The Curious Case of Bradley Wiggins

Brad Wiggins is an enigma. There is a lot about him that makes him easy to dislike. That mopey, Pete Townshend look on his face and mop hairdo are the low-hanging fruit in this case, with the length of his socks being there to round out the podium in a close third. Also, he dropped Bont for Giro, which is unacceptable mostly because the Giros make his feet look like dolphin flippers. And don’t get me started on the beard.

His Tour de France win in 2012 was probably the least interesting of this century; the standout memory from that event being the rumours of back-of-the-bus catfights between him and Chris Froome. I’m picturing something out of the broom scene in Fantasia, which almost makes up for how crap the actual race was.

When he targeted Paris-Roubaix this year I was haunted by visions of him sitting on some hideous throne while trying to hoist that beautiful cobble over his head. Fans at the roadside were waving WIGGO flags around that had a cobblestone on it, which made me want to stop and start drinking simultaneously.

I’ve never been a fan, but somehow I’ve always found him to be one of the most interesting characters in the peloton and one who I continue to have my eye on, watching for his next move.

I feel strongly that when someone is at the top of the sport, there comes with that a responsibility to lead and to be an ambassador. At the same time, I’ve always appreciated his unapologetic uneasiness with leadership and with being in the spotlight. He was also the first person in history to call the whole of the Cycling public both cunts and wankers in a single press conference, which is so wildly offensive that it kind of goes full circle to being funny.

He was born in Belgium. You have to love that. And he’s the only Grand Tour contender to target a cobbled classic since Greg LeMond, albeit not in the same year. Finally, he has a deep respect for the sport’s history, to the extent that he raced up the Ventoux with a photo of Tom Simpson in his jersey pocket in honor of his fallen countryman. Not to mention that he’s a bit of a fashion hound, striving to look as Fantastic off the bike as on it. Our personal tastes may differ, but at least he’s a Velominatus.

Finally, he’s the only one of the Time Trial Triumvirate of Faboo, Wiggins, and Der Panzerwagon to stake out the Hour Record as a goal immediately after the UCI modified the regulations, and went on to crush it, restoring honor to what was once one of the coolest events in Cycling.

In a modern Cycling model where the principle objective appears to be repeating the same feats as many times as possible, I find it incredibly refreshing that Wiggo seems satisfied with achieving a goal once and moving on to the next challenge with little thought of repeating. What’s next for Brad Wiggins? Sounds like he’s hoping for some Olympic shenanigans but who knows. He’s done that before.

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89 Replies to “The Curious Case of Bradley Wiggins”

  1. Thanks… now I can’t get the image of the Spider and Wiggo having some kind of weak-wristed slap fight in the back of a bus out of my head.

    Love ‘im or hate ‘im, Wiggo is one of us.

  2. Not a fan of the sock length but love his style and attitude on and off the bike. He is not a conventional sportsman or athlete and so stands out from the crowd. His strength, power, determination and palmares make him one of the cycling greats of this era.

  3. in Britain we have a (somewhat bullshit) end-of-year awards show called “Sports Personality of the Year”. Far too often this has been won by utter charm-vacuums such as David Beckham,Damon Hill etc.

    Wiggins managed to win in 2012*, a year Britain was hardly short of sporting success. He turned up as drunk as you’d expect him, and wound up playing guitar with Paul Weller on stage at the after party. Because whilst he’s a bit of an arse often, he is at least an interesting arse.

    Who’s now riding for a team that’s named after him, and is basically the current GB Men’s team pursuit squad for the track. Though he’s not raced for them much yet- hopes that he’d spend late May racing town centre crits were dashed, though he did play at bashing up and down dual carriageways doing club TTs in the rainbow stripes:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbP-kvNwYsc

    yes, that’s a 70mph open road.

    Target is said to be the Team Pursuit in Rio, and then supposedly he’s done. Though what “done” means fuck knows. For all his flaws he’s certainly enriched the sport.

    *in 2011, with little other sporting success and a concerted effort from cycling fans, Cavendish won

  4. @Frank “he dropped Bont for Giro”

    No wonder, since Bont isn’t offering a Mobility Polo as well. This website model even emulates Brad — look at  those giant hands.

