International Cycling

'Wiggo' - cycling's colourful history-maker

2016-12-29 12:27
Bradley Wiggins (Getty Images)

London - Bradley Wiggins has bowed out of professional cycling after a glittering career that saw him become the first Briton to win the Tour de France and his country's most decorated Olympian.

The Belgium-born Londoner, who grew up in Kilburn dreaming of winning the coveted yellow jersey, also established himself as an independent character with an outspoken streak.

"He's authentic so people enjoy that," says Chris Boardman, a gold medallist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and former technical adviser to the British road and track cycling team.

"It might be messy, you're not quite sure if he's going to swear or be sober, but he's real and in this day and age where everyone is media managed, it's appreciated."

Wiggins' sporting pinnacle came in 2012. After winning the Tour de France, he went on to win Olympic gold on home soil at the London Games.

For a man with a rocky childhood and a grudge against an absent father who died in a drunken stupor in 2008, Wiggins seems unaffected by his success.

He is a dedicated family man who appreciates simple things like "walking to the local shop to buy a loaf and a pint of milk".

Born in Ghent, Belgium, Wiggins was brought up in London "listening to Oasis" and "dreaming of winning the yellow jersey" after his mother and Australian father - a well-known track cyclist who specialised in Six Day meetings - split up.

While watching Tour de France hero Miguel Indurain stamp his authority on the race from 1991-1995, Wiggins began cycling at Herne Hill Velodrome, the venue for the 1948 Olympics.

At the age of 18 he became a junior world champion and just two years later won the first of his eight Olympic medals - five of which are gold - at the Sydney Games.

In 2002, Wiggins made his first foray on to the road with the French team FDJ.

Even then, there was nothing fancy about Wiggins, FDJ team manager Marc Madiot recalling: "I remember him wearing these tatty old trainers and an old England top, and I thought to myself, 'This kid is hungry for success'."

His first taste of the Tour de France in 2006 was a bitter one, as he finished 124th overall and complained it was "too hard".

GOLD MEDALS

A year later, it did not get much better, as his Cofidis team were forced out of race when team-mate Cristian Moreni tested positive for banned blood booster EPO.

Wiggins recovered to win two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as he defended his individual pursuit crown and won team pursuit gold.

On the road, his stalled career was revitalised after he joined Team Sky.

Having won the prestigious Criterium du Dauphine in June 2011, he rebounded from his 2010 Tour crash by finishing third at the 2011 Tour of Spain.

A monk-like existence of training in Majorca and at high altitude in Tenerife helped him to wins in 2012 in the Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie and a successful defence of his Dauphine crown before more crowning glory on the Tour and at the Olympics.

Thereafter came wins in the Tours of Britain and California before his final gold in the team pursuit in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

His success with Sky has been accompanied by whispers about shady practices after it was revealed that he had obtained therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for the banned substance triamcinolone shortly before the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d'Italia.

Wiggins, who has denied any wrongdoing, said after that 2012 Tour de France win that he hoped his achievement would not go to his head.

"I'm not into celebrity life, red carpets and all that rubbish," he said.

While proving to be instantly appealing to the public with his funny asides and professed love of 'mod' culture, Wiggins' moody unpredictability meant he often had frosty relations with other cyclists.

But do not bet on Wiggins opting completely out of the sport.

"I'll always be riding my bike," he has said. "I come from a cycling family. I'll probably be there in 20 years' time marshalling on the corner somewhere for a local 10km.

"I'll still be in a cycling club. It's pretty embedded."

If he survives the anti-doping scrutiny that has snared several past champions, he will continue to be an inspiration to millions.

Read more on:    bradley wiggins  |  cycling
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