Permit me an unfair, inaccurate and sweeping generalization. The United Kingdom is full of freaks.
Okay, so I know the entire population of the U.K. isn’t as eccentric (or funny) as John Cleese, but I can’t think of any place that produces people so colossally at odd with their talent as the population in those islands.
The Who’s Pete Townshend once confessed that hit singles embarrassed him.
Peter Gabriel complained he was becoming too much a focal point within Genesis and he didn’t like how it marginalized the rest of the band. So he quit and went solo.
James Hunt, arguably one of the more talented Formula One drivers the U.K. ever produced, managed but one World Championship and retired from the sport only three seasons later.
And now, Sir Bradley Wiggins, the first Brit ever to win the Tour de France, has told no less a media outlet than the BBC that he wishes he hadn’t won the world’s greatest bike race.
“From a personal point of view, there’s been times I wish I’d never done all that,” he told BBC Sport.
“I left for the Tour de France that year relatively unknown in the general public’s eyes. When I came back, for a week or so I felt like the most famous man in the country.
“It’s quite hard that level of fame, when you just want to do normal stuff with the children, things like that.”
Of course, Wiggins wasn’t completely blind to the benefits such an accomplishment confers.
He did admit, “It was nice people saying ‘it changed my life’ and hearing things like ‘the Wiggo effect'; that was a positive.”
Still, he has announced he is “done with the road” and returning to the track. This would be where we should gasp and conclude that Sky’s David Brailsford may have made the smart call in not taking this year’s Tour of California winner to the Tour de France. In any other team on any other planet it ought to be a move that would get you removed from management. It seemed that Brailsford simply didn’t know how to manage his riders. Of course, history has demonstrated that Paul Koechli was unable to manage Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond, and Johan Bruyneel couldn’t manage both Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, but cycling fans everywhere seem to believe that fireworks are preferable to having a team implode the way Sky did following Chris Froome’s withdrawal from the race. While we will never really know, Wiggins’ 9th at Paris-Roubaix suggests he would have had a higher likelihood of staying upright on stages 4 and 5 of this year’s Tour than Chris Froome did.
That actively open question about Wiggins’ potential at the Tour made him much more marketable than had he been left off the team for lack of form. Froome’s assertion that Sky brought the strongest team to the Tour can be dismissed with laughter.
But how do you market a guy who says he’s going back to the track?
Don’t answer. You don’t need to. Brailsford says that he’s trying to re-sign Wiggins and wants to support a schedule that permits Wiggins to do one-day races, Paris-Roubaix in particular, which appears to be his one remaining ambition on the road. There is talk of an attempt on the hour record.
There’s no question that Wiggins is talented. Could he win another grand tour? He seems as likely as any other contender you might name. As much so as Contador or Froome. His ability to set a goal and train for that goal doesn’t seem to be the issue. The issue isn’t really his mouth, either. He could say plenty of crazy things, but still deliver on the road. The problem is deeper than what causes him to run his mouth.
He recalls that first droid purchased by Uncle Owen in Star Wars.