What next for Bradley Wiggins?
Bradley Wiggins' past two years have been a roller coaster. (AFP PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE)
We are in the post-Tour refractory period. The dusky climax of Paris left our heads spinning, and the Tours of Poland and Denmark are mere digestifs, flavoursome though they are, to calm us until the passion of the Vuelta a Espana arrives.
Thoughts turn idly to the transfer season, quietly churning out of sight.
Riders are chasing teams. Teams are chasing riders. Deals are being negotiated. Announcements trickle out.
Big names have already signed on. Rigoberto Uran will take his chance at Omega Pharma-Quickstep; there are too many leaders at Sky.
One of them is Sir Bradley Wiggins, almost a forgotten man after his heroics of 2012. His team has moved on to a younger man, a new champion.
Management speaks of Richie Porte for the Giro d’Italia and Chris Froome for the Tour, a dynasty in the planning.
Where does this leave Wiggins?
Seemingly out of sorts all year and often giving the impression of a schoolboy on detention, but wait! Wiggins stormed back into the public consciousness this week with a thunderous victory in the Tour of Poland’s individual time trial.
It was his first individual victory of 2013, and against no less than Fabian Cancellara himself, returning to serious racing after some time away following his classics campaign.
Wiggins’ lacklustre performance earlier in Poland was explained by his goals for the coming months:
“I didn’t come here for GC. I came here to win the time trial and I’ve done that.
“Everything I’m doing is working towards the world championships time trial. It’s a good confirmation. I’ve won it, so we’re on the right track.”
Wiggins has been rumoured to be leaving Sky all year, but a string of unconvincing performances gave the impression he had peaked. His motivation looked shot and his attitude was worse.
With the price tag of a Tour de France and multiple Olympic championships, he wasn’t exactly looking like a bargain.
A strong performance in the world championships time trial would turn this around faster than Wiggo’s ovalised chain rings on a flowing descent.
But if he was to leave Sky, where would Wiggins go?
OPQS is out. Trek has Schlecks. Saxo is stacked. Katusha is full. Astana has Vincenzo Nibali. Movistar has Nairo Quintana.
BMC might be an option, but its budget for ageing champions is looking stretched. Cannondale? A return to Garmin?
What if he came to Orica-GreenEDGE?
Stop giggling, up the back. Humour me for a moment.
Last week I briefly toyed with the idea of OGE recruiting a foreign GC rider to lead the team in Grand Tours while our home-grown hopes develop and mature.
Some perceptive commenters suggested Wiggins might be the ideal man – talent and experience like his is priceless, and he’s still young enough to compete with the best, but will be moving aside by the time Cameron Meyer or Simon Clarke are ready to assume leadership.
Wiggins’ Grand Tour chops speak for themselves, and he would also have a thing or two to teach Luke Durbridge in the time trial.
He knows what it takes to make the leap from track prodigy to road superstar. That’s the sort of knowledge a team stacked with Aussie trackies could really use.
Would he fit in with the culture at Orica-GreenEDGE? Would the Aussie fans accept a man who dethroned ‘our’ Cadel and crushed our hopes on the velodromes of Athens and Beijing?
Perhaps more importantly, could Wiggins be convinced to attempt the Tour again? In June he told the Guardian he probably couldn’t see himself riding the Tour again:
“For me it was always about winning the Tour, that was a huge thing for me, a huge journey; I’ve been doing that for years.
“I don’t know if I’d want to go through all that again to be honest. I’ve always had other goals and there are other things I’d like to try and do.”
If that’s how he felt at the end of June, with emotions still raw after withdrawing from his Tour defence, dumped as leader by his team, injured and out of form, would he still feel the same on a new team, as undisputed leader, and with powers returned?
Wiggins has given conflicting public statements before – he speaks his mind, at the time. A new environment, a new approach, a change of opinion?
I think it would work. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
The interregnum continues.
Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.