  5. Oh, checking the SPOTY winners list for other cyclists- I knew about Hoy in 2008. I didn’t know about 1965- when Simpson won.

  6. Even if I did believe he was the only clean rider at Festina, he is still an arrogant cock.

    And he only won 2012 because Froome was called back to rescue him. High on my list of time travel requests is to take the batteries out of Brailsfords’ radio that day and see what happens to the remaining two weeks.

  7. @Kevin Morice

    Even if I did believe he was the only clean rider at Festina, he is still an arrogant cock.

    And he only won 2012 because Froome was called back to rescue him. High on my list of time travel requests is to take the batteries out of Brailsfords’ radio that day and see what happens to the remaining two weeks.

    I think your premise is flawed because Twiggo was clearly the stronger in the ITT, but nevertheless the notion of you (a) have a “Time Travel Request” list and (b) using it to take the batteries out of a race radio is absolutely classic. Well done, lad.

  8. Bradley is a bit of an enigma tis true. He was fed up with the throne thing at the 2012 games and then they dragged it out again for the hour. He’s not an arrogant cock, he’s a very shy but utterly warm hearted gent who loves his friends and family and could rip the legs off of just about any rider you would care to mention. Till you as good as he is keep your opinions to yourself.

  9. Agree with the article, although I do think Wiggins has done far more when it comes to spreading cycling in the UK than Froome.

    His Desert Island Disc appearance revealed an interesting and quite troubled character, especially in relation to his (dead) father. Well worth a listen, on the BBC.

    @Frank: have you thought about analysing recent French coverage of the Tour in relation to doping? Basically their none too subtle attacks on Sky, background, why, where it comes from, how it compares over time etc. I reckon there;s a really interesting piece to be done on it. I can help with any French translation if needed.   

  10. @Kevin Morice

    Even if I did believe he was the only clean rider at Festina, he is still an arrogant cock.

    And he only won 2012 because Froome was called back to rescue him. High on my list of time travel requests is to take the batteries out of Brailsfords’ radio that day and see what happens to the remaining two weeks.

    Errr, I think he rode for Cofidis, didn’t he? Also, the “arrogant” part. Show me a top athlete in any sport that doesn’t have an arrogant side to them. Some might call it self-confidence and self-knowledge which BW has in spades. I think he’s smarter and more thoughtful than the average athlete too. He has made astounding commitments to his cycling career but clearly thinks beyond it. Put it this way, who’d you rather have a pint with: Brad or Sastre? Brad or Leipheimer?

  11. @Oli

    @frank

    If you’re a Wiggo fan the 2012 Tour was AWESOME.

    Paragraph four, line one:

    I’ve never been a fan, but…

    Unless you’re trying to make me look at this from other people’s perspectives, in which case…hello, my name is Frank. What’s yours?

  12. @wiscot

    @Kevin Morice

    Even if I did believe he was the only clean rider at Festina, he is still an arrogant cock.

    And he only won 2012 because Froome was called back to rescue him. High on my list of time travel requests is to take the batteries out of Brailsfords’ radio that day and see what happens to the remaining two weeks.

    Errr, I think he rode for Cofidis, didn’t he? Also, the “arrogant” part. Show me a top athlete in any sport that doesn’t have an arrogant side to them. Some might call it self-confidence and self-knowledge which BW has in spades. I think he’s smarter and more thoughtful than the average athlete too. He has made astounding commitments to his cycling career but clearly thinks beyond it. Put it this way, who’d you rather have a pint with: Brad or Sastre? Brad or Leipheimer?

    OK, but you’re choosing the most boring characters. I’d gladly have a pint with Kelly, LeMond, Yates, Boonen, Gilbert, Nibali, and even Froome. Wiggo is the most likely to call me a cunt, though, so you have that. (I’d call him aloof, not arrogant, by the way.)

    He does seem smarter than most, and I like how he’s adopted the mod persona and the little British bullseye thing that has a name that I don’t care about, and quite clever to start his own team to allow him to keep pursuing targets at his own pace and leisure.

    Also, he plays guitar, which is always a step in the right direction.

