EVEN for a four-times Olympic champion, finishing second can sometimes be enough.
Yesterday, Sir Bradley Wiggins settled for silver in the world championships time trial, completing a fine comeback after abandoning the Giro d’Italia.
The Briton, who had the upper hand at the London Games last year, finished 46 seconds behind German Tony Martin but beat Swiss Fabian Cancellara by two seconds.
“There is always a tinge of disappointment because you can’t be world champ but, at the same time, you have to accept when you are beaten by a better athlete on the day,” Wiggins said. “I’m pretty happy.”
Wiggins has had a rough season after a remarkable 2012 when he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France before winning the road time trial Olympic title.
His Team Sky said that Chris Froome, the eventual winner, would be the leader on the Tour after Wiggins had said he would be out to defend his title.
He was also forced out of the Giro in May, his main target of the season, because of illness before announcing later that month he would not be on the Tour as he was losing his race for fitness.
“It was hard, it was challenging, I pretty much went back to the drawing board,” said Wiggins. “I started training while the Dauphine was on [in early June] pretty much on my own. Just going out in Lancashire, stopping at petrol stations to fill up my bottle, changing my tubes when I punctured.”
While all eyes were on Froome and his challenge to succeed his team-mate on the Tour’s list of champions, Wiggins resumed training on his own.
“It felt like a complete fall from grace,” he said. “I like that solitude, I like that feeling. It was nice, it was kind of the start of the road back really, missing the Tour, with all that it was the best thing that happened to me. I had a good two years before that so for me to start right back at the bottom again and realise just how much work it took to get to the top.”
Wiggins’s return to competition came in July at the Tour of Poland, where he won the individual time trial before going on to win the Tour of Britain.
“It’s been a long summer but quite a successful one with the win in Poland, the Tour of Britain and this,” he said. “It’s a great platform to go through the winter and to next year.”
When quizzed about his plans for 2014, Wiggins would not elaborate. “I don’t know yet, to be honest,” he said. “It’s not something that’s been occupying my mind these last few weeks. I’ve come a long way. I’ve won the Tour of Britain and now silver here. I definitely look back and I’m pretty happy.”
Yesterday, Wiggins came up short against Martin. Using an impressive 58-tooth chainring while Wiggins used a 56, the German powered through the flat course in Tuscany at an average speed of 52.911 kph – a performance that would have earned sixth place in last Sunday’s team time trial, which he won with his Omega Pharma-Quick Step outfit.
Martin, who won a Tour de France individual time trial at the Mont Saint Michel this year, was less than a second behind Cancellara at the first check point. The 2012 Olmpic silver medallist was then 14 seconds ahead of Cancellara at the second check point and 29 ahead of the Swiss, a four-times world champion in the discipline, at the third.
“To win a world championship is always special. To win it a third time in a row is even more special,” said Martin. “I can’t imagine a better race for me. I always knew I was able to win but to know, and to do it, is different.”