Bradley Wiggins revealed he has asked Lance Armstrong for advice on dealing with the constant media attention after becoming a Tour de France contender. Fortunately, he has not lost any of his sincerity, wit or bluntness.
Speaking on the first rest day of the Tour de France in Limoges, Wiggins revealed he was inspired to go for the overall classification at the Tour after seeing Garmin team leader Christian Vande Velde and fellow Brit Mark Cavendish do so well.
“It’s just the fact I know he’s clean, what you can do on bread and water… fifth in the Tour de France,” he said, opening up.
“It’s complicated, I don’t want to go too much into it because I get myself into so much bother with this kind of stuff. But I left the Tour in 2007 saying I’d never come back, I’d had too much of an arse of it. Then watching it on telly last year, seeing people like Christian and Cav, it was a breath of fresh air from previous years.”
As he revealed in his autobiography, Wiggins confirms that he lost control of his career after the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“2005 and 2006 were like lost years for me. I didn’t have any ambition. I was just a different person then really, a completely different person,’ he said.
“I didn’t have the work ethic then to be honest. I was coming off back of the Olympics, being Olympic champion aged 24 and I thought I was it a bit, to be honest, for how much I was feted for winning a four-minute race, I thought I’d made it. But I was in a (pro) team that I disliked, surrounded by people that disliked me. In 2006 I just wanted to do the Tour to say I’d done the Tour and I didn’t think I’d come back.”
AT HOME WITH GARMIN
Wiggins got his road career going again thanks to joining Team Columbia in 2008. However he moved to Garmin for the 2009 season so that he could find out if he could fulfill his Tour ambitions.
As a rather unique individual, he revels he suffered in the regimental structure at Columbia and prefers the looser, if sometimes less organised, set-up at Garmin.
“(Columbia) is starting to become the Cav show a bit’ he says sincerely, without a hint of criticism of his fellow Brit.
“I wasn’t with team that much last year, but when I was with them there was a feeling that this could all end tomorrow, we could all be out of a job. I didn’t like that. I always liked JV’s (Jonathan Vaughters) relaxed friendship and relationship I’ve had with him over years, since he was a rider.”
“I might have had the same year if I’d stayed at Columbia, but they were definitely building a team around Cav for the sprints. They’ve got so many riders who can win bike races, you almost just become a number there. I wanted to blend into a team of similar riders with similar attitudes, this team gives you freedom to be who you want to be, no one really cares. They’re all different characters here.”
“In French teams you had to fit into the clique, and take the piss out of the people they didn’t like, and be like them, or you were a black sheep. Columbia is like that a little bit. Like being a child almost. If you drink you’re off the team, well I’d like to be given the choice to do things like that, make your own mind up. We’re all adults.”
“Little things make a difference for me. For others, Columbia might be perfect team. We’re all difficult individuals as bike riders anyway, I think that’s what makes us good at some things. We’re awkward and like our own little things. I’m quite individual in a lot of things, but no different to anyone else in life.”
“We’re definitely much more of a family (at Garmin) without shouting about it. In this team, people want life contracts. It’s just like a close knit friendship without being outwardly like that to the press. It’s relaxed atmosphere, no pressure to get results, which suits me.”
FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE TOUR
Despite the pressures of life as an overall contender, Wiggins loves the Tour de France.
“I love the Tour, I’ve always loved the Tour,” he said.
“I just don’t like it when it gets to the bullshit stage, when there’s a doping scandal and everyone asks Brad Wiggins what he thinks, I get really pissed off with that. I just ride my bike and everyone thinks I know all the answers, but I’m not as intelligent as a lot of people, especially the press think.”
“It’s satisfying to be doing well and I’m trying to enjoy it. good thing is I’m not expected to do anything. I know a lot expect something now. But I can play off that, take the piss with it a bit, almost go along with it, get to that time trial which I know suits me. Play around with my form a bit, which perhaps I wouldn’t do if I’d prepared all year for it and was really stressed about it.”
He repeated he will be taking the next two weeks day by day and refused to predict his final overall result in Paris.
“The more you think about it harder it becomes, and then you get to third week and you’re a bit of a milkshake. But at the end of the day, it’s only the Tour de France.”
LATEST TOUR NEWS
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
Tour de France 2009: Who will win?
Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules
Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France
Tour de France anti-doping measures explained
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Cycling Weekly’s rider profiles