Having won the Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie this season, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is seen as one of the principal contenders for Tour de France victory, and he hopes to win “in a positive way”. In recent years, there has been much talk about doping and it seems like the winner of the race is always accused of doping.
Okay, there hasn't been much such talk about defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC), but Wiggins would like to be yet another credible Tour winners in modern time.
“It would be nice to be part of it in a positive way, because there aren’t a lot of Tour winners who you can believe in,” Wiggins told L’Équipe. “For the first time last year, you had a Tour winner who everyone could believe in [Evans]. He is a fantastic ambassador for the sport, he works hard, he didn’t win by showing off, but with great determination. So to be able to follow on from somebody like him would be nice, rather than doing it after somebody had a positive test hanging over his head for a year or two.”
Wiggins has become quite a different rider in recent years. He is no longer a track and time trial specialist but a grand tour podium finisher. Before 2009, he has never finished higher than 123rd, but at the 2009 Tour de France, he took fourth place.
The Briton has lost significant weight, which made him much better when it came to stage races. Heavy riders don't win such races. But a change like that doesn't mean he has taken doping.
“There probably are [suspicions] but there weren’t for Cadel. For a lot of people, there was no doubt,” he said. “I don’t even have to respond to that question, I don’t have anything to prove. I’ve never been a shit rider.”
“Nobody has ever been the Olympic individual or team pursuit champion and the winner of the Tour. That’s my challenge in a way,” Wiggins said.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) had hoped for a strong performance at the Tour of Romandie, where he was defending champion, but in the end, the Australian had to settle for 29th overall, 2:07 back of winner, Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
He shouldn't be upset though, having recently recovered from a sinus infection. Evans tried to make nice performances on the toughest stages in Switzerland, he did quite well, but still not as good as he had hoped for.
"It's been an interesting course – hard yet not selective," he said ahead of the stage. "The hard climbs have been a little distance from the finish which allows groups to come back and were finishing in a not-so-small group every day and a lot of riders were on the same time."
Ahead of the final stage, the time trial, Evans was 30 seconds behind the race leader, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank). Wiggins was in second place, nine seconds behind the Spaniard.
Evans is usually a strong time trialist, but yeterday he wasn't the BMC rider who finished the best. Instead Johann Tschopp was 1:29 back of stage winner Wiggins. Evans finished 1:45 back on the uphill time trial.
"With a time trial like this, I was just guessing after I rode the course this morning, we'd have time gaps something like you'd have on an l'Alpe d'Huez time trial," he continued. "So we had close racing all week and then we come to a selective time trial in the final [stage] which made for an interesting last day."
Evans dropped out of Amstel Gold Race earlier this month, and did not participate in the remaining Ardennes Classics. Instead, he wanted to focus on recovering in time for Tour de Romandie.
"I'm sorry I didn't have a bit more strength to put on the course and to put on the results sheet but we'll see what my ride does for today," he said.
"When you come here with the number one on your back, like I came here to Romandie, you come to win here. Unfortunately, things haven't been going so well for me this year for reasons a little bit beyond my control. But now things are coming together, which – going toward July and August – is probably more and more important for my year overall.
"I would have liked to have done more to be honest..."
Yesterday, Ivaïlo Gabrovski could finally celebrate his victory at the 2012 Tour of Turkey and said that he would like to join a ProTeam next year at the age of 35. Ten years ago, he spent one season in the Jean Delatour team, which was at the highest international level, Trade Team 1, in 2002. But since then, he has spent his career in smaller teams.
“If I get a chance to join a ProTeam, of course I’ll go for it," Gabrovski told Cyclingnews. “I’m looking for the best contract. I’m open to any proposal. Right now, nobody came and talked to me about it. This is a great victory for [Turkish continental team] Konya Torku Seker Spor. I’m proud that my arrival into this team helped to grow it.
"This is my second win at the Tour of Turkey," Gabrovski said.
The Bulgarian won the Presidential race in 2007. It was one year before the event moved up to the big league of cycling. Quite fun though that the overall winner is from the Continental level and not a ProTeam.
“My victory is not a surprise," Gabrovski said. “It’s the result of hard work. I’ve been a cyclist since I was eight years old. I’ve been a pro for 15 years. I don’t have a normal life like other guys or girls. Now I smile to the public because I share my victory with all Turkish people but I have a difficult life. I’m a serious guy. This is one of the biggest exploits of my cycling career.”
Many teams are hoping to get a WorldTour licence in 2012 and those teams will look for riders who has performed well and therefore has received some points. That's how Gabrovski could find himself in the WorldTour next year.
Like last season, some riders who had performed at .HC races in Asia was suddenly part of ProTour teams, like Iranians Amir Zargari and Mehdi Sohrabi, Russia’s Boris Shpilevsky and Slovenia’s Grega Gazvoda. So who knows, maybe next year, we will see Gabrovski a lot more in Europe.