New set of challenges protect Wiggins from failure
MASCAT - Bradley Wiggins hopes favoring the Giro d'Italia over the Tour de France will be the best insurance against a lack of motivation following his career-defining title last year.
Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour after also claiming the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine week-long races.
He followed his French triumph with an Olympic gold medal in the individual time trial.
"I wanted a new set of challenges, it took a lot time for the motivation to come back and after the Olympics there was a long time where I was thinking what the hell am I going to do here next year, because in that 18 months I had put so much into that Tour project," Wiggins told reporters at the Tour of Oman, his first competitive outing of the season.
"So I had to find something to inspire me and the Giro is something I would really love to try and win."
The Giro, starting on May 4 in Naples, is scheduled earlier in the season than the Tour so the 32-year-old has radically changed his racing program, riding the Tour of Catalunya, Tour of Trentino and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - none of which he took part in last year.
"To have a different set of challenges, we put Liege in this year, the Catalunya race I'd like to do well in," Wiggins explained.
"Having to go to Paris-Nice in two weeks time (March 3-10) and defend that title and have a direct comparison with last year would not help, obviously.
"So it's about working back from the Giro, and establishing goals and when we hit them we hit them as we did last year," he added.
Australian Cadel Evans had the same goals last year as in 2011 when he won the Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour de Romandie stage races before clinching his only Tour de France title.
In 2012, Evans finished 32nd in Tirreno-Adriatico and 29th in the Tour de Romandie.
"I didn't want to have that direct comparison all the time with last year," said the Belgium-born Wiggins.
"The only way was to win all that again and that was to fail, really, and I wanted to avoid that, I didn't want to put that pressure on myself."
Wiggins, however, is not targeting the Giro because he fears failing to win the Tour de France again.
"It goes back to my childhood, I grew up reading magazines and the Giro was always stuck in my mind, I don't know if it's just the pink jersey," he said.
"I particularly remember (1988 Giro winner Andrew) Hampsten climbing in the snow, it seemed quite inspirational. It's the only race in cycling they never really mention doping in the whole race.
"It's kind of refreshing in some way when you're there, for the racing, people come out and watch the sport and spectators idolize the racers. It's a bit of a free for all, chaos sometimes.
"I've always had a love-hate relationship with it. A few years ago I said I'd never go back there. In 2010, it was so hard... So I always had a soft spot for it," added Wiggins.
Following his outstanding performances last year, Wiggins has become something of a celebrity and is often stopped on training rides by people asking for photographs, sometimes dealing with the unwanted interruptions in a novel way.
"Yeah, people want photographs but I say: 'I'm at work. Where do you work, let me come to where you work, turn the machine off for five minutes and take a photograph'," he said.
"I actually pretend to ignore them, pretend I'm French."
Wiggins's next race will be the Tour of Catalunya from March 18-24. (Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alison Wildey)