Wiggins (Sky) as he walked into the press conference held at the town hall in Lienz on the eve of the Giro del Trentino, which begins Tuesday in this East Tyrolean city.
“I’m feeling a bit rough at the moment. I won’t go into detail; it’s nothing for the female ears,” he said, rubbing his eyes and looking wearily at the 30-odd journalists and photographers gathered for the event. “The saddle sores are better. It’s something else,” he revealed, but refused to elaborate.
Despite his ailments, Wiggins maintained that his training is on track ahead of his final pre-Giro d’Italia tune-up.
“Training is going really well,” he said. “Numbers suggest I’m ahead of where I was before the Tour de France last year, so I’m really excited about the Giro.”
Wiggins and his Sky team are racing the Giro del Trentino to shape up for the Giro d’Italia, which starts two weeks after this four-day tour ends.
“The [Tour de] Romandie is too close and this fits in well with our training in the mountains,” said the reigning Tour champion. “After this race ends we will stay in the area for a while and work in the mountains and on time trialing.”
Wiggins wanted to do that the past few days but the combination of his “condition” and the snow covered mountains put a wrench in those plans.
“We couldn’t do some of the climbs or finish others,” he said. “I slept in the car most of the time. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster.”
At the Giro del Trentino, Wiggins hopes the team will put on a strong showing in the dress rehearsal for his run at the Giro d’Italia’s maglia rosa next month. But can he win here? Wiggins admitted that races without an individual time trial are tough for him, but he has been working to hone his sharpness in the mountains.
“There’s no individual TT, so that makes the race less predictable,” he said. “There is unpredictability in summit finishes.”
When asked if the kid from Kilburn could win the Giro, Wiggins smiled.
”Yeah, I think so,” he said. “We’ve got equally good guys here, if you look at their form it’s good. We’re racing very well and we’ve got a strong climbing group.”
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), looking lean and relaxed, admitted that his team, which is two men short for tomorrow’s start, isn’t in an ideal situation for showing its muscle at the Giro del Trentino.
“We’re not really starting off on the best foot in the TTT. But there is good racing in the mountains and that’s why I chose to be here. For me this is preparation towards the Giro [d’Italia],” he said.
Bouncing between English and Italian, Evans explained that an outsider role suits him best for this race.
“I lost a lot of racing days because of illness. Here I will ride my pace and see what happens. If I can ride with the best and still keep my pace, that’s ok, but I’m here to focus on my own progress,” he said. “I’m not going to the Giro just for training.”
Tirreno-Adriatico champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), winner of the Giro del Trentino in 2008, is looking to be in the mix.
“I’ve come back from weeks of altitude training. If I can find a good race rhythm, we will see what happens,” he said. “It used to be I was an outsider, but over the last few years I’ve grown up a lot and become very reliable on the big tours.”
The 2011 Vuelta a España winner has reliably ridden onto the podium at the Giro d’Italia twice and was third in the 2012 Tour. He finished behind Sky teammates Wiggins and Chris Froome last July and will face off with the former when the Giro d’Italia opens May 5 in Naples. Wiggins will hope to use the Giro’s two individual time trials and stage 2 team time trial to carve out an advantage over Nibali, but will only have the 14.1km stage 1b TTT this week.
“Bradley was already top in time trialing, but now he has made even a bigger jump with bigger gaps between himself and his competitors, he has really improved against the clock and this is his great advantage,” said Nibali.
Before Wiggins left the room he made one thing clear: “Sky’s goal is to win this race. Whether that happens or not is another thing. I’d have a fantastic TV show if I could predict the future, but unfortunately I can’t.”
37th Giro del Trentino
Stage 1a, April 15: Lienz-Lienz, 128.5km
Stage 1b, April 16: Lienz-Lienz (TTT), 14.1km
Stage 2, April 17: Sillian-Vetriolo Terme, 224.8km
Stage 3, April 18: Pergine Valsugana-Condino (Valle delle Chiese), 176.1km
Stage 4, April 19: Arco-Sega de Ala, 166.8km