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‘On his day Froome still has the better of Thomas’: Bradley Wiggins Q&A

28 May 2019

Words and photography Peter Stuart

This article was originally published in issue 87 of Cyclist magazine

Cyclist: In May Team Sky became Team Ineos. How do you think the Team Sky project will be remembered and what legacy will it leave behind?

Bradley Wiggins: Well, the legacy of it I think won’t be fully realised now. It might be in 20 years, it may be 30, but people will look back and think, ‘Bloody hell, that was a good time!’

With any big sporting team that has been hugely successful, you don’t appreciate just how big and how good it was. It’s like with Man United – we’re only realising now, six years after the Fergie era, how amazing that period was.

I think cycling will be no different. Look what it has inspired, regardless of what the rhetoric is in the press.

Cyc: Do you think Geraint Thomas will be able to win the Tour de France again this year?

BW: It’s going to be difficult. I think Chris Froome will win the Tour – I’d say he’s got another Tour win in him. Whether he actually does or not is a different thing. I guess we won’t know until later in the year.

Cyc: Who would you prefer to win?

BW: I don’t really prefer to see anyone win. I think on his day Froome still has the better of Thomas in the mountains. I just think we didn’t see the best of him last year after the Giro win.

But it’s going to be different for G this year, because we know what he’s capable of now. He’s not going to be able to go under the radar and say, ‘Chris is still the leader!’

He’s now one of the best riders in the sport – it’s a different dynamic going into the race as a favourite. If Chris gets the jersey early then how does that work? Has G got to then say Chris is the leader or will he say, ‘I’m going to try and take it from him’?

Cyc: For a while it looked like the team might be disbanded. Do you think racing could become more interesting without Team Sky being so dominant?

BW: Maybe, but that’s not Sky’s fault is it? I think Sky were trying to change the way people view racing, and at the end of the day it was about winning bike races.

At Sky, it was always about performance, and they developed a plan and a way to do that in terms of equipment and riding to power numbers.

I know it’s not particularly great to watch at times and, yes, they may overly dominate and, yes, they do have the most money so they can afford to have all these great riders, but that’s what they’ve got and they should be able to spend it.

Whether it ruins racing or not… Maybe as a viewer it does, but you can’t just give your money away because it’s not fair on other teams.

Cyc: As a fan of the sport, do you think the racing needs to change to make it more entertaining for viewers?

BW: From an entertainment perspective I don’t think people want to sit in front of their telly for eight hours watching a stage, but that’s the history of the sport.

Do we keep to that tradition, or accept that things are changing? Do they need to be that long? That’s where it needs a rethink.

Probably the most entertaining stage of the Tour last year was on the Alpe d’Huez, where you could sit and watch it for three hours. You could argue that every stage could be like that and the results would be the same.

The sport attracts people who enjoy watching it, but the Tour was started to advertise a newspaper, the same as the Giro.

It didn’t start as an entertainment tool, and it remains a vehicle to promote sponsors. The two go hand in hand – if no one is watching the sport why would you advertise?

But at the same time we shouldn’t take it down a crazy road where there’s a bizarre format or there are lots of crashes just to make great TV.

Cyc: Do you ever miss your time with Team Sky?

BW: I don’t miss it. They were probably the most unenjoyable years because there was such a high-pressure business setting.

It was about one thing: it was about winning races. We never celebrated race wins – it was just on to the next thing.

But then a lot of people’s most successful years, whatever line of work they’re doing, they come with a lot of pressure and with a lot riding on them.

Cyc: What do you consider to be the golden era of cycling?

BW: The 1990s. But then I grew up as a teenager through the 90s, in love with cycling. Everyone is different, and everyone has their time when cycling was special, and some would say the golden era is now.

I mean, I appreciate the Fausto Coppi years and all that, but the 1990s were what I associate with trying to get out of where I came from – from where I lived.

It was a comfort to me watching those races, and it was a romanticised vision of the sport. At the time it gave me everything.

Cyc: If you could be one rider from that era who would it be?

BW: Johan Museeuw, definitely. He was like the Peter Sagan of his day.

Cyc: Do you ever think today’s riders lack personality compared to times gone by?

BW: The personalities must be there, but riders aren’t encouraged to show it. A lot of riders are just corporate animals now, numbers.

They all look the same, dress the same – they all have moustaches now, and that seems to be the norm. No one is breaking out of the mould and doing something different.

Even with all the social platforms you have to express yourself, riders are still very insular.

That’s a shame and I don’t know why that is. It has definitely got more serious in terms of training, and I think people make an association that if you’re going to do all that social media stuff you’re not very serious. But I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.

Cyc: Do you still watch many races?

BW: I didn’t watch any for the first year [of retirement]. But I work in it now, as a commentator, so I have to watch it anyway, and it suits me to watch it from a different perspective.

I can comment fairly on what’s actually happening and I can see it for what it is rather than having allegiances.

Cyc: Dave Brailsford has been clocking some pretty rapid times in sportives and gran fondos lately. Did he used to train with you when you were at Team Sky?

BW: No, I never really rode with him at all. I think he has become quite fanatical about his training, as far as I understand. I don’t know much about his riding, though. I haven’t seen him for years.

Cyc: You took on an interesting challenge with rowing last year, but do you have any similar physical challenges in mind this year?

BW: I’m supposed to do one for the end of the year. I’m just waiting to see if it gets commissioned by Channel 4.

It’s to get the record to cross the Channel in a human-powered aeroplane, cycling. Southampton University are going to build it.

The guy who got the record did it in 1979. He took two and a half hours to do it back then, which will be the time to beat. It will be a challenge and I’ll need to be as light as possible if I do make the attempt.

Cyc: Many would say the lasting impact of your Tour win is the incredible renaissance of cycling in the UK. But do you feel enough has been done to encourage cycling in the UK? Would you feel safe to cycle in London?

BW: I do cycle in London quite a bit, actually. I often get those Santander bikes out of the machines, just because it’s the easiest and quickest way around.

I mean, it’s easy to say more people should be cycling in London but the numbers are already huge. It just seems to be getting busier and busier so there’s no wrong or right answer.

You end up offending someone when you say there should be more cycling. I think we have to be grateful for what it is compared to 20 years ago. It’s getting better with the highway along the Embankment and all that.

Cyc: Do you take pride in having played a part in the cycling revolution in the UK?

BW: To tell the truth, I get hammered for it when I’m in traffic in taxis. ‘That’s your fault, Brad,’ they say, ‘This is your fault!’ I usually just say don’t blame me, it’s not my fault – I was just doing my job.

Sir Bradley Wiggins

Age: 39
Nationality: British
Honours: Tour de France: 1st, 2012, two stage wins
Olympic Games: Five gold medals, 2016 team pursuit, 2012 time-trial, 2008 individual pursuit, 2008 team pursuit, 2004 individual pursuit
Road World Championships: 1st, 2014 time-trial
Track World Championships: Seven gold medals, 2003-2016
Hour record: 2015, 54.526km

Bradley Wiggins is an ambassador for Le Col clothing. Cyclist spoke to him at the launch of the Le Col 2019 spring/summer collection in Mallorca