Wiggins still eying Giro, Tour double

Cycling, Tour de France,Italy, Giro d'Italia, Team Sky, Bradley Wiggins, Great Britain, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali
Bradley Wiggins during a media day ahead of the Giro de Italia (Getty)

In a pre-Giro d''Italia interview Bradley Wiggins has claimed Team Sky could wait until the Tour de France is underway before deciding its team leader for the race.

That may not happen, there may be a clear-cut leader before you get there. We will see.

Wiggins, 33, won the Tour, as well as a gold medal in the Olympic time trial, last year and starts his attempt to win the Giro d'Italia for the first time, in Naples on Saturday.

In November, team principal Dave Brailsford confirmed that Chris Froome, who completed a victory in the Tour de Romandie at the weekend, would be the team's principal rider for the Tour de France.

Froome finished second to Wiggins in last year's Tour de France and appeared stronger that his team-mate on some of the mountain stages.

Wiggins has refused to rule out attempting to become the first rider to win the Giro and the Tour since Marco Pantani in 1998. But he said that that Brailsford will make the call in the days leading up to the start of the Tour, which begins on 29 June.

Wiggins also said he felt that a final decision may not even be taken until they are week into the race and will be down to a "natural hierarchy" that develops.

"It's the three days before it (the Tour) that Dave will make a decision as to who we go with," said Wiggins.

"Dave's the man, he's the guru. He will decide. The best-case scenario at this stage is I win the Giro, I come out of it, stay healthy, we do all the training camps that we do in between the Giro and the Tour.

"Chris's preparations continue as they are, he ends up winning the Dauphine and we both arrive at the Tour ready to go in the best possible (shape). And Dave's got to make a call, somewhere there, as to who is the leader.

"At this stage, all being well, it may be that we end up joint leaders for that first week until the racing decides.

"Without racing against each other when we hit the mountains or whatever, the racing decides naturally who the leader becomes.

"It may be that we both stay in contention until that week, Chris wins the mountain stage, takes the yellow jersey in which case there is a natural hierarchy there and then I try and finish second as he did last year.

"That may not happen, there may be a clear-cut leader before you get there. We will see."

The plans of Wiggins and Team Sky will dominate the agenda in the run up to the start of the Tour, which not only begins on the Mediterranean island of Corsica for the first time but is the 100th edition of the famous race.

Wiggins, though, maintained that his key focus for 2013 was to win in Italy for the first time.

"The main thing is to win the Giro," he added. "That's the first hurdle. That's the one really at this stage and I don't look beyond that. It's like the first gold medal in the Olympics.

"It's been good doing them both but (the training is) only about post-Giro. At this stage it's only been about the detail towards the Giro."

Wiggins also insisted home favourite Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will be his main threat at the Giro, but hoped his improved climbing skills will aid his chances.

"This race is more suited to him and it's his pride and joy. There's a lot at stake for him in this race, he's the big Italian favourite, he's trained for this and he's not doing the Tour afterwards, it's his one," said Wiggins.

"I think he's in better shape than he's ever been and he's got everything, all the attributes, steeper climbing, the tricky descents, all the things the Giro throws at you, he's got.

"I don't fear him, I respect him. I know his strengths and this weaknesses and in that respect I won't underestimate him. I know what I have to do and he's the man to beat for me."

Climbing has always been perceived as a relative weakness for Wiggins but he maintains that his training means he could not be better prepared for the tests that Italy will bring.

"I'm less concerned about the climbing than I used to be," said Wiggins. "A year ago that was the thing that always concerned me, whether I was going to hold out on the climbs.

"But after what we've done this year, I think I've got more confidence and belief in my climbing ability.

"Most of the Giro is uphill this year so you have to train uphill and that's been the biggest difference to last year's Tour de France preparations just training consistently to climb better on steeper climbs."

UPDATE: Chris Froome later issued a statement, saying “There has been much speculation regarding the leadership for Team Sky at the Tour de France this year. I have made it clear that winning the Tour would be my main objective for 2013. I have been reassured by the management at Team Sky that I have their full backing and at no time has the leadership of the Tour team been in question.”

SBS will broadcast daily Giro d'Italia highlights at 6:00pm on SBS 2, and will show eight key stages live on SBS 2 and online right here at Cycling Central.

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