The perception going into the Olympics was that Mark Cavendish had the best chance of Olympic gold on the road for Britain’s cyclists.
Even Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who will ride off the starting ramp at the time trial at Hampton Court Palace today as favourite, admitted as much before the Games began.
Wiggins said: “You’d put more money on Cav winning the Olympics than me.”
But London’s much-heralded Tour winner looks in the shape to dream of a fourth Olympic gold — he already boasts track golds from Athens and Beijing — if the rigours of both the Tour and working for Cavendish in the Olympic road race have not taken their toll.
Wiggins has been among the best time triallists all season and his ride in the penultimate stage of the Tour against the clock, from Bonneval to Chartres, was so dominant he finished 1min 16sec ahead of his closest rival, fellow Briton Chris Froome, who was also in today’s 27-mile time trial.
The pair’s cause has been helped by the fact that one of the pre-event favourites, Fabian Cancellara, who pulled out of the Tour early to prepare for the Olympics as well as attend the birth of his second child, looks far from peak fitness.
Cancellara crashed heavily out of the road race while leading and finished a lowly 106th place with fears he had dislocated his collarbone. An X-ray revealed no breaks but the Swiss rider suffered heavy bruising and grazes and he may well not be at his best in the time trial.
The other main threat to a British win is Germany’s Tony Martin, who also bowed out of the Tour, in his case with a broken wrist, but is expected to be fit for the start.
Of his time trial chances, Wiggins said: “I’ve got so much confidence. The confidence is sky high now that I’m going to be in the ball park.
“The main thing is that I’m on track and that’s all that matters. There’s no reason why it’s going to suddenly fall apart and I’ll be a pile of s*** on Wednesday.”
Wiggins likened the Tour de France to the perfect boot camp for his Olympic preparations and, seemingly in good physical shape, the events in Chartres 11 days ago give him the mental edge.
“The time trial I did at the Tour was one of the best in terms of power and in terms of the numbers that I’ve ever had over that distance and over that time,” he said.
“I’d had a tough stage that Cav won the day before and two tough Pyrenean stages the days before that. It’s been the best preparation. An hour time trial to make history should be a doddle.”