Bradley Wiggins has already made history as the most successful British contender in the history of the Tour de France. Riding this weekend wearing the coveted yellow jersey, Wiggins has been at pains to scotch insinuations that his amazing performance is fuelled by perfomance-enhancing drugs. Here we explain just what makes him the Best Brit on the Tour.
Thin-framed, at 6ft 3in tall and 69kg, Wiggins has always been a strong sprint performer. He has improved his chances in Le Tour by building his stamina with 100,000 metres of uphill climbing, mainly on Mount Teide in Tenerife. He makes sure his body is resilient by avoiding building up muscle bulk, and strengthening his core with Pilates, yoga and exercise balls.
A mantra using such words as "cool" and "calm" allows him to focus on what he describes as "keeping the chimp in the cage". This chimp, he says, is your emotional side, "and in a pressure situation you have to react with logic, not emotion". He told a sports magazine: "You can practise something a million times but when it comes to the crunch you need to transform into a ruthless robot or you'll choke..." The British Olympic medal winner is "able to absorb pressure moments without becoming overwhelmed", says Dr Victor Thompson, a cycling psychologist.
During Le Tour, Wiggins consumes around 7,000 calories a day through a diet of pasta, omelettes and croissants, oat and honey energy bars: he burns around 8,000 calories daily, though. He recommends a bowl of porridge before bed to give the body fuel to repair while asleep. During races he has an average power output of 442 watts and aims to take on 50 grams of protein in the 30 minutes after training. He does not touch alcohol in the weeks leading up to a race.
With three Olympic gold medals, Wiggins has experience of championship success and craves more, which gives him an edge, say psychologists. His sporting hero is the football player Bobby Moore. But he is currently motivated by seeing Australian Cadel Evans go on to win the Tour de France after Wiggins crashed out injured. "In the 2010 Tour, I just hadn't done enough work," Wiggins said. "I wasn't fit enough and I hadn't worked hard enough. But last year Cadel set the benchmark for how we want to win." His philosophy is "put 100 per cent into everything".
Given his slight build, Wiggins has disproportionately powerful legs. "The veins on his legs are like the branches of trees [they are also] thin and evenly spread," says cycling psychologist Dr Victor Thompson. This gives him faster recovery times, particularly after steep climbs. His body-fat levels are one of the lowest of all international cyclists which makes him light in the saddle but able to pedal with real power.
BSkyB has spent £30m on sponsorship. Despite an apparently unscheduled breakaway move by Wiggins's heir-apparent, Chris Froome, last week, the team is hand-picked to bolster the gold medal winner and ward off rivals. Key players include: Froome, Michael Rogers – effectively road captain, Richie Porte, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Mark Cavendish – who kept up tempo in the early stages and will push for sprint victories in the final week.
He has done the same warm-up for the past 10 years: seven minutes working at 60 per cent of maximum heart rate (which is 188 beats a minute); then eight minutes at 85 per cent; five minutes of six- to 10-second sprints pushing the heart rate to 95 per cent with 20-second recoveries in between. In the weeks leading up to a competition, he spends five to seven hours on a bike each day.
Wiggins is riding a Pinarello Dogma 2, £10,000 of carbon-fibre machine weighing in at seven kilos and with a top speed of around 63mph. The carbon frames are handmade in Treviso, Italy. Each of the 24 riders in Team Sky has two road bikes, personalised to fit their body measurements. Even the ball bearings in Wiggins's bike have been weighed, only the lightest are used.