  13. In his book, Wiggins talks about the ardor and the commitment necessary to win the TdF. He worked his plan meticulously and achieved his goal.  For him, that was enough. Whether the 2012 Tour was boring or not, he won. And then went on I to other important victories. Then soort of ‘ends’ his road career with Paris Roubaix. .  Then the HOUR

    .  This guy is a cycling master. Period.

  14. I always thought he was a 4+ wanker until recently. There are some which earned my respect immediately; LeMond, Hinault, Kelly; and some who I came to appreciate late: Voigt, the professor, and Vokler. Brad is one who came late to the show: too much douchebag to like right away, but on the end a good guy.

  15. @frank

    Nah, you made it pretty clear you’re not a fan. I was addressing your earlier summation of the Tour itself, and I didn’t realise you meant it was only boring because you’re not a Wiggins fan.

  16. I think what some fans and detractors see in Wiggins is much the same thing – that “smarter than average” idea is something some people like and something some people don’t and it’s all bundled up in how people view the perceived aloofness or arrogance that goes with it. I think if you asked some fans for an example of something he’s said or done that sums up why they love or hate him they’d point to the same example but some look at it say it makes him an arrogant jerk, while others will say it makes smarter than the average jerk. He’s a yardstick character that tells you as much about the person talking about him, as the person talking tells you about him (if that twisted sentence makes any sense) – and perhaps that’s a part of what makes him enigmatic.

    The other thing this article got me thinking about was the extent to which success breeds interest and the interest an average rider in the peleton can generate. For all his unique style, would we care or even know about it if he was just another rider slogging away for the team? I’d like to think fans underestimate how smart and interesting the average pro cyclist is, but I prefer not to know lest it turn out to be disappointingly untrue. You look at guy like Adam Hansen – and he’s got a persona as a bright guy tinkering with his shoes and the team logistic’s system – not just interested in cycling. There must be plenty of riders like that, or riders who have a particular style about them, maybe they’re movie buffs of wide readers or whatever, but because they haven’t ridden 13 grand tours straight, or haven’t stood on a podium in a grand tour or classic we don’t hear about them. Jens is another interesting one to consider – there is an element of outstanding riding that drew attention to him – one of those guys always in the break and then later, often on the front driving the pace – but there’s also an interest beyond that, a sheer force of character at play. I guess what I’m getting at is there’s the cult of success figures, and the cult figures, and then there’s a mix of the two. Maybe we need a scale of Merckx to someone – but who’s the someone? It’s got to be a cult figure that didn’t really have much success but that we still remember on the sheer weight of their personality. Jens obviously springs to mind, but he wasn’t entirely without success. I’d go with Adam Hansen – the consecutive tours is an amazing record but he’s not exactly a prolific breakaway figure or stage winner (is it one stage win in the giro?) – and he’s got that cult thing going on with his shoes and the logistics database thing he did.

    So on the Success-Personality Scale of Cultness (patent pending with the European Patent Office – “the other EPO”) I’d put Wiggins over towards the Merckx end rather than the Hansen end. Probably about a quarter of the way down the scale.

  17. There is a lot to like about Wiggins. I think I am a fan on his press comments alone. One thing that I haven’t seen raised much is the absolute dominance of his 2012 season, in stage races, compared to the rest of his career.  His performance that year was basically a season like no other in memory – certainly in the “modern era”. I think he won just about every stage race he entered that year?

    4 stage race victories in 2012 – Paris-Nice, Dauphine, Romandie and TdF. 3 other “top level” stage races in his career – Dauphine, California and Britain (and top level is being kind to Britain).

    Explicable, given his supposed absolute focus in that year, his progression to that from the track and after 2012, a conspiracy of circumstances in the form of Froome and his fairly rapid move to apparent disenchantment with the whole circus? Maybe.

    But no doubt curious as well.

  18. @frank

    @Oli

    @frank

    If you’re a Wiggo fan the 2012 Tour was AWESOME.

    Paragraph four, line one:

    I’ve never been a fan, but…

    Unless you’re trying to make me look at this from other people’s perspectives, in which case…hello, my name is Frank. What’s yours?

    The 2012 Tour couldn’t have been more suited to Wiggins if he has designed the course himself. It was horrendously boring in that exemplified Sky’s racing by data technique. It was successful but boring.

