Brad Wiggins’ men pushing towards Tour win

Three men are key to Brad Wiggins' 2012 Tour de France hopes

LIÈGE, Belgium (VN) — Bradley Wiggins has measured his efforts in stage races from Portugal to France this year and arrived at the Tour de France, starting on Saturday, ready to win. Team Sky helped make it happen, from teammates, to the back room staff, to the coaches.

Performance trainer Tim Kerrison, coach Shane Sutton and general manager David Brailsford stand out. They guided Wiggins back from a disappointing 2010 Tour to redemption in 2011. Last year, he won the Critérium du Dauphiné, placed third in the Vuelta a España behind teammate Chris Froome, won a silver medal in the world championship time trial and helped British teammate Mark Cavendish to the road title.

Notwithstanding a crash and fractured collarbone in last year’s Tour, Kerrison, Sutton and Brailsford are pleased with their accomplishments and the groundwork laid in the winning run to this year’s Tour.

Kerrison, 40 years old from Australia, began as a rowing and swimming coach before switching over to cycling with Sky. He began working closely with Wiggins after his 24th place in the 2010 Tour, helping fine-tune his training and discover the benefits of altitude training in Tenerife.

“I train like the swimmers train, constantly though the year, maybe not in the classic sense of cycling — January getting fat and just building form,” Wiggins explained earlier this month. “It’s just trying to be 95 or 97 percent through the year. The only downside is mentally. I’ve only raced four times this year. However, I’m not going race-to-race, constantly racing. I have lots of down time to rest and recover.”

Shane Sutton comes from Australia as well and, especially since Wiggins’ dad died in 2008, acts a father figure. As Kerrison looks over his body, Sutton has Wiggins’ mind.

Wiggins says of the two: “Mentally, (Kerrison) hasn’t got a clue about me. There’s only man who can handle me; that’s Shane Sutton,” Wiggins said. “I talk to him and he kicks me up the ass when I need it. Tim is just purely a physiological, I’m like a lab rat to him in one of those funny wheels. In terms of mentoring, I get that from Shane Sutton.”

Sutton, 55, made his way to Great Britain during his racing career. Afterwards, he stayed and worked his way through the coaching system, guiding Wiggins and company to Olympic Gold medals on the track.

David Brailsford was there too. The 48-year-old Welshman helped revamp the GB track racing program and then turned part of his attention to starting Sky for 2010. He signed his former track star from Garmin in a tumultuous buy-out following the 2010 season. It took some time, working with Sutton and Kerrison, but now he’s reaping the rewards.

“We came in with GC ambitions. We are where we are now because we set out on that route,” Brailsford told VeloNews. “We are now in our third year, in a situation where we had two guys on the podium in the Vuelta, we won the Dauphiné, the Romandie, Paris-Nice. In our first year, we were a long way off that, but you have to go through that learning to get where you want to be.”

Brailsford and his team are gathering in Liège, where they hope the learning they’ve done over the last two years will pay off this time around in the Tour.