ANTWERP, Belgium (VN) — Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was full of laughs before the start of Wednesday’s GP Scheldepris, but downplayed his chances in the very serious business of Paris-Roubaix.
Wiggins joked with a race announcer at sign-in on Wednesday, saying his only goal was to avoid crashing in Scheldeprijs.
“I am just going to sit in the back, and wait for the crash,” Wiggins said. “Every year there is a spectacular crash.”
Things won’t be so light Sunday over the pavé. Wiggins told journalists that he has realistic ambitions for “The Hell of the North.”
“I want to do well in Roubaix. It’s no secret, you don’t start that race unless you want to do well,” Wiggins told reporters before the start. “I wouldn’t have risked it at Flanders if I didn’t want to do well in Roubaix. Whether it happens or not is another thing.”
Already committed to Roubaix, Wiggins was a late-hour addition to Sky’s classics roster ahead of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), where he avoided crashes and rode discreetly to 32nd.
Wiggins started Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs in part to stretch his legs ahead of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. He has raced Roubaix four times, most recently in 2011, and rode to a career-best 25th in 2009.
The British star expressed interest in adding Roubaix to his racing program late in 2013, and added weight to bolster his resistance across the punishing pavé. Wiggins started both Flanders and Scheldeprijs following crashes by Ian Stannard and Chris Sutton and said, “with everyone crashing, we’re short numbers.”
Sky will look to put a strong finishing touch on its solid classics campaign, which has included victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for Stannard and third with Edvald Boasson Hagen, and third at E3 Harelbeke with Geraint Thomas.
Speaking to VeloNews before the start Wednesday, Thomas said unfolding events in Roubaix would decide who is the captain. The Welshman, who was sporting some stitches on his chin from a crash in Sunday’s Ronde, said with Wiggins, Boasson Hagen, and Berhard Eisel, Sky should not be counted out.
“Roubaix is a different race,” Thomas said. “Roubaix suits our team better than Flanders. A lot can happen in Roubaix. It’s not just the big, big favorites, like Flanders. Roubaix is a bit more open. I’ve said all along I am happy to do my bit for whoever is the leader. … Brad is obviously strong, because once he gets going, there’s no stopping him.”
No Giro return for Wiggins
Looking ahead, Wiggins confirmed he was not considering a start at the Giro d’Italia in light of Richie Porte’s decision to skip the Italian tour after falling ill.
Wiggins’ schedule includes the Giro del Trentino and the Amgen Tour of California before the Tour de France.
Before the start in Antwerp, race presenters proudly showed off their new winner’s trophy made of 18-carot gold and studded with diamonds, at a value of 20,000 euros. Wiggins, with his tongue firmly planted in cheek, didn’t seem impressed.
“That’s the worst looking trophy I’ve ever seen,” he said in front of thousands of fans gathered before the sign-in podium. “It’s not worth winning the bike race, is it?”
The Paris-Roubaix trophy — a mounted single block of granite cobblestone — might make a bit more impact on Wiggins, especially if he could pull off the miracle ride Sunday.