Question: How do you prepare for possibly the biggest cycling event in your country’s history?
Answer: If you’re Bradley Wiggins, and the event in question is the London Prologue of the Tour de France, with all the fanfare surrounding the first ever Grand Depart in the UK, do your local club’s evening 10-mile time-trial.
“Last Tuesday I did half of the evening 10. It was good to be out in semi-race conditions with a number on my back,” he said at his last interview before the big day. As if this wasn’t low key enough, he also confessed to going out with local chain-gang.
This may seem unlikely preparation for a world and Olympic champion and, it should be added, favourite for the first yellow jersey of the 2007 Tour – thanks notably to his victories in the prologues of the Four Days of Dunkerque and the Dauphiné Libéré. Yet the benefits for Wiggins are clear. He completed the anticipated five miles at a pace that would have seen him smash his own National 10 miles record.
“I was on course for 17m30 and my the national record is 17m58,” he explained with a smile. This is even more impressive given the nature of the event, at Rainford: his own course record, set last year, was 18m53, a 16second improvement on the previous record held by none-other than Chris Boardman, the man who’s mantle as Prologue specialist Wiggins hopes to inherit.
These deliberately low-key finishing touches to Wiggins’ preparation are all part of his new relaxed approach to transferring his track abilities onto the road. “I’m trying not to make it too big and to keep it simple in my head. Last year I’d have over-complicated it and would have been in bits but now I’ve got other things in my life to help me keep it in a better perspective.”
The result is a more confident rider, a confidence further fuelled by improved results and performances this year which in turn have fed back into his riding. “I’ve got a lot of self-belief relative to last year and I know I’m capable of performing on the road.”
In fact Wiggins is not simply eyeing the Prologue. “Once it’s done and dusted and we get to France there’s week before we hit the hills and I really want to be involved. I want to try and get in a breakaway and try and win a stage that way.”
Doing so in the yellow jersey would be the ideal scenario, of course, and Wiggins has reconnoitred the Prologue course in sufficient detail to be sanguine about the prospect of reduced access for training on the morning of the race. “It will be the same for everyone, so I’m not too worried. I know the course pretty well. I’ve been round it lots, at night as well, so I’ve been able to take most of the corners fast.”
From the local club ten to local knowledge of the Prologue course, Wiggins’ preparation may be idiosyncratic but it certainly appears effective.