LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Whether Bradley Wiggins is the
best cyclist Britain has produced will no longer be questioned
if he follows his Tour de France title with Olympic time trial
gold on Wednesday.
Wiggins, who had the honour of ringing the Olympic bell for
the first time at the opening ceremony for the Games, is already
a three-times Olympic champion on the track, which puts him just
behind Chris Hoy who has four.
But this month, the kid from Kilburn in northwest London
became the first British rider to win the Tour, the most
illustrious of all road races, prompting Hoy to label the
performance "the greatest British sporting achievement".
"It's humbling, really," said Wiggins, who has been humbling
his rivals all year in the event run against the clock,
including in the final time trial of the Tour de France.
"It was the best time trial I ever saw," said Britain's
director of performance David Brailsford.
Wednesday's time trial is a relatively flat 44-km course
starting and ending at Hampton Court Palace, perfectly suited to
Wiggins's abilities, with an uphill drag on Seven Hills Road.
But there is a question mark regarding the effort he
expended at the front of the peloton in Saturday's road race as
the British team attempted, and failed, to take world champion
Mark Cavendish to gold.
"The road race is very unpredictable, my event is the time
trial, it's much more quantifiable," said Wiggins, who has been
doing everything to stay fit after sealing the Tour victory
eight days ago.
"I feel a lot better than I normally do when I finish the
Tour de France because with the Olympics we've had to keep
going: riding the bike Monday, Tuesday, still watching what
you're eating, not drinking," the 32-year-old explained.
"You would normally have a week off the bike. Can't be
bothered to go out of the house, that sort of thing. It's been a
good distraction, the Olympics.
"It's been a good way to soak up what happened last week.
Normally you'd be riding the bandwagon. It's been a good excuse
to get back to what you do best, which is riding the bike.
"Nothing changes really, the benchmark is there from
Saturday (July 21)."
His main rivals, however, have been off their bikes for some
German Tony Martin, the man who beat him to the world title
last year, pulled out of the Tour with a wrist injury following
a crash, while defending champion and world bronze medallist
Fabian Cancellara left the Tour to be with his wife who gave
birth to their second child.
The Swiss suffered a bruised shoulder when he crashed into
the safety barriers during the Olympic road race and will make a
last-minute decision on his participation, but he still felt
pain in training on Monday.
"Tony had no choice, he broke his wrist," said Wiggins.
"Fabian had another child, it was family circumstances, he
had already planned to pull out (of the Tour)."
Other potential medallists include Tour runner-up Chris
Froome of Britain, who also finished second to Wiggins in the
three-week race's two time trials.
When asked about a medal in the time trial, Froome said:
"That would be phenomenal."
France's Sylvain Chavanel, American Taylor Phinney and
Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez could also be in the mix, as well as
usual time trial suspects Gustav Larsson of Sweden or German
(Editing by Alison Wildey)