Hi Richie. You’ve had a brilliant start to the season, how does it feel?
It’s been more than I’d hoped for, especially after last season – the disaster that that was. To be honest, it’s quite surreal how well this season has gone so far. It’s always nice to win races like Paris-Nice, Catalunya and the Willunga stage of the Tour Down Under, but to be honest that all counts for nothing. The Giro is my big goal and that’s where I want to be at my best.
You have been in superb form since January. Is there ever a worry that you may have peaked early?
It’s not really difficult for me and that’s because we’ve got guys like Tim Kerrison and the [Team Sky] Performance Team behind us. I think Tim’s been fantastic with Brad [Wiggins] and Chris [Froome] over the years regarding when they’ve peaked and so I take confidence from that. I’m much more motivated this season than I have been in the past, and the Giro is my big opportunity to lead a team. I’m going to take that opportunity with both hands.
Why are you more motivated this year?
After you have a bad season, you look back on that and then think about how good it feels to win a race. It’s just an unbelievable feeling – for me that’s my motivation. To win any race is hard, but to have eight or nine victories like I have so far… it’s contagious.
After winning the Volta a Catalunya in March, you spoke about it giving you greater belief in yourself. Has confidence ever been a problem for you?
Confidence is a massive part of professional cycling. I’m confident in my ability, but to go to a race like Catalunya, which on paper wasn’t that great for me, up against someone in form like [Alejandro] Valverde, isn’t easy. And to win there, where I’ve only really got bad memories, it is a massive bonus for the morale.
How do you find being the team leader at races?
I wouldn’t say it is something that comes naturally to me but I’d say that over the years I’ve worked with some fantastic leaders, from Alberto [Contador] and the Schleck brothers when I was with Saxo, to Bradley in 2012 and Chris in 2013. I’m more used to riding for somebody, but with the steps I’ve taken this year I’ve embraced having those seven or eight guys commit to me.
How would you describe yourself as a leader?
Probably a little bit more stressed than Chris! Obviously he is very laid back, and so was Brad. I’m not sure what the other guys would say but I don’t think I’m that hard to work for! I like to hit the front and race from there. At the end of the day, in any team it’s easier to work for a guy who is finishing it off and winning. My big goal going into the Giro is obviously to go for as high a GC as I can get.