Glasgow 2014: Bradley Wiggins settles for silver
HAD things worked out differently, he would have been completing the scenic final mountain stage at the Tour de France, riding from Pau to Hautacam.
Instead it was an all-too-brief appearance on the boards in a sweltering Glasgow velodrome, named after someone who, like him, has been knighted for his achievements in cycling.
There was to be no special treatment for Sir Bradley Wiggins, just as there was none for Sir Chris Hoy, who had his identity questioned as he tried to get into his own velodrome yesterday. Perhaps Wiggins was right, they really could have done more to advertise who the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome takes its name from. The admittedly now retired Scottish Olympic legend was asked to turn over his accreditation badge so it was showing his name as he tried to enter his own arena yesterday.
Wiggins was also right about something else. He cannot expect to turn up and claim a gold medal in what was clearly a high-quality field, particularly having had his preparations compromised. He had expected to be pushing his body through a completely different type of challenge in France to what it was faced with yesterday.
In total he was on the track for just under eight minutes. Wiggins and his team-mates – Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant – raced 3.59.24 in the heats, and then were slightly slower as they battled it out with the Australian foursome, including reigning world champions Luke Davison and Alex Edmondson, for the gold medal. England clocked 4.00.136 in comparison to the victors’ time of 3.54.851.
We seem to spend a lot of time referring to knights when it come to cycling, and yet another one in the shape of Sir Dave Brailsford was the main reason why over 3,000 fans of track cycling had the added bonus of seeing Wiggins yesterday; it was the current manager of Team Sky who chose not to pick his compatriot ahead of this year’s tilt at the Tour de France title.
Rather than spending more than three hours in the saddle in the Pyrenees, in pursuit of champion-elect Vincenzo Nibali, Wiggins was chasing four Australians. It is they who are now the new Commonwealth team pursuit champions. Not England, who, despite the presence of Wiggins, could not overcome their great rivals in a contest that is spoken of as cycling’s version of the Ashes. While Australia rarely looked like losing the gold medal, it was a lot closer than the most recent clash of the country’s cricketing teams, much to the crowd’s pleasure.
Of course, even just under eight minutes of “Wiggo” action is more than the spectators might otherwise have seen of him in Glasgow. Had he been picked along with Chris Froome by Brailsford in Team Sky’s now doomed effort to win the Tour, he would have been far from the hoopla here. Indeed, it seems as though Wiggins has himself become quite philosophical about the developments.
He said yesterday that he enjoyed the “intensity” of returning to the track while he also admitted he was surprised by the warmth of the welcome from the Scottish fans.
“I was just saying to the guys how good the support here has been,” he said. “The buzz around the city has been incredible. We went into the city centre the other day and it was free coffees for us everywhere we went. It was fantastic and it has surprised all of us really, especially being from England.” A silver medal is also better than broken bones and bruises, which is what Froome was left with after he crashed out of the Tour de France in the first few days.
This latest medal continues Wiggins’ association with the Commonwealth Games. Wiggins’ first major international event as a senior was in Kuala Lumper in 1998. His appearance here does complete a circle in a way, although it is obvious how he really wishes to wrap up his stellar career – by winning gold in the team pursuit at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in two years’ time.
He conceded that there is much still to do if he is to achieve the dream of a fifth Olympic gold medal. In a typically wry Wiggins aside, he smiled that he did not intend to come across like England manager Roy Hodgson, who is forever pondering the need for improvement.
“Four weeks ago we sat in a room for the first time in six years and wondered how far we can go,” Wiggins said with reference to his team-mates, after clambering down from the podium, following his first major track appearance since the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
“I think we’re disappointed but in hindsight we will look back on this and think this was the start of things for us. Over the next two years Rio is the goal and we’re going to work back from that target.
“It takes four people to be on a par and we’ve all had such different preparations this year but I think there’s a lot of positives to take from it. I don’t want to sound like Roy Hodgson but we’ve definitely got some work to do.”
There was no question he was giving his all yesterday. Indeed, there was no reason not to. With Wiggins having already decided to drop out of the time trial and road race events, this was the last action he will see at the Commonwealth Games – ever.
Sadly for an event which received confirmation yesterday of Mo Farah’s no-show, Wiggins could have daubed the message ‘that’s all folks’ across the back of his helmet as he crossed the finishing line.
That’s it for his Scottish fans – and there are many, on the evidence of yesterday – at least. However, there are still other chapters which remain to be written in this knight’s tale.