PISTOIA, Italy (VN) — He is tied atop the list of all-time medal winners in British Olympic history and is a former Tour de France champion, but winning the world time trial championship on Wednesday in Florence, Italy, would mean more than any of those accolades for Bradley Wiggins. The Briton is out to prove wrong the critics who said he was finished when he abandoned the Giro d’Italia in May.
“This would mean the most for me,” Wiggins told a small group of journalists ahead of Wednesday’s men’s elite time trial. “A lot of people wrote me off in May at the Giro d’Italia.”
Wiggins suffered this spring at the Giro. The reigning Tour champion made it his target but abandoned early with a chest infection and a sore knee. Instead of going on to defend his Tour title, Chris Froome led Sky, and won. It appeared to some observers that the chapter had turned in Sky’s book, that the crown had been handed from Froome to Wiggins, and Wiggins would go off to get another tattoo and play his guitar.
“It doesn’t matter how many tattoos I have,” Wiggins said. “We’re here to talk about the world championships.”
The subject of tattoos came up because Wiggins said riding a long time trial, like tomorrow’s, at 57.9 kilometers, is similar to getting ink shot under your skin.
“Everyone has different ways of dealing with [riding for more than an hour]; that’s what defines you as a time trialist. You can get into your own little world, you need to be able to deflect the pain,” Wiggins said. “I told Alex [Dowsett, British teammate], it feels like having a tattoo, it hurts for the first 10 minutes, but after awhile you don’t feel it. You get to a different state. It’s only when you finish, you cross the line, that you realize how much pain you’re in.”
Wiggins has won three Olympic gold medals on the track (two individual pursuit and a team pursuit), as well as a time trial gold at the 2012 London Games. He has seven medals to his name, tying him with Chris Hoy as the most prolific British Olympians in history. Wiggins dismantled a chorus of doubters with his Tour de France victory weeks earlier and racked up several weeklong stage-race titles in the spring of 2012. However, the time trial in Florence has taken on greater importance than any before it. Wiggins said that he was angry in July and wanted to change his situation.
He returned to racing in the Tour of Poland, competed in the Eneco Tour, and on Sunday he won the Tour of Britain. The overall win came on the back of his time trial stage win, he said, and nothing else. He explained that some days he even felt off.
“My climbing has suffered; I feel like my time trialing is going through the roof,” he said. “If I get a silver, that’s fine, I got beaten. Ask me what that would mean for my critics tomorrow.”
Two-time defending champion Tony Martin last night said that Wiggins was at a disadvantage for Wednesday. While the German trained on the course Saturday and raced it as part of the team time trial Sunday, Wiggins was riding on the country lanes in Britain.
“I won’t tell you my thoughts on that. I know what I need to do,” said Wiggins. “I’ve worked hard for this. I’ve done three stage races in the last three months. That was all down toward doing this.”