• Cycling

Tour gives Wiggins chance to join the greats

ESPN staff
June 11, 2012
Bradley Wiggins is one of the favourites for the Tour de France © Getty Images

Bradley Wiggins will have the chance to emulate cycling legends Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil when he takes the start line at the Tour de France later this month.

Merckx and Anquetil are the only two riders ever to have won the Tour, Criterium du Dauphine and Paris-Nice in the same year - a remarkable feat triple-Olympic champion Wiggins has the chance to match when he starts the gruelling event around France as one of the favourites.

Having also won the Tour of Romandie in 2012, Wiggins actually has the chance to complete a quadruple no other rider has ever managed - but, although he admits he has never felt better on the bike, the Brit insists nothing can be taken for granted.

"This is probably the best shape I've ever been in to win the Tour. My time trialling's improved, my climbing's improved, my team's really strong and they've improved and I'm ready to go," Wiggins said.

"But it's probably going to be the hardest thing I've ever done. It's a big win but I wouldn't say I'm favourite for the Tour de France.

"The goal was always to win the Tour and we're pretty much there now."

It promises to be a big summer for Wiggins and Team Sky, who capped off an encouraging Dauphine by seeing Michael Rogers finish second in the general classification and Chris Froome come home fourth.

The Tour de France gives the squad opportunity to win both in the overall standings - through Wiggins - and in the sprint classification - thanks to reigning green jersey holder Mark Cavendish - and Team Sky director Dave Brailsford is proud of how the team has come together at the right time.

"Wiggins and Cavendish are brilliant leaders for us but we've always said that the riders in the middle are what makes the difference," Brailsford said. "We've got world-class riders like Mike and Richie [Porte] competing to get in that team within a team, making sacrifices because of the status it brings them.

"If it came out of the blue people would be entitled to raise their eyebrows but it's not new, they should look at our record on the track where we went from nothing to dominate an Olympic Games.

"We've taken the same approach, the same methodology and we are seeing improvements."

Wiggins' best finish in the Tour is fourth back in 2009. In 2011, he was forced to withdraw due to injury after suffering a broken collarbone in a crash.

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