Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour de France, but the Briton is reticent to mark the anniversary overtly. “I haven’t really given it much thought, if I’m honest. It’s not something that I want to remember, every anniversary, ”Wiggins said in a conference call on Thursday. “I’m just amazed it’s been ten years. It’s gone so fast and so much has happened in that time. ”
When the journalists from across Europe first joined the call, they have always been told by the PR assistant that there are no other answers .
Shortly afterwards, however, Wiggins confessed that he had not “really looked at the route other than the first few stages” and later suggested that he had not been particularly newsworthy.
At one point, the call risking lurching into the kind of anodyne territory chartered by Pelé in his role as a corporate ambassador, when he would inevitably tell international reporters that his particular outsider chose to win the World Cup. Wiggins dutifully toured Europe, answering questions about the prospects of Jonas Vingegaard, Bora-Hansgrohe and whatever you were having yourself.
Mercifully, Wiggins was also willing to ignore the PR handler’s diktat about sticking rigorously to the present day, and he discussed his feelings about the impending anniversary and about the 2012 Tour de France itself. It was, remarkably, his last appearance at Sky’s requirements in the two years that followed, and he left the team midway through 2015.
That all seems unthinkable in the summer of 2012, when, within ten days of riding onto the Champs-Élysées in yellow, Wiggins claimed a gold medal on home roads at the London Olympics. For better or for ill, life would never be the same again.
At the time, Wiggins was feted as a national hero, but the public perception of his life has been damaged by the scandals that appear, notably the Fancy Bears tribunal into the practices of former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman.
Wiggins himself, meanwhile, has often evinced a certain ambiguity about his success, even in his final months at Team Sky, when he used to suggest, that winning Paris-Roubaix would be a greater achievement landing the Tour. Training for it, he said then, was definitely more enjoyable.
Ten years on, what his current relationship with his achievements of 2012?
“It’s good. I’m very proud of them: I’ve accepted them. They’re part of my life, ”Wiggins said. “I was a different person [in 2012], but not in a sort of massive, deep sense. I think the thing you have to adopt as an elite athlete is a very different one to normal life. I’ve realized that now.
“The mindset of an elite athlete is so abnormal, and not a healthy one, but what makes the achievement so remarkable and what trans people to the sport. I’m so far removed from it now. I think the sad thing is that I’d stayed in that mindset, I’d be in a very bad place now. It’s why you achieve greatness, really. It’s at the expense of everything else. ”
Wiggins had an uneasy coexistence with Chris Froome during that 2012 Tour, when he also bristled at questions about the credibility of his and his Sky team’s performances. He cut a mildly more relaxed figure once the race left the Pyrenees and headed towards Paris, but he downplayed the idea that he hadn’t enjoyed the experience of wearing the maillot jaune.
“I think it was just a sort of deflection tactic for all the bullshit that goes with it, really, with all the media circus,” Wiggins said of his demeanor on the race. “It’s hard, but I loved every minute of wearing that yellow jersey, don’t get me wrong. If it was now, I’d handle the circus aside from it very differently – a lot more gentlemanly, less swearing and a lot more appreciative of the people around me. But I can’t account for the person, because it’s what made me so good on the bike, really. ”
Some of Wiggins’ teammates from that time are still in the peloton a decade on. Mark Cavendish won three stages in 2012 on a SkyStep-AlphaVinyl selection this year, which would deny him the chance to notch up a 35th Tour record stage victory.
“Patrick [Lefevere] who knows what he is doing, if Cav’s not there, ”Wiggins said. “Any other team would be crazy to take him, he’s just won a stage of the Giro.
“Aside from the personal relationship with him, that he won four stages last year and the green jersey. Why would you take the defending green jersey back to the Tour de France? I can’t see anyone else on that team who would merit going ahead of him, personally. ”
Wiggins’ old rival Froome has been confirmed in the Israeli Premier Tech line-up, even if he hasn’t approached his old form in the aftermath of his career-threatening crash at the 2019 Dauphiné. “He may surprise us all. GC may be beyond him, but it would be nice to see him up the road in a break and pull off a stage win, ”said Wiggins, who supported his former teammate Geraint Thomas at the Tour de Suisse.
“Even though he hasn’t had the physical attributes he had a couple of years ago when he won the Tour – that recent win in the Tour de Suisse was incredible. For sure, he’s in podium contention, ”Wiggins said. “And because of the real racer that Geraint is, if he gets down to a position where there’s a little bit of cat and mouse between the UAE and Jumbo-Visma, he could slip into a move and surprise everyone.”
The men to beat, however, are from Slovenia, especially Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Wiggins has observed Pogačar at close quarters this season from aboard the in-race motorbike, and he found it hard to imagine how he would have been trying to beat the Tour champion who had been in the peloton a decade ago.
“It’s hard to answer that. When I look at it now, it seems like worlds apart and I can’t imagine ever doing anything like that, so I’m not in the mindset where I’d say, ‘Fuck it, I’d do this, ‘or,’ I’d attack him here or there, ‘”Wiggins said. “I’m not so well-informed, that I can’t really answer that question with any sincerity really.
“I would naturally, automatically think there’s no way I could beat him. But I might be betraying my former self by saying that really. I don’t know what the Wiggo of 2012 would have said or how he would have handled it. That’s one of the downsides of being so close to the sport now on the motorbike. I’m in such awe of what they do I can’t ever imagine that I did that, really. ”