Bradley Wiggins' athletic versatility is evident in his success

 

Before today’s time trial win, Bradley Wiggins emphasised that one of the biggest appeals of going for gold in this discipline was that it showed his athletic versatility - and given the last time we saw him on an Olympic podium was inside Laoshan velodrome in Beijing celebrating victory in the  pursuit event, both individual and team, back in 2008, there is certainly no denying that.

Part of this flexibility is due to his innate physiological qualities, but it can also be linked to Wiggins'  vast appreciation of cycling history and sense that he is breaking down barriers in it between different disciplines. I can recollect talking to Wiggins  in 2009 when he completed his first ever Paris-Roubaix, a hugely prestigious and notoriously difficult one-day ‘Classic’ where riders pound for miles across half-ruined cobbled farmtracks of northern France.. Wiggins finished a very respectable 25th, but  for him the result was not really important:  he told me he was proud merely to have been able to taken part and completed Paris-Roubaix, to have his own place, however tiny, in a huge canvas of sporting achievement.

At the same time, road racing and training has always been used by track riders as a way of building up their endurance for the velodrome, and from 2001, when Wiggins turned pro for a series of French teams, up until 2009, there would be wins on the road in this period for the Londoner, but they would almost exclusively come in relatively low-level time trials.

The track, up until the 2008 Olympics, was a very  different story. Six times a World Champion, in endurance events ranging from the Madison with Mark Cavendish in 2008 to the Individual and Team Pursuit, for three successive Olympics from 2000 to 2008 Wiggins racked up at least one medal inside the velodrome, culminating in his double gold in Beijing. Together with Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, for nearly a decade Wiggins was one of the lynchpins of the British track squad: road victories were almost a bonus.

But then in 2009, his dramatic switch from focussing on track to road came after Wiggins realised in a Tour of Italy that he was climbing with the best without specific training for it. The rest is almost too well-known to be told: the record-equalling fourth place overall in the 2009 Tour, the 2010 near-debacle in the same race, the victory in the Criterium Du Dauphine stage race - another breakthrough - followed by the crash out in the Tour and the comeback, with third overall, in the Tour of Spain.

In 2012, the biggest step forward came first in taking a string of hugely prestigious week-long stage races. Even if he had stopped racing in June, Wiggins would have been the first ever rider to take Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine, France’s second and third most prestigious stage races, together with Switzerland’s almost equally important Tour de Romandie, in the same year. Romandie also saw Wiggins first ever bunch sprint victory - yet another sign of his willingness to experiment in the most unexpected of terrains.

The Tour, though, was a quantum leap in terms of versatility. Wiggins climbing, traditionally his weakpoint became the arena where he would turn the screw a step further on his rivals - and take yellow at the first summit finish. His time trialling, always a strength, simply underlined that superiority, with wins in both stages against the clock also a sign of what was to come yesterday in Hampton Court.

It is also hugely appropriate, in terms of British cycling culture,  that we have a British Olympic time trial winner for a home Olympics. For many years,  time trialling was the backbone of British cycling  - road-racing was banned until the 1950s and its higher policing and marshalling costs have made it more difficult to organise, even today. And from Wiggins to David Millar, Chris Boardman and way further back, over the years countless British teenage cyclists first regular, week-in, week-out, experience of racing on the roads has been in club time trials ‘10s’ [10 miles long], 25s, or 50s.

Wiggins victory, then, in one sense, is the highest possible recognition of the most deep-rooted of British  cycling traditions - and in another, takes Wiggins and his country’s cycling, both now at the pinnacle of the sport, back to where it all began.

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect