How do you prepare for something as gruelling as the Tour de France?
Well, we usually begin with a tough training camp and follow it with a few races. In the two weeks leading up to the tour we still train a bit, and you usually have the national championships as well, but you tend not to do as much. You’re fitness is where it should be, so it’s just a matter of maintaining it, not putting on any weight and just going there fresh and ready to go.
We all know about the team’s rigorous attention to detail, but is there anything they’ve done differently this year to gain those extra margins?
Not really, although in the food room there’s no chocolate any more, now it’s just all fruit and healthy stuff! I think we’ve just simplified things. The first year or two they were trying to do a bit too much, so I think they’ve just focused on doing the basics right.
The Tour De France is such a big event. Do you feel any trepidation before it, or do you look forward to it?
You definitely know it’s going to be a tough few weeks, but you rise to the opportunity; it’s what the whole year is about and it’s massive for the team and for me. Just to be a part of it, to have the opportunity to ride into Paris with a yellow jersey is just an immense feeling. Just finishing the grand tour feels like a win in itself, let alone the roller coaster of emotions you go through doing it. The team has good and bad days; you win some really good stages as a team and then others when you lose a bit of time. There’s always something happening in the tour and it’s nice to go through that all together, and get to the finish.
Both Shane Sutton (British Cycling Technical Director) and David Brailsford (Team Sky principal) have said they believe you’re a future Tour winner. That must be nice to hear?
Yeah definitely, it’s always nice to hear people like Shane and David say stuff like that about me, so hopefully they’re right and hopefully one day I’ll be in a position to do that. I want to put my hat in the ring for the one-week races in the next couple of years.
You’ve impressed in the climbs, in the time trialling and on the road and track, but what do your prefer?
It’s all great when you’re winning, to be honest! The track is really good and the atmosphere like the one at London in 2012 was just incredible, but the only thing with the track is that there are few races; it’s mostly training, and so there can be a lot of monotony. Plus you’ve got to live in Manchester in the rain and the cold, whereas on the road you can live down in Neath! That’s also hard because there are a lot of climbing and hours spent on the bike, and the roads are a lot more versatile. That keeps it fresh and more exciting, though.
How important is recovery on Tour?
Very. It’s always good having a good support team around you. We have a chef that comes along on the road to make sure we’re eating the right things; I think all that adds up really when it comes to recovery. We take our own mattresses and bed sheets as well, so you’re in the same bed every night and that makes a difference because when you go to some hotels you can have a crap bed or even dirty sheets. Quality of sleep is vitally important when you’re trying to recover. All that stuff is taken care of so that all we’ve got to do is put our feet up, eat, go to sleep and then get on the bike the next day and do it all again.
What are your top tips to recover from something so brutal as a day on the Tour?
I think the food you have and the quality of the food, like good proteins, is crucial. Good rest and quality sleep is where a lot of your body’s recovery happens. Massage helps, mentally as well as physically, and compression socks and tights are also good. Keep it simple and make sure you have protein shakes straight after a race or training session so that you’re getting quality protein immediately.
How do you keep your mind occupied after training when you’re away from home?
You get used to it. When training for track races you can spend a lot of time on your bed and not doing much, which is how I got into reading. It’s important to not constantly think about racing and riding. It’s a bit different on Tour because you don’t get much time to chill out and relax, it’s pretty crazy when it comes to the stages and transfers, and afterwards with dinner and the massaging; before you know it, it’s time to go to sleep. Boredom is more relevant in the training camps when you’re training hard and you’ve got to rest just as hard. Especially in Tenerife, when it’s just a hotel and nothing else around, so that’s probably the toughest bit.
Are you proud of the rate at which cycling has grown?
Absolutely, and I definitely feel fortunate as well being the age I am and coming into the sport when I did. Ever since Beijing  there has been a massive boom and the likes of Brad [Wiggins], Cav [Mark Cavendish] and Chris [Froome] have added to that with their successes on the tour and at the London Olympics. So it’s just a great time to be a part of it and to see so many kids and old people, everyone just out on their bikes, it’s brilliant.
“just to be a part of it, to have the opportunity to ride into Paris with a yellow jersey is just an immense feeling”