Sir Bradley Wiggins is hoping to write a fairytale ending to his chapter on the road with Team Sky. This Sunday (April 12), he leads the team into French one-day classic Paris-Roubaix before switching focus to the track again.
Wiggins selected a series of Belgian races, and of course Paris-Roubaix in northern France, to close his career racing in the WorldTour. He helped Ian Stannard win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and worked for Geraint Thomas in the Tour of Flanders, but will take his turn on France’s cobbled farm roads.
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He explained it is a fairytale ending to a long road career on Roubaix’s velodrome, and would be even more so if he was able to stand on top of the podium with the cobble trophy in hand.
“It just wouldn’t be the same [ending] anywhere else. Roubaix is a fitting end,” Wiggins said.
“So many riders – [Johan] Museeuw, [Franco] Ballerini, [Peter] Van Petegem – I think they’ve all ended at Roubaix. At Roubaix, you come onto the velodrome, you get to do a lap of honour no matter where you finish and it’s probably the only race other than the Tour de France where riders plug on just to get to the finish. I’d rather ride on with a broken collarbone just to come into the Roubaix velodrome, because it’s the last race.”
Wiggins won three Olympic gold medals on the track before switching full time to the road. He won the Tour de France and several other stage races in 2012.
“I don’t think I owed it [to myself to have another dig at the classics]. I’d have quite happily stopped after the Worlds last year,” Wiggins continued.
“I ummed and ahed about it for a while – for a good while, I had quite a few drinks – and thought, ‘Well, do you really want to go and ride all them s**t races up there?’
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“I said, I’d like to finish [my career] with Roubaix, but then everyone starts to go ‘Oh, you can win Roubaix.’ Like it’s this fairytale ending, but obviously, it’s not as easy as that.
Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step) attacked solo with 6.2 kilometres remaining and won the Paris-Roubaix in 2014. Wiggins and Thomas remained in the chase group, placing ninth and seventh, respectively.
“I’d give anything just to be in that same position, on the Carrefour de l’Arbre again, as I was last year. That would be enough for me. I’d love to win, don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting here going ‘I’m going to accept ninth place’ but to have a clean run through the race, no crashes.
“I had one wheel change last year. I didn’t have any mishaps and I was there and I passed [Tom] Boonen on the Carrefour de l’Arbre and turned right and I was there with [Niki] Terpstra and all these guys. I’d quite happily retire on that corner this year!”
Wiggins explained that winning the ‘Queen of the Classics’ would be bigger than his 2012 Tour de France victory.
“It would be bigger in my eyes, at the moment. That is not to say that the Tour wasn’t huge because it was, but it would probably be more enjoyable because it’s one day,” Wiggins said.
“I don’t recall ever being at Roubaix where there is a big doping story which has overshadowed the race. It tends to be about the racing.
“There has been a great resurgence in the last few years of people becoming hooked on the history of the race. People like Rapha have helped with that. Mugs with Eddy Merckx on. Things like Sunday in Hell, the DVD, being reprinted. Old woollen jerseys. People are starting to embrace the history of it.”