So, that’s it for Bradley Wiggins on his bike? After officially retiring from professional road and track cycling on the 28th December 2016, will that be it? Let’s reflect on his stellar cycling career and the bumps in the road, before looking at what his future may hold!
Following in Dad’s footsteps
Bradley was born in Ghent in April 1980. His father was a professional cyclist called Gary Wiggins, who represented Australia on several occasions in track cycling before moving to Europe in 1974 and then moving in with Bradley’s future mother in London. They moved to Ghent in 1980 so he could pursue his career and then, where he and Linda gave birth to Bradley. Two years later, Gary left and was never seen again by his son.
Even though Bradley would have a somewhat fraught relationship with his Dad, that he only spoke of briefly in public, he would go on to start in his father’s shadow but do far, far better.
In 2000 at the Sydney Olympics, Bradley would get his first medal, a silver in the Team Pursuit. In 2001 he became a professional road cyclist and this would reflect his career, changing between high paying road cycling and his profile track cycling as the winds of his career permitted.
In Athens in 2004 he won Gold in the Individual Pursuit and in 08 at Beijing Gold at the Individual and Team Pursuits. His career would move up a gear in 2012 when Team Sky asked him to lead the Tour de France bid for the second time. Wiggo had the ride of his life on this Tour, winning two individual time trials and leading the race in the Yellow Jersey for 13 days before becoming the first ever Brit to win the race outright.
2012 was a golden year for Wiggo, who went on to win the Individual Time Trial at the Olympics a few weeks later and then to have his CBE upgraded to a Knighthood in the following New Years Honours.
He had a series of ‘off years’ for the Tour de France, which some have alluded may be due to his not using performance enhancing drugs (read on). As it was, Chris Froome took up the mantle of UK Tour de France leader and would take three more Yellow Jerseys since.
2014 saw Wiggo become the World Time Trial Champion and thereby hold the British, Olympic and World time trial champions’ jerseys simultaneously. 2015 saw him get the UCI Hour Record – the distance a cyclist can cover in an hour on a track. At the Lee Valley Velopark he beat the record held by Alex Dowsett by 1.589km, which is the second biggest margin in the event’s history.
Off to pasture?
Capping it all off, Bradley won Gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Team Pursuit. It seems that this would be his last, although at one point he hinted that if the money was right he would continue professional cycling into 2017, no such offer came and he officially announced his retirement online by saying on Facebook, “I have been lucky enough to live a dream and fulfil my childhood aspiration of making a living and a career out of the sport I fell in love with at the age of 12. I’ve met my idols and ridden with and alongside the best for 20 years. I have worked with the world’s best coaches and managers who I will always be grateful to for their support.”
He continued, “What will stick with me forever is the support and love from the public though thick and thin, all as a result of riding a pushbike for a living. 2012 blew my mind and was a gas. Cycling has given me everything and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wonderful wife Cath and our amazing kids.”
Concluding, Wiggo said, “2016 is the end of the road for this chapter, onwards and upwards, “feet on the ground, head in the clouds” kids from Kilburn don’t win Olympic Golds and Tour de Frances’! They do now.”
Old issues arise
In autumn, cycling’s old problem of doping tried to bite Wiggins on the backside. Russian hackers got hold of his World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) files that revealed that he had three times been given Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) to use the anti inflammatory Triamcinclone, in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Yes, the second time was before he went on to get his famous victory at the Tour de France…
Cycling has real issues with doping and even the cynical worry that Wiggo may have been at it, even if he was hiding his doping in plain sight. There are investigations ongoing and this will lead to conclusive evidence whether he was genuinely being treated for asthma induced hayfever or whether he was indeed using the stuff to go for glory… Until then, the jury’s out. Even some of his closest allies such as Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish seem to take the same position, though we cannot take that as ‘evidence’ as some media outlets would have you believe.
To the future?
Now his cycling days are over, what of the future? In 2015 he had set up the cycling team, Team Wiggins, that rides in minor events around Europe and the UK. Wiggo rode with it but largely manages the team these days, trading on his celebrity for extra cachet. Just last week he was given a three year sponsorship deal for Team Wiggins by Skoda and you will see him on TV adverts in the coming months. At the same time he switched his sports agency to M&C Saatchi who are home to Freddie Flinthoff and Jamie Redknapp.
These two old timers do pretty well for their faded glory and this could well be a good move for the Wiggins family. Already they have signed him up for Channel 4’s The Jump. Considering Flinthoff was last successful as a cricketer over 8 years ago and he is still a household name to this day, this could be a good move for the ex-cyclist.
Let’s just hope the authorities don’t judge him negatively for what he claims to be genuine health problems as past cheating could have him fall flat on his face faster than a wet patch on the Paris Roubaix.