National, European, and former world cyclocross champion Tom Pidcock might be the most exciting up-and-coming rider in British cycling right now, but his new boss doesn’t think a possible future move to Britain’s only WorldTour team would do his development any good.
Speaking at the launch of his team’s 2018 season in London, Wiggins seemed to make a number of joking references to Team Sky’s dominance of cycling and their approach to racing, but insisted that he wasn’t taking pops at his former employers.
“I wasn’t making barbed jokes, that’s the reality of where the sport is at the moment, from what I follow. I’m not making digs,” Wiggins said.
“I saw the reports from last week and they are still the best team in the race with the races they won [two stages and the overall of the Volta ao Algarve and two stages of the Ruta del Sol].
“There’s a lot of talk about them at the moment, and there’s a lot of negative talk too. That’s the reality of it.”
While not explicitly mentioning Team Sky, Wiggins also said that he was aiming to do things a little different with his team, trying to do more to improve accessibility and openness.
“This team is about engaging with the public. We don’t want to be hidden behind black screens at the start with big buses and not talking to anyone and having a big PR team spouting rubbish at you everyday,” Wiggins continued.
“Cycling has become so serious, everything’s about results and power meters and skinsuits and aero helmets, and I want to take things back a bit to when Hinault and all that lot used to get changed in the back of the car and fans could go up to the riders and talk to them. You can’t get near them any more.”
Much of the “negative talk” around Team Sky in recent years has centred on UK Anti-Doping’s investigation into the contents of a Jiffy bag delivered to Wiggins and the team at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné (which was closed without UKAD being able to conclude what was in the bag) and Chris Froome’s ongoing anti-doping investigation – two subjects on which Wiggins, accompanied by a PR advisor, declined to answer questions on Tuesday.
The former Tour winner is now hoping that his team can continue to make a positive impact on cycling and emulate the success of Axel Merckx’s Hagens Berman Axeon team in producing a conveyor-belt of professional riders.
“No one else is doing teams like this other than Axel Merckx really,” Wiggins continued.”Everyone wants to go and win the Tour de France and have delusions of grandeur based on the money they’ve got or the riders they’ve got. This is a bit different and I like being a bit different.
“The amount of professional riders that comes from Axel’s team is incredible. We’ve built the reputation now that you either come to this team or you go to Axel’s team. That’s quite a big compliment for our team. We’re getting that reputation now.
“A few years ago the natural pathway was to go through the British Cycling Academy which is a bit on its arse at the moment if I’m being honest, because it’s all about the track, and if you don’t want to ride the track then there’s not a natural pathway to the road. So that’s what’s good about our team and Axel’s team.”
Watch: How to become a better climber
While Team Wiggins remain at Continental level, Hagens Berman Axeon have made the jump up to Professional Continental level in 2018, a step that Wiggins is not considering just yet, but does not rule out in the future.
“[We don’t have ambitions to go Pro Conti] at this stage,” Wiggins went on. ” I think we’re getting into the races already that we need to be in.
“I don’t want to start thinking too big for our station. We’re good at the level we’re at and we’re getting all the riders. But we’ll see, you never know in the future.”