Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - Page 19 News List

CYCLING: Wiggins eyes Tour after Dauphine victory

Reuters, CHATEL, FRANCE

Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, left, reacts at the finish line of the eighth and final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday in Chatel, France.

Photo: AFP

Briton Bradley Wiggins said he was in the best shape of his life heading into the Tour de France after winning the Criterium du Dauphine for the second year in a row on Sunday.

Wiggins and his Sky team dominated the eight-day warmup event with Mick Rogers of Australia and Chris Froome from Britain finishing second and fourth overall respectively. The British team also took victory in the teams’ prize plus two stage wins.

Only last year’s Tour de France winner Cadel Evans of Australia, who added a third overall place to his four previous second places, presented any real challenge to the Sky team.

Wiggins has already won the Paris-Nice race and the Tour of Romandie this season.

“This is probably the best shape I’ve ever been in to win the Tour,” he told reporters. “My time trialing’s improved, my climbing’s improved, my team’s really strong and they’ve improved and I’m ready to go, but it’s probably going to be the hardest thing I’ve done.”

Although apparently more at ease on the race’s 29 classified climbs than he was when climbing in last year’s Criterium du Dauphine, Wiggins said: “I think it’s always harder to do it the second year.”

“To come in this year as a favorite from the prologue on makes it a better and harder way to win,” he added.

After taking the lead on Monday, Wiggins’ superb time-trial victory on Thursday, where he almost overtook Evans, enabled the Briton to take a more defensive attitude in the mountains.

“We’ve had a few goes at it [defending leads] now. I think we’re getting better at it if anything.” Wiggins said. “This one has been a lot smoother than the other races we’ve won this season. We’ve had a full lineup, which we haven’t had at the other races. Eddy [Sky teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway] has come in now and he’s made a huge difference.”

Spaniard Dani Moreno added a second stage to his Dauphine tally when he won Sunday’s mountainous 124.5km trek between Morzine and the town of Chatel.

Moreno darted out of a crumbling front pack on the race’s final summit finish, a short but arduous ascent through the streets of Chatel. Second behind the Katusha rider was Luis Leon Sanchez, also of Spain, with Evans third and Wiggins, who raised his arms in triumph, in 19th spot.

“Not having [Katusha leader] Joaquim Rodriguez here has given me some more freedom of movement and getting two stages in the Dauphine is quite an achievement, but now it’s time to rest up and wait for the Tour of Spain,” Moreno said.

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