The Wrong Kind of Winning

So Bradley Wiggins won his first Tour of Britain title in what was, in the end, routine fashion. Not to belittle the achievement but, actually, you would expect last years Tour de France winner to take the win without too much bother. Although this second home winner in succession was largely applauded (Jon Tiernan-Locke took last years prize) amongst my circle of cycling friends the Wiggins critics are still vocal (seriously chaps, do you not remember cheering him onto the Champs Elysees last year!)

Of course people like to watch attacking bike racing; bold riders off the front, looking for time and taking chances. The critics moan that Wiggo wins the time trial and then sits in the peloton while his team-mates do all the work. That was also the criticism at the Tour de France – we all remember the image of Chris Froome riding away from his team leader – but hang on a minute….Froome may have been the better climber but during the Tour Wiggins ultimately managed to dispose of Nibali and the rest in the mountains – not bad for a time-trialler.

Wiggins on form at the Tour of Britain (Photo: dvdBramhall)
Wiggins on form at the Tour of Britain
(Photo: dvdBramhall)

But I digress…Froome-Wiggins has already been done to death and will surely be brought up time and again whenever anyone connected has a book to sell. The point I’m trying to make is that if it was so easy to just win the time trial and then defend your time gain, why doesn’t everyone do that? We’ll never see Fabian Cancellara or Tony Martin win a grand tour – great time-triallers, but however much time they can gain against the clock, they don’t have the talents that Wiggins has when the road heads upwards. Conversely, look no further than a Cancellara, a Sagan or a Boonen to win the spring classics – that will never be Wiggins’ domain.

What Sir Brad does isn’t easy….it’s just not spontaneous. All riders have to ride to their strengths, and the richness of cycling is in the infinite possibilities that come with riders of all types trying to win in their own way.  Why would Wiggins do anything different? By winning in the way he does on the road he is simply riding to his strengths. To attack off the front in the mountains in search of decisive time gains would be cycling suicide – if he did that and lost the race, the critics would say he lacked tactical nous.

There are plenty of entertaining, attacking bike riders, but how many of them win stage races? I’m not saying it’s a good thing that they often don’t, I’m just saying that riders know what they can and can’t do to win. The likes of Contador, Rodriguez, Nibali and Quintana look to make their mark in the mountains, while Wiggins hangs on to their coat tails having blown them away in the time trial. Wiggins has had his big wins in the last couple of years, but the climbers, too, take their share of the spoils. Froome in 2013 is a slightly different matter – being dominant in all disciplines – I’m not sure how he fits into all this….!

I suppose the truth is that Wiggins is just not everyone’s cup of tea; he doesn’t always play the game, he sometimes gives the impression he’d rather be elsewhere, and occasionally seems pretty bored with the media side of things. Who can blame him – sitting through the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards is a serious test of endurance and will-to-live, even when you end up winning it.

Perhaps it’s also a reflection of the British psyche. British cyclists went decades without really winning very much, and now we Brits are having a purple patch it’s not enough for some people – sure, we’re winning….but for some, it’s the wrong kind of winning.

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