Bradley Wiggins a very curious champion

Lee Rodgers Columnist

By Lee Rodgers, Lee Rodgers is a Roar Expert

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    Bradley Wiggins has returned to his winning ways. AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

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    Odd one, Bradley Wiggins; full of contradictions and mental ticks, a bastion of self-knowledge and yet simultaneously vulnerable to criticism and open to doubt.

    His announcement this week that 2014 will be his last on the road – and with it the acceptance that he will never win the Tour de France again – fit perfectly into ‘Wigginism’, in that this decision makes sound sense and yet, at the same time, it’s veering towards the preposterous.

    How can the man who sacrificed so much, who talked of winning and winning, who became in a few short months the most accomplished stage multi-day racer in the world, just give it all up without a fight?

    “I’m going to continue to the next Olympics and try for a fifth gold on the track. That’s the plan,” Wiggins said in an interview with The Times this week.

    Wiggins first found Olympic glory at the Athens Olympics where he won three golds, but the victories didn’t quite bring with it the kind of financial reward he imagined they would, and he began a routing of drinking daily at the pub and at home.

    “Apparently it’s a well-known phenomenon, but Olympic gold medallists usually only lose the plot for a month or so,” he wrote in his biography.

    “My bender after winning three medals, including my first gold, in Athens in August 2004 lasted a good eight or nine months and I wasn’t quite right for at least a year.

    “I wasn’t just drinking for England during this period, I wasn’t quite at the races mentally either. For a while my life threatened to spiral out of control.”

    He talks in some detail about just how routine the routine became.

    “11am on the dot I would be outside the front door of my local, waiting impatiently for the landlord to open up. I wouldn’t move for the next seven hours as I steadily sipped my way through 12 or 13 pints. I would fit in the odd game of pool or darts, read the newspapers, treat myself to a spot of lunch, make a few calls, watch the sport on the TV – it was everything you dream of doing when you are putting in long hours of training.”

    Everything we dream of doing perhaps, but when it is a daily occurrence for months on end it becomes a little more dangerous than that, more nightmare than dream.

    He pulled it all back together quite brilliantly though, going on to more track success and then providing England with a year that no sports fan will ever forget, with victories throughout the year, including, of course, the 2012 Tour, the first ever for a Briton, and the Olympic ITT title.

    That magnificent season of course was not without controversy, most of it concerning his teammate Chris Froome.

    Interestingly, Froome features heavily in Wiggins’ decision to move from the road. Why? Froome, Wiggins accepts, is just better than him.

    “”I don’t mind admitting that Chris is probably a better Grand Tour rider than me,” said Wiggins.

    “He is a much better climber, he can time-trial well. He has age on his side, he has no kids. That’s fine.”

    “If Chris wants to, he could potentially win five Tours now. So if I want to win another Tour, I’d probably have to leave the team.” Would he leave? “No,” he said. “I love this team. This is my home. I’m not going to go, ‘I want to be the leader still, so I’m off.”

    So what is really going on here? Was the collapse at the Giro truly due to an injury, or due to the fact that Wiggins had mentally caved in in his tussle with Froome?

    He was left out of the 2013 Tour ostensibly due to an injury, but was it more than that?

    Personally, I felt that had he been included, his presence would have provided Sky with their biggest obstacle to victory, and their rivals their strongest card in hand.

    He could have derailed the whole Tour campaign for Chris Froome with one petulant gesture or move.

    Wiggins has admitted to being ‘affected’ by the row with Froome that started just as the Giro began, when his comments regarding him riding the Tour as a favorite came out, and spoke of how his ego had been informing his decisions.

    Speaking of that time just back in May this year, he says that he was “in an acceptance phase. There was a lot of reflection. A lot of it is [sic] just ego.”

    He says he accepts his achievements now as being enough to fulfill him, and he is quite right to do that. He had an incredible year and owns a fine palmares.

    And yet… it doesn’t feel right somehow, to see a man who overcame his own limitations and the doubts of a good 98% of the cycling world, who conquered all and sundry in just about every race he entered, to see him walk away like this.

    It feels, indeed, like a towel has been thrown in.

    But then, this is, after all, Sir Bradley Wiggins – who are we to known what is going on inside that very intriguing head?

