Bradley Wiggins is looking to bounce back from a crushing early exit at the Tour de France as he sets his sights on the Vuelta a Espana.
"I'm going to go into the Vuelta 100 per cent and get everything I can out of it."
Entering the Tour in the form of his life, the Brit was forced to abandon the race after breaking a collarbone following a mass pile-up on a nervous stage seven.
Wiggins was immediately taken to hospital before flying home to England for an operation and to recuperate. Yet while many athletes would have dwelled on what could have been, the 31-year-old immediately set his sights onto the next target.
After a swift reassessment the decision was taken not to let such good form go to waste, with Wiggins relishing the chance to jump back onto the bike at the earliest opportunity as he returned to training.
Speaking to the press it was clear that Wiggins remains highly motivated for the rest of the season and, with hindsight, realises that his injuries could have been a lot worse.
He said: “Looking back now I was pretty lucky to be honest considering some of the other crashes. I crashed on Friday and I had an operation on the Monday. In the end I really only lost seven days.
“I had a week of just riding, getting back into it and just building up - four or five hours by the end of the week and then this week has been full on back to proper training.
“The focus is on the Tour of Spain now. I’ve been out for three weeks after the crash and I’m 90 per cent back to where I was really in terms of the body being normal and not showing any signs of the crash. So I got away lightly.”
Despite the frustrating nature of his exit from the Tour, Wiggins admitted that it had been hard to take his eyes off the race as it made its way into the mountains without him.
He added: “I was advised not to watch the Tour. I had psychiatrists telling me not to watch it and move forward but I found it very difficult to not watch it at times. Certainly the mountain stages, because I watched the Pyrenees and I was a little bit gutted as it started to sink in what had happened and I should have been there.
“But as time went on and two weeks passed and they got into the Alps it felt like a completely different race and I sat down in the afternoons wanting to watch the Tour because it was the Tour. I felt like a kid again watching the race because it was brilliant to watch. It felt like a totally different race.”
Sitting on the sidelines, Wiggins still feels he could have made his mark on the race in one of the most intriguing editions of the Tour for many years, saying: “I still believe I would have been in the ball park certainly looking at some of the names in the top 10 in Paris I’d have been there or there abouts.
“But it was a very strange race. Cadel [Evans] was the best rider over the three weeks and I think he proved that. It’s all ifs and buts at this stage and I think the only thing I can do is come back next year stronger and try and do it all again.”
After taking stock of his situation Wiggins made a commitment to maintain his shape and form in a bid to set up an exciting tilt at the Vuelta at the end of August.
With that level of determination likely to stand him in good stead going into the Spanish Grand Tour, he added: “Initially when I crashed I didn’t know how far I would be put back and how much I’d actually lose.
“The moment I crashed I was determined to fight and hold on to everything I’d worked so hard for. That meant holding on to my weight where I was. I’d worked hard to get down to that weight so I haven’t put any weight on. I kept myself fairly fit by doing a lot of walking in that week and as soon as I could get back on the bike, I spent every day I could on it.
“Up to now it would appear that I haven’t had to come back from much. But I’m going to go into the Vuelta 100 per cent and get everything I can out of it. For me it’s about going in there, battling through the three weeks and seeing what I come out with. And then from the end of the Vuelta to the World Time Trail Championships it is pretty much the same amount of time from the Tour de France next year to the Olympic time trial. So it is a good opportunity to go through that whole dress rehearsal for next year and see where I stand after a three week tour and how I back up for a big event like the Worlds.”
Full of praise
During his recovery Wiggins took heart from the battling performance shown by his Team Sky team-mates and their commitment to enlivening the race.
He added: “It must have been really difficult for them because obviously they had contributed everything in that first week towards me. That included waiting for me right until I was getting into the ambulance on the day I crashed. After that they had two weeks to get through.
“But you only have to look at Flecha’s ride a few days later making it into that break. If he hadn’t been in that crash he would have been there for the stage win.
“Edvald then was pretty much in every other break after that. Every time I turned on the telly he was in a breakaway of some sort and obviously won another stage. G was up there in moves too and coming out of the race with two stage wins I still think it was an incredibly successful Tour. I think most teams would have settled for one. I think they did themselves proud.”