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Wiggins aiming for Giro -Tour double

Wiggins became the first British rider in history to win the Tour de France in 2012. Photo: PA Wire

Sir Bradley Wiggins believes he is capable of a Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double this year.

Wiggins, from Eccleston, who became the first Briton to win the Tour last year before adding Olympic gold days later, has made the 3,405-kilometre Giro - which begins in Naples this Saturday - his number one priority but is adamant the Tour remains firmly on his agenda.

And when he does get to France, Wiggins wants to go for victory rather than playing a supporting role for fellow Team Sky rider Chris Froome.

Asked about achieving a different kind of double in 2013, Wiggins said: "As the years have gone on I've thought that maybe I'm capable of this now.

"Two years ago I never would have even imagined trying to win the Giro because it was always about trying to win the Tour or trying to get on the podium at the Tour.

"Now I've managed to win the Tour, you think if I'm capable of doing that...if we keep training this way and look at the improvements over the last 18 months.

"It's just seeing what you're capable of doing with each year that goes past. It's just an exploration of what you can do each year."

Wiggins believes winning a second of cycling's three Grand Tours would elevate him to a different level.

"It's a new challenge for me," he said. "I won the Tour last year and won a lot of other races, but the Giro is something I'd love to add.

"I think it puts you in a different bracket as a cyclist if you win the Giro and the Tour."

The first hurdle towards that goal begins next week in Italy, where Wiggins must beat home favourite Vincenzo Nibali and defending champion Ryder Hesjedal to take the famous pink jersey.

Wiggins made his Grand Tour debut at the Giro in 2003 and the race has always had a special place in his heart.

"It's about the challenge of it, some of the people who have won it and some of the epic stages there have been," he said.

"That's what makes it so appealing."

It is also a very different challenge to winning the Tour.

"It's more mountainous, there are steeper climbs historically and the challenges come much earlier in the event," he said.

"Within three or four days there are steep climbs and you don't have that in the Tour."

Victory in the Giro would allow Wiggins - seen as a time-trial specialist - to prove his climbing ability, something he believes is now a strength.

"A year ago that was the thing that always concerned me, whether I was going to hold out on the climbs," he said.

"But after what we've done this year, I think I've got more confidence and belief in my climbing ability on those climbs than ever."

Only after the Giro is over will Wiggins allow himself to think about the Tour.

His form in Italy will go a long way to determining whether Team Sky make Wiggins or Froome their leader in France, but Wiggins has no intention of letting his title go without a fight.

"At this stage, all being well, it may be that we end up joint leaders for that first week until the racing decides," he said.

"Without racing against each other when we hit the mountains or whatever, the racing decides naturally who the leader becomes.

"It may be that we both stay in contention until that week, Chris wins the mountain stage, takes the yellow jersey in which case there is a natural hierarchy there.

"And then I try and finish second as he did last year.

"That may not happen - there may be a clear-cut leader before you get there. This is all hypothetical, I may crash tomorrow in training and end up in hospital again. We will see."