Tour de France 2011 press conferences photo gallery by Andy Jones>>

Bradley Wiggins faces this year’s Tour de France in an entirely different light. Sky’s team leader appears more relaxed and cooler, even flashing the peace sign, than last year or when he finished fourth in 2009.



Based on his bounce back season – first in the Dauphiné and third in Paris-Nice – fans and media are expecting a podium finish from the 31-year-old in Paris on July 24.



“I don’t think the fans should believe anything, they are your expectations,” Wiggins said today. He was responding to a question from Cycling Weekly during a well-attended team press conference in Les Herbiers, France.



“I havn’t mentioned ‘podium.’ I don’t think podium is a mark of success in this Tour for me. The results that I have done have spoken for themselves.



“I am in this position now. Six months ago, no one would have talked about the podium, I was written off after last year’s race. I’m back in the limelight now.”



At last year’s race, Wiggins finished 24th overall. It was a disappointment considering the hype behind Great Britain’s new super team, Sky, and his fourth place in 2009 riding for team Garmin.



Wiggins and Sky re-tuned their approach for this year and it’s paying off. Wiggins placed third in Paris-Nice, won the TT stage at Bayern-Rundfahrt, the Critérium du Dauphiné and the British road race championships.

Bradley Wiggins and David Brailsford, Sky, Tour de France 2011 press conference



Bradley Wiggins with Sky team principal David Brailsford (right)

“We focused too much on one rider and one race,” Sky’s team principal, David Brailsford said of last year. “But we entered this year with a different philosophy, entering each race in its own right and I think that’s paid off for us. We’ve picked up results and built momentum.”



Cycling Weekly asked Wiggins what specific changes since last year’s debut with team Sky created this momentum. “I have a coach for a start. I ‘m not doing all my own training,” continued Wiggins. “The big thing is training at altitude, we have done that a lot this year, that’s been the biggest change ahead of the Tour. And not going to the Giro d’Italia.”



Wiggins stayed to chat to several different TV journalists before leaving the media space in Les Herbiers. The scene was different than last year, where he and the team wrapped up its pre-race press conference early. After the conference at the team’s hotel in Rotterdam, Wiggins went to his room and his team-mates stayed to speak with the journalists who arrived late.



He’s clearly more relaxed and comfortable with his role as Sky’s team leader, a state of mind which can only help him try to reach the fans’ podium expectations.



See this week’s Cycling Weekly magazine for an exclusive interview with Bradley Wiggins, and the other British riders in this year’s Tour.

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