SIR Bradley Wiggins admits that his Giro d’Italia challenge has got off to a “disappointing” first week as he sits 76 seconds off the lead after the first nine stages.
The Tour de France champion has suffered a fall and a puncture in recent days that have hampered his efforts to keep pace with local favourite Vincenzo Nibali and the impressive Cadel Evans, who has surprised Wiggins with the strength of his performance so far.
“I never expected it to be as straightforward as the Tour last year,” Wiggins said in Cycling Weekly. “It’s been a tough challenge, but we knew it would be that way.”
The Team Sky rider saw time gained on the stage two team time trial slip away in the following days, but things took a more serious turn for the worse when he crashed on the wet descent to Pescara on stage seven, and then looked timid on the corners thereafter, allowing his rivals to pull clear.
“I drifted a little bit too far back on the second-last climb – there was a downhill section in the middle of the climb – I just wasn’t taking the risks,” Wiggins said.
“I kind of was willing to move up a bit on the climbs and then we came down the descent into the last climb and there were a few crashes ahead of me which slowed me down. So I was already off the back of the group – and then in doing that, trying to chase harder, crashed anyway.”
Wiggins was expected to recover on the following day’s time trial, but was hit with a puncture which saw him finish second behind Movistar’s Alex Dowsett – a result Wiggins called a “disappointment”.
“But then after when we broke it all down and [had] seen the numbers I was producing like that, I was physically better than I’ve ever been, which also makes it a bit more disappointing,” he added.
Reflecting on his performance so far, Wiggins highlighted his descending as the major problem.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “I descended like a bit of a girl really after the crash . . . Not to disrespect girls, I have one at home. But that’s life and we have to push on and deal with the disappointments.”
Yesterday was a rest day on the Giro, before the riders face the first high-mountain stage to Altopiano del Montasio today.
Nibali leads Evans by 29 seconds, with Wiggins in fourth place behind Robert Gesink. Defending champion Ryder Hesjedal suffered a dismal stage nine and has fallen three minutes off the pace.
Wiggins expects Nibali to maintain the aggressive style which has paid dividends so far, while hoping to capitalise on any mistakes.
“He will continue to ride aggressively. I can’t see him trying to defend 30 seconds from now until Brescia,” Wiggins said. “Cadel is the best I’ve seen him since he won the Tour. He is the danger-man in that position. He showed [in the TT] he is in good shape. I was a bit surprised about Ryder.”
The climb to Altopiano del Montasio is new to the Giro this year and ranks among the race’s biggest challenges, something Wiggins hopes presents an opportunity.
“It will be one of the toughest finishes of this Giro, that’s for sure,” said Wiggins. “The race could tip upside down again.”
Meanwhile, Kirkcaldy plays host to a national cycle race today, when ten top British teams will visit the Lang Toun to kick off their five-week battle to be crowned champions of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series, and Scottish cycling fans can cheer on home riders like James McCallum, David Lines and Ross Edgar.
The Pearl Izumi Tour, now in its fifth season, is a unique team- based racing series, with 11 town and city centres holding the only British domestic cycle race series to be televised on terrestrial TV.
Highlights will be shown on ITV4 tomorrow night at 10pm, repeated on Thursday at 1pm.
Kirkcaldy was the first Scottish town to ever host a leg when it staged the opening round last year. As well as the main race which starts at 7pm, there’s also a packed programme of community events planned, starting at 12 noon, with primary school track time.
The rest of the schedule is as follows: 1pm: Secondary school race; 2.15pm: Scottish Cycling youth races; 3pm: Amateur race for Fife cycling clubs; 4.30-5pm: Community parade; 6pm: Riders warm-up on the circuit; 6.50pm: Teams form up on the starting grid with mascots; 7pm: Pearl Izumi Tour Series round one starts; 8.15pm: Race finish; 8.30pm: Podium ceremony and presentation.