    Lee Rodgers
    Lee Rodgers

    Lee Rodgers is a former professional rider on the UCI Asia circuit. He is now a freelance journalist, cycling coach and runs the website www.crankpunk.com.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • August 21st 2013 @ 3:29am
      Tenash said | August 21st 2013 @ 3:29am | ! Report

      Bradley Wiggins is what I personally call – a “Contract Champion” !!!

      the only reason he won the Tour was because it said so in his & Froome’s contract.

      Froome should have been a 2 time Tour de France champion this year if you know what i mean.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:12am
        Da spoon said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        Sacrifice is part of being a team player to archieve the team goal. Yes Froome could have won but it wasn’t Plan A. Wiggins won so the team goal was achieved. I watched Miguel Indurain sacrifice a tour win for Delgado in 1990 which if he had won would have made led him to 6 wins and made him the tours most successful rider (even better than Evans). Wiggins is a true champion and only an Australian would suggest otherwise.

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am
          peeeko said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report

          i dont think Tenash is being anti english , he sounds pro Froome. i

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:54am
          Doug said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:54am | ! Report

          What a load of drivel. Why does Miguel Indurain need to win an extra TdF to be considered better than Evans? Next you’ll be saying Wiggins is better than Indurain.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 9:08am
            Da spoon said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:08am | ! Report

            IThe Evans comment was tongue in cheek as many Aussies beliieve he is the only true champion of recent years. An oasis of purity in a desert of dopers.I was trying to point out that the team goal overrides individuals aspirations. It’s happened with Delgado and Indurain. Lemond and Hinault etc. Wiggns was given his chance and he delivered for the team. job done.

            • August 21st 2013 @ 1:01pm
              bobw said | August 21st 2013 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

              Given that you regard Wiggins as a “true champion” and evidently feel that Evans and others are (at the very least) suspicious, should we take it that you think it’s Wiggins who is “an oasis of purity in a desert of dopers”?

              • August 21st 2013 @ 5:22pm
                Da spoon said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

                I regard Wiggins as a champion in the same way as Evans. I can’t understand why others don’t give him the respect he deserves given his TDF and Olympic performances. If you look on this blog you’ll find whole articles dedicated to bringing down team sky, wiggins and froome. I don’t recall the British doing this when Evans won.

      • Roar Guru

        August 21st 2013 @ 8:38am
        Bones506 said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        Contract Champion – interesting term. One I am inclined to agree with. Froome was the better rider in 2012 at TDF.

        It is a team sport thugh so as Da Soon points out – sometimes you have to earn the right to lead. I would like to see Porte given a shot a leading Giro but also the tour in next few years.

        Wiggns started on the track so prob happy to go back. Far less exposure etc and he apears to be (from the doco on himand how he speaks generally) a very private person.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 3:13pm
          liquor box said | August 21st 2013 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

          I guess the term contract champion is valid, but it is an achievement to become this so called “contract champion”. How did he get to be number 1 for Sky? It was through his skills.

          I wonder if Quintana is really the 2013 winner based on this contract winner idea? If he did not have to support his team he might well have done better!

    • August 21st 2013 @ 9:53am
      Andrew said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      They are still all taking it so why does it matter who wins. Armstrong years haven’t finished.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 12:34pm
      Bobo said | August 21st 2013 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

      To some extent I am surprised he is still racing at all. I heard a fair bit about Wiggins’ mental struggles from riders in the first half of 2012, when he was winning every race he entered. I think he has been threading a fine line between protecting his present and future health and reputation, and his desire to win. He seems a very conflicted individual. Given he’s achieved more than I think he ever thought he would, and as long as his future income stream is secure, I think this is the best decision for him to make.

    • Columnist

      August 22nd 2013 @ 2:21am
      Lee Rodgers said | August 22nd 2013 @ 2:21am | ! Report

      Thanks for the comments guys. Was intriguing in that doc on him his wife said that as a husband and a father he was great, but that the rest of the time he was a ****!

    • Roar Guru

      August 22nd 2013 @ 8:54pm
      Tom Fish said | August 22nd 2013 @ 8:54pm | ! Report

      Definitely agree with the views Lee, he’s always been a curious guy for me, and one I couldn’t put my finger on how to describe. I agree on the towel being thrown in, it definitely smacks of that, I reckon if he won the Giro, he wouldn’t be quitting after next year.

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