Sir Bradley the Weird

Sir Bradley the Weird

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.

This R2 unit has a bad motivator.”

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  1. Pat O'Brien

    What is it about Paris-Roubaix that captures these rider’s interest? It can’t believe it is just about tradition. Maybe I could get into it if they would let the riders use any bicycle they wanted to.

    1. wayno

      Pat O’Brien: its the hardest, toughest, most prestegious one day race out there all in one. People can argue that Flanders is up there but to any young racer or student of history of the sport, Roubaix is the one you want to win, even if you are Belgian, ask Van Summeran.

      Roger Hammond comes to mind of making a career of being third at Roubaix. Once. Name any one day race other than Olympics or worlds where a podium has mattered that much…

  2. SusanJane

    Wiggins is a character is many ways, some of them eccentric. But before he stepped off the track he had a goal based on winning one Tour. When ASO composed the Tour he could win he put 1000% of everything behind it including all his clout from his track wins to make sure it was Sky and not some other team. There was no drama then. There was no moaning or complaining. There were no threats. I really think the collective shock is this Wiggins before and after. He just wanted to win the Tour. What followed was a huge bother. Now he’s trying to figure out who he is again.

  3. Shawn

    “Could he win another grand tour? He seems as likely as any other contender you might name. As much so as Contador or Froome.” As likely only if they put at least 100K of TT into the course. At his best, he couldn’t stay with either rider you name in the mountains. Regardless, I agree that Wiggo is certainly a bit of a nutter.

  4. MCH

    I don’t find him weird at all. The guy’s obviously an introvert, meaning he get’s his energy from within. The crowds and attention suck the energy out of him. To want to be left alone is perfectly natural for someone of his disposition.

    What’s weird is those who have no desire to understand him, but rather want him to wear their definition of what a champion or celebrity should be.

  5. Michael Levine

    humans are weird in general . and life is weird….and beautiful, and strange, and wondrous, and baffling. no one is spared being human…and weird.

    1. kurti_sc

      I agree with what Michael says. We all have our weird sides. The people labled as such just have their wierdness on a more visible side than most. If one doesn’t seem to have some oddities at all, deep down, their is likely some wacky foreboding business taking place.

    2. Brad DeVaney

      I love your view, Michael. Very prophetic. Cheers.
      I hope Gandalf (Wiggins) does what makes him happy and we fans cheer in support. Armchair quarterbacks and critics may kiss our weird arses.

  6. Touriste-Routier

    It is clear that he can’t make up his mind as to what he want’s to do with the remainder of his career, which makes him almost impossible to manage/direct. Clearly he has the talent to do many things, and has the potential to succeed if conditions are right.

    We all have the right to change our minds, constantly if we must, but what is odd is his need to do so in public via the seemingly endless contradictory statements he makes when interviewed. I wish he’d stay “introspective” (meaning mostly silent) until he figures it out.

    While celebrity status does have it’s downsides, much of the drama could be averted if he didn’t contradict himself so often in public.

    And let’s not forget, his father was a bit of a nutter too.

  7. Les.B.

    Forever grateful to the Brits for the wacky Benny Hill and intensely creative Peter Sellers.
    Why did we ever separate from England anyway?

  8. Larry T.

    Weird? Certainly in that he’s no corporate spokesperson or marketer’s dream. The world too often wants its sports heroes to be little more than empty corporate shills who mouth the platitudes fed to them by ghost-writers, ad hacks, etc. I’ve not been a big fan of the guy, mostly because of the hype surrounding him generated by his team and their supporters, but he’s a keen student of the passion and history of the sport and I’d love to see him take a crack at the Hell of the North again. The insane sacrifices deemed unavoidable for a stage-racing career no longer seem worth it to Wiggo, why not let him do as he pleases?

    1. poke

      “The world too often wants its sports heroes to be little more than empty corporate shills who mouth the platitudes fed to them by ghost-writers, ad hacks, etc.”

      True to an extent, but Froome fits this bill perfectly and he is routinely criticized as flat and boring.

