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After a winter of discontent, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) delivered a pressure-filled victory to claim the maglia rosa in Saturday’s time trial opener at the Giro d’Italia.
After losing the final time trial stage in last year’s Giro in Rome, Wiggins raced in similar rainy conditions in Amsterdam, but this time he came out on top. He nipped Brent Bookwalter (BMC) by two seconds and will carry the leader’s jersey into Sunday’s second stage
Wiggins answered queries from the media following his victory. Here are some of the questions and answers:
Can you expand on how it feels to have won the pink jersey?
Bradley Wiggins: It’s an amazing feeling, to be honest. It was a really beautiful prologue with the amount of people on the road. It’s almost comparable to London in the Tour. Every couple of yards I would inhale someone’s cigarette smoke or smell their beer. It was a wall of sound
What is special about racing the Giro?
BW: I really enjoyed the Giro last year. It’s the most relaxed grand tour. We don’t always start on time, people get left behind in the start village and have to catch up in the first few kilometers. There’s always an air of celebration from start to finish. This is the best place for me this time of year. I love racing my bike and I love doing grand tours. We have a chef this year, but you never have to worry about the food. We always know the food is going to be good. You don’t get that luxury at the Tour de France.
You were born in Ghent, raised in England, live in Spain and now lead the Giro. What can you tell us about your story?
BW: And my dad was an Aussie, too. My dad was a professional racer, that’s why I was born in Belgium. My dad got a big head and he buggered off when I was 2 years old. I grew up in London in a council estate. My dad was a track rider, so I started racing track, too. People told me I could do something on the road, but it wasn’t until after the Beijing Olympics that I decided to explore the road. I completely gave up the track and I focused on the road. I had an immediate success in the Tour last year; this is just the following year of that process. This is the first part, so it’s all turned out all right, didn’t it?
What does it signify to have the maglia rosa?
BW: It sounds really corny, but I am such a fan of cycling, I know a lot about history of cycling, so to wear the pink jersey is really special. It’s such an iconic jersey. I grew up watching videos of Fondriest and Bugno, so I realize what I have on my shoulders. This is one jersey that will hang on my wall. It means a lot to me, this is arguably the second biggest bike race in the world. To wear this — and I will really enjoy that, if it’s for a day or two days — it’s something special. And to take it in such style in Amsterdam is something special.
Do you expect you can win the Giro now?
BW: The plan was never to do that. We have to take it day by day. We cannot think three weeks down the line. This is a hard, hard race, but last year at the Tour de France, no one would give me a chance in hell to finish fourth. We’re here now, so we’ll fight to hold on as long as possible. If we lose it, maybe we can try to get it back later in the race. The plan is to race this race, not just sit back and enjoy the countryside.
Why is British cycling enjoying such success now?
BW: I think a lot of us have grown up together on the British team, I remember Mark (Cavendish) as a kid. The success has bred success. These guys have come through the track program; everyone sees what we’re achieving. What myself and Mark did great in the Tour last year, that’s inspired the next lot. They have 100 percent faith in what we do, we’ve done it with 100 percent hard work and the belief that comes with the track program. That will continue. We’ve just had a chance now to really shine, with the likes of Sky coming into the sport. When a company that comes in and commits like it has, I believe it’s just the start of the next 10-15 years.
But why are the Anglo teams having such big success in cycling lately?
BW: A lot of it is an attitude thing. We’re not continually thinking about what the others are doing. I spent years in French teams, and the attitude was that there’s no way you can compete with them, they have a fifth gear that we don’t have. We look to other ways to gain an advantage, whether it’s diet, equipment, training. It’s just been drilled into us since we were kids — that’s an attitude that you live with and you take into the pro ranks. The British national team has always been the backbone of all the pros.
Team Sky has come to signify a clean team. Is it important to win clean after cycling has had so many problems?
BW: I disagree, to be honest , I don’t think Team Sky sells itself as the “clean team.” We don’t preach to the world about what we do. We believe in what we do, we have our belief system and we stick with it 100 percent. We don’t go out there and accuse everyone else to be on drugs. We cannot control what everyone else does, but we’re not walking around like Jehovah’s Witnesses preaching about drugs. We do what do, this is our philosophy, we don’t have to preach about it. We just get on it, that’s the way I prefer to compete. Like with Vinokourov and all the stink-up after he won Liège. The guy has made a return to bike racing, he’s allowed to race under the rules of cycling, as long as that’s the case, and his team complies with the rules of the biological passport, we have to get off his back and give him a chance to race. There are a lot of hypocrites in this sport. It’s quite sad that the sport gets dragged down by all the doping stories. You have to assume everyone is clean until they test positive. It’s not that Team Sky is clean and everyone else is on drugs.
Last year you were fourth in the Tour. Can you win here to confirm that performance?
BW: I would never say never. I am in the Giro now. I will take it day by day. It’s difficult to say, sure, I can win this, with three weeks just beginning. I was 100 percent prepared for this prologue here today. I raced Liège just to have the miles in my legs for today. My program is planned to hit my peak at the Tour de France.