Commonwealth Games Preview: Sir Bradley Wiggins

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    Bradley Wiggins leading the Tour de France. AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET

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    Sir Bradley Wiggins shouldn’t even be at this year’s Commonwealth Games, but his unlikely inclusion adds another element of interest into one of the Games’ blue-riband cycling events.

    The 2012 Tour de France winner was controversially left off Team Sky’s nine-man team for this year’s race, with team principal Sir Dave Brailsford opting to build the team around defending champion Chris Froome.

    Within minutes of last month’s announcement, Team England quickly announced Wiggins would compete on the track for this year’s Commonwealth Games.

    Through Froome’s abandonment due to injury and de-facto leader Richie Porte’s illness, Team Sky has lurched through the Tour and could end it without a stage win for the first time since it debuted in 2010.

    34-year-old Wiggins has maintained a dignified silence on his omission, yet his refusal to discuss the Tour clearly indicates that it is still a sore point.

    But what it has done for ‘Wiggo’, Britain’s first-ever Tour de France winner, is opened up the opportunity to return to the velodrome, where he emerged as an 18-year-old to win silver in the team pursuit at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

    While it was initially speculated that Wiggins could compete in up to four events at Glasgow, he confirmed in the days before the Games that his focus would be solely on the team pursuit.

    Wiggins, who won gold in the now-defunct individual pursuit at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, said his decision was made with one eye on the 2016 Olympics that he intends to compete in.

    “Straight away the initial signs were really good and since then I’ve just been focusing on the team pursuit,” he said.

    “I dropped everything else. The plan was to come in and do pretty much most of the events… with hindsight, I thought just focus on the Olympic event rather than try to be too greedy.

    “It’s first up as well which is a good thing. So all the training’s been geared up to the team pursuit and trying to break back into that.”

    Both his snub from Team Sky, and his comments since, indicate that Wiggo’s days as a grand tour rider are behind him although he may have one last hurrah after the Games at the Vuelta a Espana.

    He’s said he will see out his contract at Team Sky, but it is clear Wiggins’ priorities lay in Rio, and the team pursuit in Glasgow is a great opportunity for him to gauge exactly how realistic his future medal hopes are.
    But what Glasgow also represents, 16 years after his first Commonwealth Games, is a chance for Wiggins to finally claim gold at the event.

    Form prior to the Commonwealth Games
    While it hasn’t been on the track, Wiggins’ 2014 season so far has suggested that he is nearing the form that saw him finish the 2012 Tour de France in yellow before an injury-interrupted 2013.

    After winning last season’s Tour of Britain, Wiggins began the year with a third in the time trial at the Tirreno-Adriatico and a credible ninth in the Paris-Roubaix spring classic.

    Overall victory at the Tour of California showed Wiggins looked to be continuing to build toward a grand tour but he was set back by a crash and subsequent withdrawal at June’s Tour of Switzerland.

    He did, however, return to the saddle later in the month and stormed to victory for the third time in Britain’s national time trial championships ahead of Sky teammate Geraint Thomas.

    The key for Wiggins and his Team England teammates his how he has been able to adjust to the changed physical demands that track cycling demands, given his last major competitive track event was three years ago at the Track World Cup in Manchester.

    At this year’s world track cycling championships in Colombia, England sent an experimental team and finished seventh.

    Ed Clancy is the only member of that team that will compete in Glasgow, with Steve Burke and Andy Tennant joining Wiggins as the other additions.

    Competition
    Australia go into the 2014 Commonwealth Games having comfortably defeated New Zealand to take the gold at Delhi four years ago, and will again present the main challenge.

    Like Wiggins, Australia’s Jack Bobridge was surprise non-starter for Team Belkin at this year’s Tour de France.

    The 25-year-old Bobridge clocked the fastest individual pursuit time in history in 2011 and, as the only survivor from the team that claimed gold four years ago, will spearhead the team.

    Glenn O’Shea, Luke Davison, Alex Edmondson and Miles Scotson will form the final makeup of the team pursuit quartet.

    New Zealand took out silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and backed that up with third in the 2012 Olympics, and although they head to Glasgow with a new-look team they again look competitive.

    The only other real threat at a podium finish will be Northern Ireland, after they finished third at Delhi, but they too have no survivors from four years ago.

    In reality, this should come down to a race in two between Australia and England for the gold medal.

    Why I make must-watch television
    With Wiggins’ Team England almost certainly going to be coming up against Bobridge and the Australians for the gold medal, getting behind Wiggins is a hard sell.

    So while flat-out supporting Wiggins might be out of the question, this might be the first time in years it has been somewhat easy to enjoy his success.

    When Wiggins led the domineering, all-conquering Team Sky train at the Tour de France in 2012 it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and even more so when it was Froome in the saddle the year after.

    But his axing from their Tour team earlier this year would have struck a sympathetic chord with many, and with Team Sky struggling in France it would be nice to see Wiggins show Brailsford what he missed out on.

    Fast facts
    Name: Sir Bradley Wiggins
    Age: 34
    Height: 190cm
    Birthplace: Ghent, Belgium
    Sport: Cycling
    Event: Men’s 4000m team pursuit
    Track Debut: 1998 Commonwealth Games
    Track Honours: 1998 Commonwealth Games silver medal team pursuit, 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medal individual pursuit, 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medal team pursuit; 2003, 2007, 2008 World Track Championships gold medal individual pursuit, 2007, 2008 World Track Championships gold medal team pursuit.

    – As a child growing up in north-west London, football was Wiggins’ first passion and he grew up supporting Arsenal, but now supports Liverpool.
    – Wiggins was awarded BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2012.
    – A self-confessed mod, Wiggins’ favourite band is The Jam and he has a collection of vintage guitars and amps.
    – In 2012 he helped design a clothing line with designer Fred Perry.
    – He speaks fluent French.
    – Wiggins has a collection of tattoos and often uses the services of Louis Molloy, the same tattooist used by David Beckham.

    This article was first published on the Tenplay website here.

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