  19. @frank


    He does seem smarter than most, and I like how he’s adopted the mod persona and the little British bullseye thing that has a name that I don’t care about,

    Roundel.

    And I think you’re doing him a disservice there – saying he’s “adopted” a persona as if he was Taylor Swift calculating some marketing image.

    The thing that really defines whether people love or hate Wiggins is that he’s completely genuine. It all comes out with Wiggins, sometimes contradictory, sometimes touching, sometimes bizarre.

    But there always seems to be nothing less than complete honesty and you have to respect that in anyone, let alone a public figure.

  20. @Mikael Liddy

    I hadn’t seen that – it’s a good sum up. Cosmo does great work.

    I’d forgotten Hansen’s Vuelta win – don’t think he has a TDF win though – I recall him out front on at least one stage late but getting caught within the last 10kms.

    The obvious cult-figure archetype is Jens, but I’ve always preferred Hansen and since I made it up I’m sticking with it being Merckx-Hansen on the scale. Jens is just a whisker inside Hansen because Jens might not have individual stage wins in GTs (from memory he’s just been part of a TTT win in the tour?) he has worn yellow a couple of times, held the hour record, and also has more race wins than Hansen in general, so his cult of personality has a little more success behind it than Hansen’s.

  21. @Pete B

    Bradley is a bit of an enigma tis true. He was fed up with the throne thing at the 2012 games and then they dragged it out again for the hour. He’s not an arrogant cock, he’s a very shy but utterly warm hearted gent who loves his friends and family and could rip the legs off of just about any rider you would care to mention. Till you as good as he is keep your opinions to yourself.

    If we’re not allowed to have opinions on pro riders, because they are all better than us, then we’d probably better close down this site.

    I agreed with you to that point, by the way. But telling people you don’t really know on an open discussion website not to share their opinions if they don’t agree with you doesn’t make you a goodie.

  22. Does that mean you’re as good as Wiggins since you are also expressing an opinion or does that only apply to opinions you agree with?

    @Pete B

    Bradley is a bit of an enigma tis true. He was fed up with the throne thing at the 2012 games and then they dragged it out again for the hour. He’s not an arrogant cock, he’s a very shy but utterly warm hearted gent who loves his friends and family and could rip the legs off of just about any rider you would care to mention. Till you as good as he is keep your opinions to yourself.

  23. @RobSandy

    Hear hear! I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death (well, not ACTUAL death maybe…) your right to say it.

  24. @ped

    And I don’t think he even got out of the saddle – just turned on the pursuiting power!

  25. @frank

    @wiscot

    @Kevin Morice

    Even if I did believe he was the only clean rider at Festina, he is still an arrogant cock.

    And he only won 2012 because Froome was called back to rescue him. High on my list of time travel requests is to take the batteries out of Brailsfords’ radio that day and see what happens to the remaining two weeks.

    Errr, I think he rode for Cofidis, didn’t he? Also, the “arrogant” part. Show me a top athlete in any sport that doesn’t have an arrogant side to them. Some might call it self-confidence and self-knowledge which BW has in spades. I think he’s smarter and more thoughtful than the average athlete too. He has made astounding commitments to his cycling career but clearly thinks beyond it. Put it this way, who’d you rather have a pint with: Brad or Sastre? Brad or Leipheimer?

    OK, but you’re choosing the most boring characters. I’d gladly have a pint with Kelly, LeMond, Yates, Boonen, Gilbert, Nibali, and even Froome. Wiggo is the most likely to call me a cunt, though, so you have that. (I’d call him aloof, not arrogant, by the way.)

    He does seem smarter than most, and I like how he’s adopted the mod persona and the little British bullseye thing that has a name that I don’t care about, and quite clever to start his own team to allow him to keep pursuing targets at his own pace and leisure.

    Also, he plays guitar, which is always a step in the right direction.

    I tried to pick two of what I perceive to be boring riders. The list you give? I’d gladly drink a beer with any of them.

