Bradley Wiggins and his love-hate affair with the Giro d'Italia

Brit 'despises' the Giro as it's so crazy – and that's why he wants to win it so badly

There is something perverse about Bradley Wiggins and the Giro d'Italia. Admirably perverse, but perverse all the same. Today Wiggins will set out on a 2,146-mile slog up and down Italy, beginning beneath the invigorating sunshine of a Neapolitan spring and finishing, barring injury or accident, 23 limb-draining days later in Brescia, the Lombardy city that squats in the foothills of the Alps.

This is the race he says he despises, says is horrendous, says is crazy. Yet above all, even more so now he has that yellow jersey in his locker, it is the race that fascinates him. It always has. It is the one he would watch videos of in his childhood home in Kilburn, the race for which he would buy the puzzling pink sheets of the Gazetta dello Sport to stare at black-and-pink photographs of lean men struggling up snow-capped mountains.

This is the race for the cycling geek in him, the Top Trump card that does not beat them all but is the one they all want. Wiggins wants the pink jersey, il maglia rosa. It sounds better in Italian, the language of lovers. Given the manner in which he discusses the Giro it could be his true love, couldn't it?

"I don't know about that," he says. It is a love-hate affair. "I despise it in some ways but there is an attraction with that as to why I want to win it. A lot goes back to my childhood and watching the race on VHS. When I [last] rode it, it was horrendous, you'd be sat in the bus four hours a day just travelling to the next hotel. The difficulty of the race too – in 2009 I remember a mountain stage of about 250k [155 miles] and we finished at half seven after eight and half hours and it seemed inhumane really, like no other race... but there is something about that." Wiggins enjoys talking about his sport, what's gone, what lies ahead, in a way that many sports people, immersed in the here and now, do not.

"There are times that, even though I am physically in great shape, you think 'Why on earth did I choose to do this bloody race?' Last week we were looking at the route and the narrowness of some of the roads – you think, 'How are the cars going to get down there?' "

Team Sky, of course, have planned how the cars will get down there. Planning is what Sky do. They did so immaculately for Wiggins' route to victory in last year's Tour – he took yellow on exactly the day determined – but in the Giro the best-laid plans must take into account this race's "craziness".

"It's just different," says Wiggins. "The Giro is much more about the sport. Everyone who comes out to watch is in love with the race. You get that element on the Tour where people come out to spit at the riders or boo them, but at the Giro it's just craziness. There's a part of that the riders really like.

"Ten years ago I rode the Giro; I was 23 and [Mario] Cipollini was world champion and [Marco] Pantani rode – all these great names I grew up watching. I ended up sitting at the back, surviving. It was horrendous and then I got eliminated with three days to go.

"There's a lot more carnage than the Tour, which is regimented and all played by the rules. Spectators can get a bit excited in Italy. You hope they take a shine to you and don't want to push you off."

Wiggins has never before arrived in Italy with great expectations. Now they accompany him at every turn of the wheel. Vincenzo Nibali, the home favourite, has prepared for the Giro as the moment of his season. Wiggins has prepared for the Giro – his build-up focused on climbing – but whether it is his moment of this season remains to be seen.

At Sky's Tenerife base he has done two-week blocks at altitude, climbing 32,000m – the equivalent of sea level to the top of Everest four times – during each stay. He feels in better shape than ever. The numbers confirm it. Sky's addiction to numbers, the on-board computers that detail a rider's progress, has been criticised for taking away the flair. It is riding only to instruction, say numerous critics.

"I'd love to be Pantani-esque, making these historic breakaways," says Wiggins. "But I've got to ride to my strengths and train to my strengths. I want to win and get the pleasure from winning and having pushed the boundaries of my body. Yes, I'd love to be more aggressive, throw it all on the line and maybe risk losing the race, but I want to be in pink in Brescia. That's the most important thing."

One of Wiggins' skills is absorbing instruction – currently from the former swimming and rowing coach Tim Kerrison, who has become his key adviser. It is Kerrison, also coach to Chris Froome, an interested observer of the next three weeks from his home in the south of France, who has done much to convince Wiggins that the double is on – not prioritising a defence of the Tour, but trying to win both.

"This is about what I want to do," says Wiggins. "This is what has made me go out and train. I was in Mallorca and it was pissing down with rain, out there for five hours in the mountains. That's what the Giro has been about for me. I want to finish my career having won the Giro and the Tour. If I get the opportunity to win a second Tour then great. But at the moment my priority is the Giro.

"It's a very difficult thing coming off last year, trying to please other people, or please Sky going back to the Tour and trying to win. But I like the challenge of both. In training for the Giro, physically it's probably going to make me better for the Tour. It's kind of killing two birds with one stone."

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution