Bradley Wiggins’ confidence is flying high following overall victory at the Criterium de Dauphiné, but was quick to question the presence of Alberto Contador in next month’s Tour de France.
Wiggins’ podium stock rose after fending off the climbers in the closing days of the Dauphiné, where his victory will set him up as one of the overall favorites to challenge Contador. The Spaniard’s decision to race the Tour despite his unsettled clenbuterol case didn’t set well with Wiggins, however.
“Personally, I am happy that he is there as it means that Saxo Bank will doing everything to help him win,” Wiggins said Sunday after wrapping up the overall. “Sportwise, though, it’s not a good thing that a bloke who tested positive four times is in the race. It is also bad for those teams that are fighting to be clean, as in the case of my team, Sky.”
There was no immediate response from the Contador camp, but the Spanish rider insists he will exercise his right to race the Tour after the decision to delay a hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Wiggins, meanwhile, proved he’s back in top shape that saw him finish fourth in the 2009 Tour with a strong, overall performance in the time trial and climbing stages in the Dauphiné, the last major event for many of the top Tour contenders.
“Speaking of the Tour, I only have to do my race and not put myself into the red trying to follow Contador and (Andy) Schleck,” Wiggins said. “It’s true that the podium is there, but there are others who will be trying, like Jurgen Van den Broeck. My condition is not yet 100 percent. I can still improve.”
Wiggins is a different man than he was a year ago, when he had the pressure of carrying the hopes of Team Sky on his shoulders following his controversial exit from Garmin at the end of the 2009 season. Both Sky and Wiggins are more settled going into the team’s second full season on the road. Last year, Wiggins raced the Giro and rode into the Tour exhausted and stressed about his condition. Wiggins eventually finished 24th overall.
This year, Wiggins steered clear of the Giro and chose the more traditional road to the Tour through the Dauphiné. He was third overall at Paris-Nice, rode to second in the time trial at the Criterium International and won the TT stage at Bayern Rundfahrt against Fabian Cancellara just ahead of riding to victory at the Dauphiné.
“What a difference a year makes,” Wiggins said. “It’s a world apart from where I was 12 months ago; finishing the last weekend of the Giro just exhausted, starting to get slightly ill and realizing that I may have overcooked it and had five weeks to sort of turn it around and get it right for July.”
To make his final tweaks before the Tour, Wiggins will retreat to altitude and preview some of the decisive Tour stages. Then he’ll see how high he can fly trying to stay close to Contador.