Wiggins returns to lead team in Spain

Madrid: Briton Bradley Wiggins will return to lead Team Sky in this week`s Tour of Spain after being forced to abandon the Tour de France last month with a broken collarbone.

The 31-year-old triple Olympic champion told reporters he would use the race and the world time trial championship as a rehearsal for a twin bid on the Tour de France and Olympic time trial event next year.

"It`s like dress rehearsal for 2012, a bit of an experiment," Wiggins said. "There`s a very similar time period between the end of the Vuelta and the world time trial as there will between the Tour and the Olympic time trial."

"So the only way I can find out whether the combination works is to go flat out for three weeks this September, ride 100 percent and handle all the stresses that go with it."

"Then I`ll try to keep the momentum going and ride the time trial of my life at the world`s."

The three-week, 3,300 kms Vuelta will mark Wiggins`s first appearance in the Spanish Grand Tour.

"All the numbers show good form, everything suggests I`m in as good a shape as when I started the Tour, but one thing is racing, another training," the Londoner said.

"I`ll give it 100 percent and see what I come away with, maybe the top 10, maybe the top six, maybe the podium."

Asked if he would feel nervous after the Tour crash where he broke his collarbone Wiggins said he planned to handle any jitters by riding close to the front.

"I still kick myself for sitting back a little too far in the bunch in the Tour," he said. "So if staying out of trouble means literally riding on the front, I`ll do that."

Wiggins said that he and his Sky team would be keen to do "the best possible ride" in Spain to honour the memory of their team assistant, Txema Gonzalez, who died from a bacterial infection during last year`s race. The team withdrew the morning after his death.

The Briton has used his garden shed as a heat chamber for acclimitisation sessions for the 40-plus temperatures expected next week in Spain.

"It`s five heaters, a humidifier, a laptop and a load of DVDs and that`s it," he said. "We kept it a constant 41 or 42 degrees and I rode in there for a couple of hours every other day on the rollers for the last six weeks.”

"I`ve suffered before in the heat last summer and this was a good way of getting me acclimitised. There was a performance gain to be made."

Team principal Dave Brailsford said Wiggins` return had invigorated the team,

"But the fact he hasn`t been able to race for seven weeks means we will have to take things day by day," Brailsford said in a news release.

Bureau Report

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