Sir Bradley Wiggins admitted he is not going into this weekend’s Tour de Yorkshire with grand designs on overall victory, but warned the rest of the field he is off the leash and ready to attack when the mood takes him.
Wiggins will take part in this inaugural Tour de Yorkshire, which starts in Bridlington this morning and ending in Scarborough this afternoon, wearing the new colours of his eponymous development team for the first time after leaving Team Sky following Paris-Roubaix earlier this month.
Wiggins has made the move as he switches his attention from the road to the track- and June’s attempt at the hour record - ahead of the 2016 Olympics.
While not the favourite for overall victory here, the 2012 Tour de France winner is the star name on the start line and might have what it takes to spring a surprise.
“I’m not coming here trying to win this, I’m coming here to do a job for the younger guys in my team who are really up for it,” he said at the launch event in York on Thursday evening.
“Road racing is still a big part of what we do on the track and it’s important to come here and be part of it. I’m perhaps not the Bradley Wiggins of 2012. I’m 10 kilos heavier with a doppy beard.
“But I kind of feel a bit liberated in a way. I can have a dig. I can have a go. At Sky there is such a standard that there is always someone able to do something, but here there’s just kids that want to race and that frees me up.
“I can’t remember the last time I attacked at a race. I did at Roubaix, but for so many years I was used to riding defensively. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
While his name does not resonate with British fans in quite the same way, the only other man in the Tour de Yorkshire field who can begin to compete with Wiggins’ star power is German sprinter Marcel Kittel.
The 26-year-old won the opening stage of the Tour de France in Harrogate last year and is back in the city where he got to wear the yellow jersey as his reward.
Kittel ought to be the outright favourite to win Saturday’s stage two into York, but admits he has no idea of his form after two months out with a virus.
“I’m just finding my way back into racing,” he said. “Of course, I’m not super fit after being sick and then only have a couple of weeks training right before the race, but at least it’s a start. I’m not focused on any special goals.
“It’s my first race in a long time so I’m looking forward to it. It’s hard to talk about direct goals or winning, but I’m happy to be back in this place.”