Was Bradley Wiggins the greatest rider of his generation?

Sam Brown Roar Guru

By Sam Brown, Sam Brown is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    Sir Bradley Wiggins has ended his long cycling career on one final high, winning Gold and setting a new world record in men’s team pursuit at the Rio Olympics.

    The winning return to his beloved velodrome makes him the most decorated British Olympian of all time and I believe cements him as the greatest cyclist of his generation.

    He leaves a legacy of a man who was never satisfied with the status quo and constantly challenged himself, setting new, increasingly varied and increasingly ambitious goals, the majority of which he managed to achieve.

    It is this variation of achievement throughout his career that separates him from the hypothetical peloton of greats of his generation.

    Starting on the track, Wiggins won his first Olympic medal back at the Sydney 2000 Games, a bronze in the team pursuit.

    He really came to the pinnacle of track cycling between 2003 and 2008 where he dominated the individual pursuit, taking gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, leading the GB team to gold in team pursuit in 2008 and holding multiple world championship jerseys in the team and individual pursuit as well as the Kieren.

    Turning his focus fully to the road after his 2008 track triumphs he found a niche in time trialing, but set his gaze higher than any track convert before him, the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, arguably cycling’s toughest and most prestigious prize.

    Just four years after leaving the boards of the velodrome, and with the backing of Team Sky, Wiggo became the first British man to win the Tour de France, riding away from rivals Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali in the mountains and beating Chris Froome in both Time Trials.

    He backed it up, taking the Individual Time Trial gold medal at the London Olympics only two weeks later.

    The 2014 Time Trial World Championship was next on his towering list, soon followed by setting a new Hour Record in 2015 and his final triumphant return to the velodrome just yesterday.

    Throw in a smattering of lesser multi-day races and national championship wins in both Time Trial and Road Race just to cap it all off.

    In an era of ultimate specialisation in cycling, no other rider has managed to straddle so many disciplines so successfully.

    The only possible hole in his resume is a Spring Classic, but when compared to other greats of his generation there are none who have been able to traverse more than two different forms of riding.

    Fabian Cancellara was one of the Kings of the Classics and a Time Trial champ; Mark Cavendish has similar track success to Wiggins and has dominated road sprints; Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali have won more Grand Tours and Chris Hoy has won more medals on the track.

    But none have managed to be the top of the world in three very different styles of race: Track Pursuit, road Grand Tours and Time Trialing

    While there are some with equally long lists of wins none have varied their achievement like Wiggins.

    To top it off Wiggins has done it all in the spirit of cycling; he’s always been a romantic of the sport, hyper-aware of its history and his place in it.

    Exhibit A is In the 2012 Tour, where he told the peloton to slow so Cadel Evans could catch up after a spectator induced puncture, he didn’t want to be the man who won the yellow jersey because on a technicality.

    Exhibit B, also in the 2012 Tour, was leading out his teammate and friend Mark Cavendish on the Champs Elyse, placing the yellow jersey at the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres, chasing down the break like a domestique.

    My favourite moment, though, is the final time he wore the coveted rainbow stripes of Time Trial World Champ in the Hull 10, a glorified club 10km time trial. His ‘minute man’, the man who rode off one minute before him, was a 43-year-old sales rep for an electronics company.

    It’s a story like All Black Jerry Collins playing for a local french club side while on a holiday in the area. It shows how ultimately, despite all the achievements, despite being the greatest rider of his generation, Sir Bradley Wiggins is just a man who loves to ride his bike and push himself to keep riding faster and faster everyday.

    But over to you Roarers. Do you think Bradley Wiggins is the greatest rider of his generation, and if not, why?

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • Roar Guru

      August 14th 2016 @ 8:35pm
      Sam Brown said | August 14th 2016 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

      Author’s Note: I said he held world championship jerseys in the Kieran event. I should have listed it as the Maddison. Apologies for any confusion.

    • Roar Pro

      August 14th 2016 @ 10:27pm
      Mike Huber said | August 14th 2016 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

      Forget ” of his generation ” , Wiggins is one of the greatest cyclists of all time, period . No TDF winner has come close to achieving his Olympic milestones .

      Phenomenal all round rider with a great personality to match . The travesty for us is that his father was an Aussie whom abandoned him and his mother and never returned to Australia . Definitely one of Australia’s great sporting losses .

      • August 15th 2016 @ 12:52am
        Ricky W said | August 15th 2016 @ 12:52am | ! Report

        Not sure if I’d agree. Merckx’s records on the road is much better than Wiggo’s. Also there are plenty of riders in the past that have excelled in multiple disciplines (not just the road/track combination, look at Marianne Vos or Pauline Ferrand-Prevot).

        I would say that Australia and the UK is quite similar in some ways, we both have traditionally excelled at track cycling. When OGE/OBE first started, they excelled at TTT (team time trials) precisely because of this. If you look at Sky or former Sky riders you’d also see a similar pattern in having ex-track riders in its ranks.

        Don’t get me wrong, I do think having someone with a palmares such as Wiggo’s is quite rare, and it will be awhile before you’d find another one like him. However, I think his greatest achievement is due to the fact that he is British.

        In Great Britain, a non-traditional cycling country, the greatest impact of his TdF and TT gold in 2012 is the uptake and boom in popularity of cycling. Looking at the pro-peloton now and you’ll realise the sheer excess of talent that GB has (not only Sky, the Yates twins in OBE, Cav & Cummings in DDD, Dowsett in Movistar). His victories were truly the turning point of cycling in Great Britain, not only in the pro ranks but also in the general population.