    In some ways, the animosity towards Wiggins is symptomatic of many sports – if you are seen/regarded as being smart or “intellectual” then you become an object of scorn and ridicule. In the 80s there was a Scottish footballer called Pat Nevin. He liked to read books and proper newspapers and intelligent films and was roundly criticized for it. This from Wikipedia:

    Nevin co-wrote a book, In Ma Head, Son, with psychologist Dr George Sik that was published in 1997. The book covers his experiences at Tranmere Rovers during the 1996–97 season and eschews the typical footballer’s autobiography being a dialogue with Sik which explores his worries, motivation and troubles as he comes to the end of his playing career. He has an arts degree from Glasgow Caledonian University. He was noted during his playing days for being somewhat different from the stereotypical footballer, especially through his interest in literature and the arts, and in his musical tastes, preferring The Fall and Joy Division to Phil Collins or Lionel Richie. As such, he was interviewed by the NME and was a guest presenter on Radio City during his Everton and Tranmere career.

    He didn’t read the sun shag his sister in law, beat people up, drive drunk or rape anyone. Had he done of of these, he’d be one of the lads. As it was he was ridiculed. I’d have a beer with him.

  26. @Mikael Liddy

    @dyalander

    Hansen has won a stage in all of the GT’s I’m pretty sure, for more on why he’s awesome, see below.

    Damn. You made me miss Cosmo all over again.  I think a key symptom of the sad state of pro cycling economics is that a guy as talented as Cosmo had to go and take a day job as a video editor.  Lack of having HTRWW makes this season seem shallower.

    As to Wiggins, he’s OK in my book. The retro-mod kit for Team Wiggins is a step in the right direction. The guitar playing and old bike collecting mean we would have a lot to talk about over a beer.

  27. Are his tattoos genuine?

    They’re pretty fucking shitty. Seems like the dude who isn’t ruff getting tattoos to prove he’s ruff. Dandies who dress like him and tattoos shouldn’t be mixed, though he’s not the only doosh who has Hell’s Angels rolling in their graves. I see far too many nerdy academics on a daily basis with clusterfuck explosions of tattoos on their spindly arms.

  28. I don’t think I like Wiggo, but I find him a lot more interesting than Froome.  I was very skeptical of him pursuing PR as a goal but to his credit he had strong rides in it the last two years.

    @wiscot

    preferring The Fall and Joy Division

    Mark E. Smith should write a song about Wiggo.

  29. @Marcus

    There is a lot to like about Wiggins. I think I am a fan on his press comments alone.

    Yeah baby, I’m with you there. Hair cuts and sock height in the negative column but most everything else in the positive.

  30. @Nate

    I don’t think I like Wiggo, but I find him a lot more interesting than Froome.  I was very skeptical of him pursuing PR as a goal but to his credit he had strong rides in it the last two years.

    @wiscot

    preferring The Fall and Joy Division

    Mark E. Smith should write a song about Wiggo.

    Sounds good. Wiggo leaving Sky: Love Will Tear Us Apart?

    Or this on the dietary demands of a pro cyclist: Eat Y’self Fitter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFCOt6wbm80

    In memory of Paris-Roubaix and that he’s now a Lancashire lad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzivmOQWkVQ

  31. @wiscot

    @Nate

    I don’t think I like Wiggo, but I find him a lot more interesting than Froome.  I was very skeptical of him pursuing PR as a goal but to his credit he had strong rides in it the last two years.

    @wiscot

    preferring The Fall and Joy Division

    Mark E. Smith should write a song about Wiggo.

    Sounds good. Wiggo leaving Sky: Love Will Tear Us Apart?

    Or this on the dietary demands of a pro cyclist: Eat Y’self Fitter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFCOt6wbm80

    In memory of Paris-Roubaix and that he’s now a Lancashire lad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzivmOQWkVQ

    For some reason I keep thinking of Athlete Cured:

    https://youtu.be/tXcI7YROuHE

  32. I’m certainly not a huge fan of Wiggo the personality; he is however a damn good rider with a very respectable list of achievements (TDF, Olympic Medals, Hour Record etc) but what really separates him from the others is his personality.  

    Love him or hate him you can’t argue that he stands out from the crowd and, for me, that makes him a legend.

  33. In all the mentions of riders who aren’t quite like the other children, surely Cuddles needs a mention? Who could forget Brett’s “roo loose in the top paddock”?

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