Good-Bye Sir Bradley!
Sir Bradley Wiggins announced his retirement at the end of the Gent 6 Day, and it was for sure this time, or was it? Ed Hood has followed the career of the multi-champion through thick and thin; from pursuiter to time trial specialist to Tour de France winner and back to track supremo again. Is Ed a fan, or his biggest critic? You decide.
So, it’s all over?
PEZ’s cycling sage and prophet, Vik reckons he’ll be back for Tokyo and in the world of Sir Bradley Wiggins, I wouldn’t bet against that possibility. Here at PEZ I felt I had to record his retirement with a few personal memories, some good and some not so good.
# The Gent Six Day, 1984/85 the first time I remember seeing Brad’s dad, ‘The Doc’ aka Garry Wiggins race. Big, strong, square shouldered with huge hands and thighs – a beast of a man on a bike. He was a six day winner – with Tony Doyle in Bremen – and also won the European Madison title with the Englishman. Brad did the best thing an athlete can do in their quest for success – he picked his parents well. Sad that Garry lost his life after a savage beating with still no charges pressed against anyone.
# It’s 1998 and I’m on a train from Dunfermline to Edinburgh – don’t ask me why, I’ve no idea – and have time to read ‘The Comic’ that’s the ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine. Just about our only link with world cycling in those pre-net days. Bradley has won the World Junior Pursuit Championship in Cuba – ‘wow!’ I think, talented young man that, GB didn’t win so many medals back then. The silver medallist was Daniel Palicki of Germany who got himself a rainbow jersey in the team pursuit that year but who’s career never really developed. Bronze medallist was the very talented Thue Houlberg Hansen who won multiple National track titles as a junior, turned U23 and took two consecutive Danish U23 individual time trial titles and then. . .
# Gent, the Kuipke Velodrome 2003, the finale of the six day and to win Bradley has to come round Bruno Risi in the final sprint to win. Just writing those words is daft and hard to imagine – never mind actually seeing it happen. Bruno had to kick back hard to let Brad come round him – convincing it was not, most unlike a Bruno finale.
# Strasbourg 2006 – the Tour is finally underway sans Big Jan, Basso, Mancebo and the entire Astana team.
David Millar is back from the wilderness and there’s talk of a prologue shoot out between the Scotsman and Bradley – but both would end up way off the pace that day. I spoke to Bradley that day before he began his final preparation for the ride and was struck by how nervous he was; I got the strong feeling he wished he was somewhere else. The cocky, arrogant Brad was yet to be released upon the world.
# Le Tour 2009 and Bradley finishes a magnificent 4th (later promoted to 3rd when the extent of Lance’s monkeydom was finally realized). We were on some of the big climbs that year including the Ventoux and Bradley was very, very impressive.
# But he always has to go and spoil it; Sky were desperate for him and paid big bucks to snaffle him from Garmin. He came away with his infamous ‘Garmin as Wigan Athletic; Sky as Manchester United’ soccer team analogy. Vaughters gave him a chance at Garmin; Brad had run out of French teams by then – Bradley should have handled that move much better, thanking Vaughters and not disrespecting the US team. Not that Vaughters was too worried – he was laughing all the way to the bank with the amount of moolah Sky had to part with to get Bradley out of his contract.
# A year later and I’m interviewing Sky’s Serge Pauwels who’s just about to head off to Le Tour. I ask about Bradley’s form for the ‘Big Loop’ – ‘not good, he wasn’t going well at all at the last training camp, he’ll be lucky to make the top 20.’
‘Jeez! I best not quote him on that one, he’ll get fired!’ I thought to myself. But Serge was spot on; 23rd for the Mod Father – all part of the Wiggins roller coaster.
# The final time test of the 2012 Tour; it’s surreal – I believed that I would never witness a British Grand Tour winner in my lifetime but there he is, clad in yellow from top toe, rolling out of the start house to destroy all comers against the watch and underscore his win in the biggest race on the planet – hugely impressive.
# Paris, the next day and I’m getting phone calls from grown men who can’t control their emotions on the historic day and are crying down the phone to me. But you know Brad, he always has to kick the backside out of it – this time it’s his ‘calling the bingo numbers’ routine on the final podium. This faux pas is compounded by TV commentator Ned Boulting telling us all how cool it is. Try ‘disrespectful/tactless/unprofessional/appalling’ – but maybe it’s me, those ‘new ways,’ you know?
# The Six Days of Gent 2016 and for the first time in years I’m not there – but best watch the final chase on tele. As I sit there on the couch in my head I hear the letter box flap; ‘Cav and Wiggins go late, take a lap and win’ it says on my imaginary postcard from Gent. Sure enough, they zip round and take the ‘crucial’ lap in less time than it takes to write about it; no drama, no theatre, no suspense – Jeez, another dire finale.
# And just to make sure he goes out in style there’s the ‘F-word’ ridden Gent press conference – nice one, Sir Bradley. Setting a great example to young sportsmen, everywhere.
# And then there was the ‘never take my package’ Instagram nonsense the other day – his fellow knight of the realm, and ex-boss Sir David must have been impressed with that one as he recovers from a surprisingly thorough grilling by the Parliamentary Committee about said ‘package.’
Adios Sir Bradley Wiggins, self proclaimed ‘man of the people,’ who the Guardian newspaper tells us is a ‘national treasure’ – but as Lieutenant Columbo might say; ‘you know, my wife loves you sir – but just one more t’ing please, what about them TUE’s?’
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,200 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.
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