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Wiggins explains his new-found road abilities

By Justin Davis – AFP

Olympic pursuit king Bradley Wiggins has moved to end doubts surrounding his superb form on the Tour de France by insisting his performances are not drugs-related.

The Garmin-Slipstream rider started and finished the eighth stage of the race Saturday in fifth place overall at 46 seconds behind overnight race leader Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who is being trailed by Astana teammates Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

As part of a team aiming to put Christian Vande Velde into race contention after his fifth place finish last year, Wiggins has so far stolen most of the
American’s limelight.

A time trial specialist whose background is in track, Wiggins’ new status as an emerging all-rounder has prompted some surprise at the Tour.

The Londoner believes a strict diet and a “lot of racing” have helped get him in supreme physical shape, but he insists that he is not using drugs — and that his ability to survive the killer climbs shows the peloton is cleaner as well.

“I know that some people think I’m on drugs. I know how the sport is,” said Wiggins, who won two pursuit gold medals in Beijing last year.

“The sport changed so much in the past three years. I was inspired by Christian’s performance last year and maybe I realized that on this Tour you don’t have to be on drugs to do well.”

Wiggins’ improving climbing form emerged most notably on the difficult mountain stage to Alpe di Siusi on the Giro d’Italia last month.

Despite finishing 1:47 behind stage winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Wiggins finished over a minute ahead of seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong.

And in the lead-up to the Tour, he had a simple philosophy.

“I’ve just ridden my bike. Ride my bike, eat less. It’s quite simple really,” he said Saturday.

Now 2 kilos lighter than he was at the Giro, Wiggins aims to maintain that form until the crucial third week so that Vande Velde, who crashed out of the Giro injured, can race himself into yellow jersey contention.

“I just want to keep helping Christian and be out there as long as possible. The Alps are going to be more important so I’m trying not to get too carried away with anything,” he added.

“My personal objective before the Tour was to finish in top 20, but we’ll see how it goes.

“I’m just going to keep plugging away, taking it day by day. I’d like to get through the Pyrenees in the same condition, then get through the second week — I’ve got two arms and two legs like everyone else — and we’ll see how it goes in the third week.

“I believe I’m in good physical condition to do something in this Tour.”

Asked again when he had found his climbing legs, he added: “I never found them really, I’ve always had them. I just stopped track (cycling) and lost weight. The rest is science.

“I’m 2 kilos lighter than I was at the Giro, so I’m kind of putting out the same power.”

Wiggins is likely to resume track racing ahead of the London Games in 2012, and his reputation as just a track rider continues to precede him.

“I can never get away from that tag, unfortunately. I don’t know what the
fascination is with the track, everyone keeps asking — it’s still an endurance
sport,” he added.

“It’s easier for me to just say I’m a trackie, then everyone goes, ‘Yeah, he’s a trackie, but he’s doing great at the Tour.’”