Brian Smith was a two-time British road race champion and rode for Motorola in 1994. He now provides analysis on pro cycling for Eurosport and other channels. I spoke to him before the start of the Giro d’Italia to find out his thoughts for the 2013 edition.
Hi Brian. I’m not much of a pundit – is ‘Wiggins v Nibali’ too simplistic a way to look at the GC battle or do you think it will come down to those two guys?
I think it is very much looking that way. With Wiggins it is all about calculations, he has looked at the parcours through his coach Tim Kerrison and they reckon he can do the double. He’s going to the Giro d’Italia to win it, that’s obvious.
I know Wiggins, and he wants to be a legend within our sport. Last year he won the Tour, which made history in the UK, and he won another Gold medal, but he wants to be known as a legend in the sport, that’s what inspires him. He wants to win the Giro and the Tour, and I don’t think that has been done since Stephen Roche in 1987. He looks at history and that’s what motivates him.
I think the tifosi will be behind Nibali and will do what they can to crack Wiggins, I think it goes back to the Vissentini – Roche thing. (in 1987 where Roche ended up riding against his team leader, and was attacked by the Italian fans) I think Wiggins is not so strong mentally and that the tifosi know that, and even the press will try to put pressure on him, so he will have to stay focused. If he thinks he can go to the Giro and have it easy then he has another thing coming. I think there will be so much more pressure on him.
There is a team time trial, which Sky are very good at, and Sky will probably take the jersey there. With the parcours, it is set up for Wiggins to take the pink jersey at the first time trial, either the team time trial or on stage 8. This will mean that Nibali can sit back and Hesjedal can sit back and let Sky do all the work.
The last few days of the Giro are very very hard and that is where there is a weakness in Wiggins if he is attacked. The Italians are very proud and you will get combines- people will ride to help Nibali and hinder Wiggins, and Wiggins will have to have a really strong team. If he can keep the team strong together then he can win the Giro.
Remember, Uran was 7th last year and best young rider and now he has to ride for another person. He was maybe thinking he would have his opportunity. For Sky to win the Giro, the team have to really pull together because they will be up against it. My experience of this race is that the Italians stick together. They will combine together to try to make sure there will be an Italian winner.
There is no doubt it will be a great race, I love the Giro. Anything can happen, it is a very difficult race but this test is probably bigger than the Tour de France last year for Wiggins.
My thanks to Brian for taking the time to share his thoughts – this is a brief view on this year’s Giro but I hope to bring you some more substantial insights soon, covering his own memories of riding the Giro in 1994.