My little corner of Lancashire is a warren of country lanes that criss-cross, link up, and loop around to provide a near infinite number of unique bike rides. It’s prime road biking real estate. One of these lanes takes you past the Wiggins family home; Sir Bradley having relocated here some years back for the privacy.
It causes me to behave in a strange way.
It’s a nice pad, as you might imagine, nestled behind high walls and strong looking gates. Whenever I ride past I do a weird thing. I clench my stomach muscles, click up a couple of gears, stand on the pedals, and affect my version of late Grand Tour Alpine attack.
It’s a pathetic display that does me no favours.
I wonder what I’m trying to achieve? Clearly there’s a sub-conscious hope that Sir Brad will be home, gazing out the window, and will spot me. So how does it go from there? Wiggo sees me, a competent forty-four-year-old cyclist, and thinks what?
Wow, look at that dude! He is clearly in relatively good physical condition. I am sorely tempted to create a local veteran road racing team and recruit him as my road captain. In fact, I’ll invite him in for a brew immediately. I’ll give him on of these pristine Team Sky edition Pinarello Dogma bikes that hangs on my wall by way of recompense.
I hope he writes a blog, I feel sure it will be my new favourite blog and I can then promote it using my vast reach on social media. As luck would have it I’m in the market for a new best mate too, I wonder if he’s busy?
None of these things have yet come to pass.
If that house were home to Tadej Pogacar or Remco Evenepoel, fresh-faced young whipper-snappers of the pro peloton, the effect would not be so potent. I would enjoy the fact of riding past but would not give the peacock display.
Wiggins is my generation. I see myself reflected back in him. I remember the jubilant delight upon realising, around Stage 17 of the 2012 Tour de France, that he, a British bloke with big ol’ lambchop sideburns, was actually going to win the actual Tour de France. It was astonishing and unbelievable.
And he capped it off with the ‘raffle’ gag on the podium and then teased Sue Barker on prime-time BBC TV. Okay, then he got a bit lost with the whole celebrity thing but we (most of us) forgave him. Because he was just like us (only extravagantly talented).
There was a connection. And it’s safe to say a fairly normal bloke of my generation will never win a massive global sporting event again. He’s one of the last. Hence the lingering hero worship.
By way of an unnerving postscript, back in 2020 Wiggins announced that he and his wife had unfortunately separated. All the signs are that he no longer lives in that house on the Lancashire lane. And yet I still do what I do when I ride past. For whoever currently lives there.
And that is definitely quite weird and is between me and my therapist.
(Image: Petit Brun from France, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)