Ian Herbert: This is cycling's hour of need... so where's King Bradley Wiggins?

We need more from him than the light biographical narrative and the happy sense of how he has got from there to here

Bradley Wiggins has not gone looking for the limelight just lately.

He gave up waiting and slipped quietly out the back door of the Manchester Velodrome last month when the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, was late for a meeting with Dave Brailsford which provided some valuable national media profile for British Cycling. There was no great incentive to stay, Wiggins might say, because he is a Liverpool fan, but he and Mancini together would have certainly been a much-needed feelgood story for cycling. If ever Wiggins' sport needed its most famous athlete out there, at the vanguard, then it is now, as its reputation becomes more shredded and tattered with each passing day, and as Team Sky seek to demonstrate to an increasingly sceptical audience that they are a clean team, providing cycling with a brand new start.

Forgive the general public for not forgetting how they were asked to swallow precisely the same message in 1999 when, after the caravan raids and syringe stashes of the Festina crisis had reduced the 1998 Tour de France to a sham, the sport provided glittery packaging as it remarketed the following year's race as the "Tour of Renewal" with a custom-built saviour for this happy new beginning, called Lance Armstrong. It needs no one less than the most famous man in the sport to convince us that things will be different this time.

The problem is that Wiggins has never been much interested in the media scene. He never returned your call when he said he would in the days before sideburn masks became de rigueur and you didn't get the sense that spending an evening in the company of cloying strangers was his idea of fun when the release of the Usada report which upended cycling, earlier this month, coincided with a congratulatory soirée dedicated to Team Sky's success, to which Wiggins had signed up. To date, we really have only one snatched interview with him on the Usada report, for BBC Radio 5 Live, which is hardly the work of a talisman, positioning Team Sky on the moral high ground where they want to be.

The word from within his sport is that, after the Tour de France and the Olympics, Wiggins simply felt shot at and in need of a recharge. But the combined challenges of Col de la Madeleine, Col de la Croix de Fer and the Peyragudes pale in comparison with the task Brailsford has on his hands in demonstrating his team's probity now. The performance director is doing what he can to assuage any niggling doubts that Team Sky – set up on a prospectus about clean cycling – really is what he says it is, top to bottom. All 80 of its staff, we have been told, are being interviewed, primarily by Brailsford and GB psychiatrist Mike Peters, and then being asked to sign an agreement to say they have not been involved in doping. Except, as the former UCI doping adviser Dr Michael Ashenden asked at the weekend, how do we tell that the statements are worth the paper they're written on? If Sean Yates, who worked with Armstrong on the Motorola and Astana teams and is photographed arm-in-arm with "Motoman", Armstrong's alleged drugs mule, on photographs washing around the internet, signs Brailsford's statement, then is that the end of the matter? And what about the Australian Michael Rogers, a key member of Sky's 2012 Tour-winning team, who worked with disgraced doctor Michele Ferrari and is named in Levi Leipheimer's testimony about Ferrari's Tenerife training camps?

There is no evidence that either Yates or Rogers has doped but persuading the world that an athlete can be taken at his word, in this of all sports, will be as difficult as retaining clear blue sky between the unravelling storm and Brailsford's team. The extraordinary revelations in the weekend's Mail on Sunday that a former rider who has signed Brailsford's statement has been the subject of doping allegations by no fewer than three independent sources, all of whom worked with him, suggests that a bumpy road lies ahead.

All of which is why Wiggins needs to give Brailsford a bit more acuity now than he did in that eye-watering attack this summer on the "bone-idle" Twitter "wankers" who suggested he might not be clean and for whom it is "easy... to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that sort of shit, rather than get off their arses in their own lives and apply themselves and work hard at something".

A little more diplomacy is certainly guaranteed for the next few weeks ahead, when we shall see Wiggins stepping back into the limelight to promote the new autobiography, My Time, which he has written with William Fotheringham and which has attracted a big-money serialisation buy-up. But we need more from him than the light biographical narrative and the happy sense of how he has got from there to here. Wiggins sometimes puts himself out there in unconventional ways and over Christmas we will hear him on the BBC Radio 6 airwaves, in conversation with his friend Paul Weller, talking music and playing some of their favourite classic tracks. We need much more than easy listening, now.

And, before all that, we have the launch event tomorrow of the 2013 Tour de France, when Wiggins will be on hand to discuss a route expected to include a double climb of Alpe d'Huez, three days before the finish in Paris, and a Mont Ventoux stage. Precisely 14 years on from the launch of the Renewal Tour, also expect plenty of promises about clean cycling and fresh starts. But we've been here before. It will take a lot more than a 30-minute press conference to rebuild cycling from the sorry wreck to which it has been reduced. Where are you Bradley Wiggins? Your sport needs you.

Banks had the balls to wear a T-shirt

After the controversy of Liverpool players wearing Luis Suarez T-shirts last season, which I think most of us can now agree was a poor piece of judgement, we have now been treated to not wearing one becoming a form of protest, which is really not much better.

Reading's Jason Roberts was entitled to exercise the footballing equivalent of Naomi Klein's anti-corporatist No Logo campaign since he had spent months complaining to Kick It Out about the need to be more voluble. It is hard to feel so much pride, though, in the rest of the players who warmed up, all mean and moody, without the T-shirts. Where the fight against racial inequality goes, Premier League footballers are the ones with the power to be heard but where, besides Roberts, are they all hiding?

I am currently reading a biography of former Bolton Wanderers defender Tommy Banks, by Ian Seddon, which charts how Banks – a coal miner, hod carrier and eventually an England international – recognised the wrongs of footballers' contracts in the post-war game and put them right. Retired players of a certain generation still remember Banks' speech, at a mass gathering of PFA members in January 1961, which helped secure the abolition of maximum wages. It takes spirit and determination, not a huge intellect, to right inequalities. You wouldn't have caught Banks boycotting a T-shirt.

Fergie almost utters the hardest word

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday said it was "a communication issue" between the two of them. But his climb-down from the ominous talk on Saturday night of how he had been "embarrassed" by Rio Ferdinand over his Kick It Out protest and that the defender would "be dealt with" revealed the Manchester United manager realises he should have spoken to the defender before launching his missiles on the issue. Ferguson does not make public apologies to players but that is as near to one as he will ever get.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee