Bradley Wiggins' long road to the Tour de France and his first race in Sky colours both get under way in the Tour of Qatar today with a war of words with former Garmin-Transitions team-mate David Millar still rumbling on.
Tension between the two teams rose during Wiggins' drawn-out transfer from Garmin to Sky, with Millar recently saying that the new British squad were not popular or highly respected in the peloton.
Before setting off for a training ride yesterday, Wiggins responded: "It's easy for Dave to sit down and say that now because a year ago he was ready to come to this team [Sky] and be part of it. That didn't happen for whatever reason, so now he's saying this. All of this came about because I got fourth in the Tour, and I could not have done that without that help from my Garmin team-mates. But there was no way I was not going to be part of a British team either, and someone was always going to get hurt along the line somewhere. It's like a divorce."
Looking ahead to Qatar, Wiggins said he was "keen to get things going". "I know where I'm at in my training but part of the reason for coming here was to [support] the guys who are going to be there for me in July."
Although also run under the auspices of Tour de France organisers, the parallels between Qatar and cycling's premier event stop there. Rather than 20 kilometre Alpine climbs, Qatar is as flat as a pancake, making ferociously strong winds and high-pressure sprints the biggest challenges, but Wiggins has never had a problem with this sort of terrain.
The capacity to churn away in big gears and maintain concentration in the midst of a monotonous landscape are major requirements in Qatar, but that's also true of individual and team pursuit track races – and Wiggins has three Olympic gold medals in those.
He has good memories of the six-day Qatar event, too. Last year Garmin won the opening team time trial, and Wiggins was the race's first leader.
"I'm not too fussed about that [taking the jersey] this time, last year the goal was to try and pick up as much as I could all season," Wiggins said.
"The expectation [to win] is always there with Team Sky, though. To stand here and say we're not that bothered would be a lie. Winning is a big objective for us tomorrow."Reuse content