Sir Bradley Wiggins said here in Mallorca that any underlying tensions between himself and Sky team-mate Chris Froome were a thing of the past, that he is keenly anticipating racing alongside the 2013 Tour de France winner this year – and that watching Gladiator this winter has helped him realise what his role in the team should be.
"Me and Chris talked a lot here in December and it was the first time we had been able to do that properly since the Tour of Oman last February, I feel very positive about our relationship and I'm looking forward to racing with him," Wiggins said.
The Sky rider said that while he expects Froome to dominate the Tour "for several years to come," his own role come July will be partly to "take the pressure off Chris" – but as much off the bike as on it.
"As a Tour winner with credibility and no skeletons in the closet, people look up to you because of what you achieved one summer," the 2012 Tour winner said.
"That is quite rare, especially within cycling, there's not many of us Tour winners that haven't got a [doping] history, we're part of a very small club, and we've got responsibility to preach that [message of clean cycling] to the world."
Wiggins pointed out that in the Tour last year, Froome had had a tough time battling the perpetual scepticism surrounding any outstanding achievements in cycling, but that he could help ease some of that tension.
"I was watching Gladiator last month. 'If you win the crowd you win your freedom', [is what the gladiators say in the film] and thought it was like that for me in the Tour two years ago. I won my freedom" – in terms of succeeding in convincing people there was no reason for suspicion of his win – "but the opposite happened to Chris last year."
Wiggins said the importance of ensuring that people realised that he and Froome were winning the Tour clean was driven home when one of his children was bullied at school over the Lance Armstrong scandal.
"They started asking if his dad had taken drugs too," he said. "It was horrible, we had to change his school."
Asked about the tensions that have existed between Wiggins and Froome in the past, Sky team principal Sir Dave Brailsford insisted: "the reality is that it's no longer a story. Brad is in a good place, he's got his goals and he's working towards them, it'll be good to see how he gets on in the first part of the season."
As for whether Wiggins has adjusted to the concept of not being the sole leader at Sky, Brailsford added: "He has. He's come to terms with his 2012 performances and he's able to see his way forward."
With one-day race Paris-Roubaix as his first big target – known as the "Hell of the North" it culminates with a 60 kilometre slog over huge paving stones in rural France – Brailsford said: "It is a race he's always liked since he was a youngster, he's always felt he's got the physical attributes to do well there. The Classics are a gaping hole in our list of wins and we'd like to try and sort that out."
The Tour de France's first week also features one difficult stage over cobbles but Brailsford says Wiggins is not racing Paris-Roubaix as a trial run. "At the moment it's not part of a Tour strategy, it's part of a Bradley strategy."
Looking in good shape – he spoke after a six-hour, 190km training ride in Mallorca – Wiggins says his condition and morale are as solid as at the start of 2012, by far his most successful year as a road racer.
He said: "The goal is to get back to where I was at the start of that year's season, more than about specific objectives like saying I want to do the Tour. For me it's about hitting the ground running.
"I've never struggled with training but when I got to racing [in 2013] I was going through the motions, which is the complete opposite to where I am now."
Whilst discussions about renewing his contract with Sky, which finishes in 2014, have been shelved until further into the season, he has not ruled out a return to the track for Rio 2016. "Track was where it all started for me back in Sydney in 2000 and Rio will be my last Olympics and to finish my Olympic career there would be great. It's the same as the Tour; I'm not done with that and I'm not done with the Olympics, either."Reuse content