With a Tour de France victory and Olympic gold against his name in 2012, Bradley Wiggins is looking to fulfil further ambitions in cycling next year.
As if ending the sport’s most famous race in the yellow jersey was not enough, he went on to top the podium in the time trial at the London Games.
The achievements and attitude of Wiggins have provided cycling with a real shot in the arm in a year when doping has returned to the top of the agenda, with the Lance Armstrong case generating a number of negative headlines.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) recently ratified the sanctions recommended by the United States Anti-doping Agency, who concluded Armstrong and his United States Postal Service team ran “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
All Armstrong’s results from August 1, 1998 were expunged from the record books, including his seven consecutive Tour de France ’wins’ from 1999 to 2005, and the 41-year-old was banned for life.
But despite cycling’s tarnished reputation Wiggins believes he is far from finished with the sport and is already looking ahead to his next challenge.
“I’ve already started training for next year because it is about doing it all over again,” he said.
“I think initially you think there is nothing else to do. In a sporting sense I’m 32 now and I went from the Champs-Elysees in Paris and winning the Tour de France to winning the Olympic time-trial in London. That is never going to happen to anyone again, perhaps in my lifetime.
“I still don’t think that it’s fully sunk in to be honest how incredible those two weeks at the Olympics were. It was probably the best time of my life in terms of a sporting sense.
“From now on it’s just trying to achieve other things – things that I hold close to my heart like Paris-Roubaix, the Giro d’Italia or maybe even trying to win the Tour again.
“It’s things I want to do and not what others (want me to do) because that could be dangerous if you get drawn into that.
Wiggins has led the Tour of Italy in the past, securing Team Sky‘s first Grand Tour stage win in 2010.
He is now considering switching his sights to winning it overall and, as a result of Armstrong‘s achievements being wiped from the record books, is happy to do so knowing that he is not fighting against the weight of history.
“Some people say that it is tradition to defend the Tour but why? Says who? Lance Armstrong? Well we’ve seen what has happened to him,” he said.
“We don’t have to win seven Tours now, we know that. The pressure is off with that because as it stands here I’ve won more Tours than Lance Armstrong.
“I’d love to win the Tour of Italy because for me it is as big as the Tour de France. I’ve been very fortunate to lead the Tour of Italy and that jersey takes pride of place in my house.
“I would love to win that race overall because people could then say ’he was a s*** climber but he won the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy’.”
Sports director Sean Yates left Team Sky last week. He was a man influential in Wiggins‘ French success, as well as being a team-mate of Armstrong during his days with Motorola.
Yates is also one of just five Brits to have worn the yellow jersey at any stage, and Wiggins is keen to stress how hard he had to work to snare it.
“To wear the yellow jersey you have to merit it and I believe that I’ve merited it,” he said.
“It’s taken hard work, dedication and sacrifice and that is sacrificing everything in my life – my own family at times.
“I’ve done this off my own back and it will always live with me. I have a tattoo on my forearm that says ‘The Tour’ and the date I won it because I’m so proud of it. I will die with that.
“Cycling has been tipped upside down over the past couple of weeks but this one hasn’t been built on sand and I’m extremely proud of that.”
Recent weeks have seen a number of Armstrong‘s former team-mates discuss the Texan, mentioning his all-action approach to being a team leader.
But, as the frontman of Team Sky, Wiggins prefers to set an example on the bike.
He said: “It’s all very well Lance standing up and hearing these stories of him punching the seats on the bus and saying ’we’re going to kick a***’ and do this and that. That’s all very well and good when you’ve got 10 litres of someone else’s blood running through your body.
“I’m still just still a normal bloke from Kilburn and it has never come easy to me. I train hard and I work hard.
“By winning races, that’s how I lead and that is how I have gone through this whole season – inspiring my team-mates by leading on the bike.”