We Brits are a curious lot. We are living through an age of unprecedented national success in cycling but somehow we seem desperate for an excuse for it all to end.
Bradley Wiggins has just won the Critérium du Dauphiné for the second year in a row, in convincing fashion (and we all know that with Brad rubbing neatly tailored shoulders with Sir Paul Smith, fashion is top of the list). He has completed an impressive treble of stage race results; Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie & Critérium du Dauphiné.
In cycling, it is notoriously difficult to compare riders with their peers, let alone compare them with their predecessors from a different age. Cycling Weekly attempted to do just that & placed him 6th overall. Spurious league tables aside, however, there is no escaping the fact that Wiggins is a superstar. Massively successful, widely recognised, indeed to call him an icon of British sport would not be considered hyperbole by all but the most disingenuous of onlookers.
But for many I suspect the win in the Dauphiné will be seen as the last block in the building-up of Wiggins. What will follow is the inevitable knocking down. Already we have the social media sniping. Rarely is the word “incredible” used with more innuendo than in cycling. Those represent the darkest & most unfair of comments and for my money deserve little of the oxygen that social media provides them. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, I like to think of Brad as a cycling god.
What about the stifling of races by an overly dominant team, reminiscent of the dark days of…etc, etc. Again, the innuendo of this comparison is sickening and all too often spouted by those who appear to have little by way of love for the sport. We can all cheer the plucky Lanterne Rouge, but this sport is about winning and about winners. Wiggins just happens to be among the winningest right now (did I really just write winningest?). It is curious to me that for some fans, the only equation of use in cycling is winning = doping.
However, as the title of this post alludes to, I fear the most destructive knocking-down of Wiggins will begin within the next few weeks. At best, he wins spectacularly, Tour & Olympics (hey, let’s dream big). Likely he will be crucified for one of those classic intangibles like tactics. Or that perennial (though ultimately meaningless) favourite, lack of panache. His performance will be heralded, euphemistically, as “incredible” by those who wouldn’t know their VO2 from their H20 or their EPO from their HP Sauce.
At worst, things don’t go to plan for those three weeks in France and Wiggins is portrayed as the latest in a long line of nearly men of British sport; the plucky Tim Henman, the frustrating Andy Murray, British sportsmen for whom nothing will ever be good enough. Britain has a genuine sporting superstar on its hands (yes, I know, another one – I haven’t even mentioned Cav). He is intelligent, witty, engaging, fashionable, quirky – we could barely dream of a better role model for the plump-fleshed Playstation generation & yet I just know that for some it’s not going to be good enough this summer.
We didn’t build Brad up, so we don’t deserve to be allowed to knock him down. His toil and sacrifice has surely earned him the right to have us look up and admire him – even though he might never win Wimbledon.
Tags: Dauphine, Tour de France, Wiggins