FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — It's not often that a Tour de France winner and multiple Olympic champion needs to learn how to ride his bike again.
Yet that's pretty much what has happened to Bradley Wiggins over the past year.
In 2012, Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour de France and then capped that by winning the time trial before home fans at the London Olympics.
Having begun his career as a champion track cyclist — with three golds and six Olympic medals overall — he had also reached the apex of the sport's road version.
Then he lost his way.
Wiggins' inability to deal with rainy descents made him look like a beginner during this year's Giro d'Italia, and he eventually withdrew from the Italian race with a chest infection. Weeks later, he announced he would not defend his Tour title due to a knee problem.
Now that Wiggins is back in form after wins at the Tours of Poland and Britain, capped by a silver medal in the time trial at the world championships on Wednesday, he can assess what the last few months have been like.
"It was hard, it was challenging. I pretty much went back to the drawing board," Wiggins said, adding that he started training again in early June.
"(I was) pretty much on my own, just going out around Lancashire, stopping at petrol stations and filling my bottles and changing my inner tubes if they were punctured," he added. "I felt like a complete fall from grace. I like that solitude, really, I like that feeling, that low."
Wiggins then watched while Chris Froome, his teammate at Sky, won the Tour.
"Missing the Tour and all that was the best thing that could have happened to me," he said. "I had a good two years before that, so to start right back at the bottom again and realize how much work it took to get to the top. ... It's been a long summer but it's been a quite successful one."
So what will next year bring for Wiggins? Will he ever again challenge for Grand Tour wins? Will he become purely a time trial specialist? Go for the single-day classics, perhaps?
For a rider who has always sought out new challenges, nothing can be excluded.
"I don't know yet, to be honest," he said of his 2014 plans. "I'll get into the winter months and then we'll see. It's not been something that's been occupying my mind the last few weeks. All the focus has been toward this. ... But this is a nice platform to build on over the winter."
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