8 May 2010

Pretty in pink as Wiggins takes Giro lead

In the greater scheme of things, the Giro d’Italia represents little more than a tune-up opportunity for Team Sky’s British leader Bradley Wiggins. However, any stage win in one of cycling’s three Grand Tours is a big deal, and victory for ‘Wiggo’ in today’s opening time trial in Amsterdam will have come as a welcome confidence boost.

But Wiggins’ single-minded focus remains the Tour de France in July, where he will seek to become, as a minimum, the first Briton ever to finish in the top three, with his ultimate ambition being to unseat defending champion Alberto Contador as the wearer of the yellow jersey in Paris on July 25th.

Both Contador and defending Giro champion Denis Menchov are absent from Italy this month, as are other top Tour contenders Lance Armstrong and the brothers Andy and Frank Schleck. Nonetheless, perennial nearly man Cadel Evans heads a strong field which includes Christian Vande Velde and 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre, as well as Ivan Basso and Alexandre Vinokourov, two top riders who have both served doping bans. They will provide a good benchmark for Wiggins, who should still be a fraction short of peak form at this point in the season.

Wiggins completed today’s 8.4km stage in 10:18, two seconds faster than BMC’s Brent Bookwalter and his team leader Evans. Victory earned him the right to wear the race leader’s pink jersey, the maglia rosa. Afterwards, Wiggins said:

"It was hard but I just went for it, especially in the corners. If you want to win it, you've got to commit 100 per cent, like a sprinter when they go for a sprint. For me it's beautiful to be wearing the pink jersey. It's iconic and one of the most special jerseys. To wear it means a lot to me and is a big honour."

However, he also insisted he will not getting carried away by his early success.

"I don't want to make the mistake of being at my best form and getting carried away in the Giro and then being knackered at the Tour. A lot of guys tried that last year, and fell short in July.”

The race will spend two further days in Holland before making its way back to Italy, ending in Verona on May 30th. Wiggins is unlikely to stay in pink for only a few days at most. The maglia rosa is a welcome addition to a trophy collection which includes three Olympic golds, but the biggest prize of all remains over two months away.