    • Roar Pro

      August 15th 2016 @ 1:46pm
      Mike Huber said | August 15th 2016 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

      Rick W

      Unlike Merckx wiggins has not been caught doping . Eddie got caught at least 3 times – amphetamines , norephedrine , pemoline and other stuff .

      Every Pro rider dopes – it’s a process of scientific evolution however , until Wiggins gets caught , if indeed he does , then his achievements are right up there with the best of all time .

    • Roar Rookie

      August 15th 2016 @ 7:34pm
      Diggs said | August 15th 2016 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

      The thing I admire about Wiggins is his personality. He always said what was on his mind and it never felt scripted. It is because of this, I think the GB public really idolised him in a way no other British rider has. Most cycling fans could see themselves having a beer with him. He also pushed barriers, not many, if any, of the current GC contenders would contemplate a serious charge at a classics win, let alone being considered a genuine contender like he was in 2015.

      He will definitely go down as one of the greats and deservedly so. Anyone with such a large and varied palmares such as his should be considered one.

      • Roar Guru

        August 15th 2016 @ 9:57pm
        Sam Brown said | August 15th 2016 @ 9:57pm | ! Report

        Yeah, he has a very fan friendly image, especially when compared to some of the more tight lipped english speaking guys like Froome.

        You hit the nail on the head with him pushing boundaries, I think the main thing that separates him from the other greats of the generation. Him going for the classics would have been like Cancellara or Sagan riding for GC and honestly I feel like given more time Wiggins set of skills could have won him a classic.

        • August 16th 2016 @ 5:04pm
          Jono said | August 16th 2016 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

          I seem to have the opposite impression. I see Froome as the more fan friendly and open rider and Wiggins and the dour, stand-offish one. I could swear that several of the live commentators also suggest this being the case.

          • Roar Rookie

            August 16th 2016 @ 6:32pm
            Diggs said | August 16th 2016 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

            Unless you are a Colombian fan haha :p

            Froome has two personalities in my opinion, he has more of a social media presence and he does post some funny stuff. But he also has the robotic Sky personality at times which I can understand due to focus, but I think alot of people are a little put off by it. Could also be because alot of people are put off by Sky’s domination as well.

            I see Wiggins as the anti Sagan. And I think some people like to see a bit of mongrel, drive and ego haha. Very few people would disagree Merckx was dissimilar. I don’t take much account of commentators disliking him for being stand of and dour, it is their job to get the interviews that athletes sometimes don’t want to do. Remember Evans constantly battling with the media haha? I think he even threatened to hit one!

            • Roar Guru

              August 17th 2016 @ 9:42am
              delbeato said | August 17th 2016 @ 9:42am | ! Report

              I bumped into Froome on his bike at traffic lights after the Sun Tour this year. He was nice enough. A bit reserved but friendly and had a quick chat. I didn’t try and stalk him further. Thumbs up from me!

              • Roar Rookie

                August 18th 2016 @ 8:03pm
                Diggs said | August 18th 2016 @ 8:03pm | ! Report

                That would have been pretty cool to “bump” into a multiple TdF winner at the lights for a quick chat haha. The beauty of cycling hey?

                Personally, I have no issues with Froome, but he is pigeonholed by many of the public because of their perception of Sky in my belief. If you have seen the boorish comments on both cycling news and velonews facebook pages once someone mentions Sky you might know what I am trying to say haha

    • August 16th 2016 @ 12:25pm
      Big Steve said | August 16th 2016 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

      He was a great track rider and an amazing time trial rider. He wasn’t a good road cyclist and his stint on the road for Sky was a media/advertising exercise while also indulging his massive ego and was a disgrace to the sport. He should never have won that tour. Without team orders Froome would have easily beaten him.

      “he has a very fan friendly image”, I don’t think this image is real, I think its fabricated by the media/marketing teams. I think he is a massive self indulgent knob and I don’t know anyone who has even a slight interest in cycling who disagrees.

      • Roar Guru

        August 16th 2016 @ 5:05pm
        delbeato said | August 16th 2016 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

        Come on he won the Tour – he can’t be that bad a road rider. Sure Froome may have beaten him, but don’t forget Froome had the advantage of his opponents focusing on Wiggo. And not being kept back for hours after stages doing media interviews.

        Wiggo is a complex character. On the plus side, he doesn’t like fame and wants to be a regular person. On the other, he can be a knob and if you asked him for an autograph he’d likely prove that to you.

      • August 17th 2016 @ 11:09pm
        TonyM said | August 17th 2016 @ 11:09pm | ! Report

        Why not say I dont like him rather than spout utter rubbish like “a media/advertising exercise…”.Recognise that he only really focused himself on raod racing during 2011 and 2012 in which year he won Paris -Nice,Tour of Romandie,Criterium Dauphiné and the Tour de France, followed days later by Olympic Gold in the ITT.
        I think you’re having a laugh aren’t you? AND I BIT well done.

    • August 17th 2016 @ 8:38pm
      b denham said | August 17th 2016 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

      It seems that only Bradley Wiggins needed help to win the tour, Froome done it on his own.
      how good would have Cadel Evans have been if he won what brad has won.

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