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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions