Sir Bradley Wiggins: I've improved ahead of Giro d'Italia 2013

 

Giro d'Italia

  • Dates: 4-26 May (13 and 20 May are rest days)

Coverage: Live commentary on the final hours of each stage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra or online; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Sir Bradley Wiggins believes he has improved as a rider as he begins his quest to become the first British winner of the Giro d'Italia.

Wiggins, who became the first British winner of the Tour de France last year, starts the three-week race on Saturday.

Analysis

"I think Brad can do it but winning the two biggest and hardest Grand Tours, each lasting 23 days and covering a combined distance of 6,765km, in the space of three months will be hugely demanding, mentally and physically. "

The 33-year-old told BBC Sport: "I've improved from last year.

"In training for the Giro I've had to train to the demands of steeper climbs, which is more out of my comfort zone, but my climbing has improved a lot."

Wiggins won several races in the run-up to his Tour de France success in 2012 but has not won in the build-up to the Giro.

However, he is not overly concerned by his apparent lack of success on the road so far in 2013.

"People have said you haven't won a race going into the Giro but last year I won races through winning time trials," he said.

"This year, the races have been more mountainous without time trials to rely on.

"In terms of what I've been going for, and the bigger picture, my climbing has improved a lot. In doing what we're doing for the Giro, it can only benefit the Tour given the amount of climbing in this year's."

Vincenzo Nibali

Nibali is an excellent mountain climber and expected to be Wiggins's main rival

Wiggins has stated he wants to try and win the Giro and Tour double - a feat last achieved by Italy's Marco Pantani in 1998.

The Giro starts in Naples on Saturday and reaches its conclusion in Brescia on Sunday, 26 May.

It is a race that Wiggins admits to having a "love/hate relationship" with, having being eliminated for being too slow during his debut in 2003. He was hampered by crashes as he recorded his best finish of 40th in 2010.

"I promised I'd never go back to it," he continued. "But part of me has always wanted to go back there and do well. It's a great race and, in cycling, it's as big as the Tour de France.

"Stage two this year is a very tricky team time trial and then, within three days, you're in the high mountains."

Wiggins is favourite to win the race but is wary of the threat posed by defending champion Ryder Hesjedal and Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who won the traditional pre-race warm-up, the Giro del Trentino.

"If the Tour de France is the best known and most glamorous cycling race in the world, the Giro d'Italia is its grittier and rather more brutal brother lurking in the shadows"

"I don't underestimate anyone, but Hesjedal I've got to have an eye on," said Wiggins. "No-one expected that of him last year.

"The Giro is Nibali's pride and joy - he's the big Italian favourite. He's trained for this, this is his event, and he's not doing the Tour after it.

"I don't fear him. I respect him. I know his strengths and his weaknesses. He's the man to beat and I know what I have to do.

"I still don't know whether I'll stay with Nibali on some of those really tough finishes but I'll only lose a couple of seconds here and there.

"At most, on some of those really steep finishes, I may lose 20 seconds to him but I'm pretty confident I can stay with him on most of the climbs, whatever he throws at me.

"I think that's all I have to do because, in the time trials, I think I can take the time on him."