Australian track cyclist Matthew Glaetzer has shown incredible resilience this week at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. His Commonwealth Games campaign began with gold in…
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?