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Cycling | International Cycling

Wiggins eyes Nibali threat in Giro



Team Sky could endure a bumpy ride at the Tour de France after championBradley Wiggins back-pedalled from previous comments and made it clear he sees himself as the man to lead their charge again.

The 33-year-old, who last year became the first Briton to win the Tour and also grabbed gold in the Olympic time trial, is seeking victory in next month's Giro d'Italia and if he is successful, he thinks he will be in ideal shape to lead the team in France instead of 2012 runner-up Chris Froome

"That decision (on who will lead) will be made probably in the last three days before we get to the Tour," Wiggins told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"Whoever is in the best shape should really (be leader), it's too early to decide. We're both, as we have been for the last six months, going towards that same goal and someone will get the nod."

His comments are at odds with those made earlier this year when he suggested Froome, runner-up to him last year, was likely to be the Team Sky leader at this year's race.

On Sunday, Kenya-born British rider Froome underlined his own intentions by taking the Tour de Romandie, a stage race won by Cadel Evans in 2011 and Wiggins in 2012 with both following up with victory in the Tour deFrance.

Wiggins has said the two men are not friends off the bike and there could be some lingering tension from last year's race when Froome controversially put in an attack and sped past his team leader late in a key mountain stage, only to quickly pull back after a flurry of radio messages.

The Belgium-born rider said on Monday there was also the possibility of both men starting with equal status, with the team leader to be determined on the basis of their early race form.

'LOVE-HATE THING'

Wiggins will only enhance his chances if he can win the Giro and says he is in better shape than he was during a golden 2012 and ready for a race he both hates and loves.

He believes he is perfectly poised to try to become the first rider since the late Italian Marco Pantani, in 1998, to win a Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same year.

"Everything suggests I'm in better shape now than I was going into the Tour. It's been a continuation of all the work we did last year," he said. "It's been a continual getting better.

"It's a race I haven't won before, haven't really competed well in. I've done it quite a few times and it's a race I've always promised I'd never go back to. So it's a love-hate thing with it.

"Historically, a lot of the big tour riders have won that and I'd love to add my name to it and complete that with having won a Tour."

While he managed podium finishes on both the Tour and the Vuelta (Tour of Spain), Wiggins got his best result on the Giro in 2010 when he took 40th place overall.

"(Winning both) is a goal. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could do that," said Wiggins, speaking at a hotel in the Lancashire countryside near where he lives.

"When I set out I realised it was going to be a challenge but as we've got closer to this first one I've realised it's more possible than ever really," added the Briton, who will have five weeks between the finish of the Giro and start of the Tour.

"Everything is suggesting that as long as I come out of the Giro without crashing or illness or anything, I will put myself in the best position to do that."

MORE CHALLENGING

An unassuming man despite his huge success and a knighthood, the only clue to Wiggins's day job when he walks into the room is the man carrying the bike in front of him.

His achievements last year caused his profile to rocket but Wiggins has tried to remain focused on his training by avoiding too many media appearances.

"(Celebrity) doesn't get in the way because I don't do anything of it. From January 1, I've just been doing 100 percent towards the bike really... I don't do anything to amplify it, just race my bike," he said.

"I just love training really. I love working towards these big goals. It's my job. I can't go on holiday after 2012 like most of the Olympians have done, I had to go back, I'm paid to win races so this (Giro) has been something I've wanted to do for a while having won the Tour last year."

Determined to stay healthy with the race starting on Saturday, he tries to limit the chances of catching any germs by avoiding handshakes ahead of what he thinks will be a tougher task than winning the Tour de France.

"It's definitely more challenging in different parts," said Wiggins, whose first grand tour was the 2003 Giro which he did not complete.

"Physically it's still three weeks so it's similar to the Tour but there are a lot of other things that go on in the Giro.

"It's more mountainous, steeper climbs in the Dolomites, climbs come more frequently, they are not in set blocks, less flat stages so it's more challenging."

The Giro starts on May 4 in Naples and finishes on May 26 in Brescia.



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