  9. Maremma Mark

    Well said Larry. Wiggins is original, he’ll actually tell you what he’s thinking and it may not please you. I’ve never heard him mouth empty ‘sport personality phrases’ straight from the PR handbook and have liked him all the more because of this. And how could you not be crazy about a TDF winner who is enamored of Paris-Roubaix? That alone would make me a fan of his.

    I also liked how he maintained his form and winning ways in the attempt to land a spot on Sky’s TDF team. I don’t recall any bitter recriminations when he was left off of it, perhaps I missed those. Though I was a bit shocked that Sky felt so certain about Froome’s chances that they could leave Wiggins off the team. Hindsight is 20/20 but I almost feel like saying “I told you so” to Brailsford. For all of Sky’s innovation they seem to missing something, some intangible piece to the puzzle. Which might explain why they’re so interested in Giuseppe Martinelli the current DS at Astana.

  10. Bill

    The years that Greg Lemond/Bernard Hinault and Lance Armstrong/Alberto Contador shared leadership on the same teams stand out in my memory as years in which those teams won. Is that not the goal when a team goes to the tour? It seems like a fine alternative to what Sky ended up with this year. If wins are the barometer for success then Koechli and Bruyneel are two of the best managers ever.

  11. Paul

    Don’t know if this article says more about the culture in the UK or the US, a country where it seems the desire to fit in is all encompassing; with its PR training, hollywood smiles and identical chain stores on every street – in this ever more homogenized world, the last remnants of individuality should surely be lauded, not vilified.

  12. Full Monte

    I find it interesting, Padraig, that as you illustrate British weirdness, or dualism, you mostly reference rock stars.

    And that’s exactly what Wiggo is, in his own mind. He’s a bike rider, sure. But he sees himself, with the mod sideburns, then hipster beard, and the “sod off, wankers” comments, and the career waffling, as an artist, albeit one that rides a bike.

    He’ll fire off exactly what’s on his mind, let the fallout land across the sport and especially upon team management. Rock star don’t care. He’ll flip-flop like a track hub, drive the pundits and sport writers crazy. Rock star don’t care.

    Like Townshend, whom he actually resembles, he wants to be left alone to figure out his next masterwork, and then go off and do it. He only needs/needed Sky like Townshend needed the rest of Who for his Tommy effort, “Just play the parts I’ve written, man.”

    That makes him, in this corporate spokesrider sport, an outlier. And rock star don’t care.

    In fact, like a rock star, he even recoils at actually finding himself a rock star. “I just want to play my bloody bike, mate.”

    He’s not weird, he’s perfectly sane. Who, in their right mind, really needs the glare of fame, other than the desperately narcissistic? The insanely ambitious? I’ll take Townshend’s (and Wiggo’s) weirdness, er, human duality, any day over the single-minded, artificial, computer-enhanced, brand-managed rock stars we usually find today.

  13. Author

    All: Thanks for the spirited discussion.

    To be clear, I’m not vilifying weird. I’m not against it, either. And I’m an introvert, so it would be counterproductive for me to oppose that. My point was captured by Touriste-Routier, that in acting so erratically, or at least speaking so erratically, Wiggins is doing himself no favors. Also, I don’t see his behavior as just someone being honest. I see him having a problem in thinking strategically about his own future. And that’s just sad.

  14. Sy


    I’m not sure I agree with you that to not think strategically about his future on a bike is any reflection on how he thinks about his future life. He has a wife and kids that he very successfully provides for, and has achieved more in his cycling career than many of the other greats, so sad is not a word I would use in this context.

    He has achieved pretty much anything he has set his mind on, but this has had the side effect of making him a celebrity, which is something he clearly struggles with. This makes him all the more impressive to me; the desire of so many to be famous just for its own sake seems to be a strange phenomenon of the modern age.

  15. RonS


    I think you just inadvertanly answered the question about why Sky left Wiggo off the team. He would have placed better than Stem Boy on the cobbles of Stage 5 and probably with significant time. Then what do you do? You can’t attack your own teammate. Oh no, wouldn’t be sporting. Now Froomey would have to be a super domestique to Sir Wiggo and we know how well that worked the last time. Cheers.

  16. Ken

    Roubaix ends at the velodrome.

    Sir Bradley did one hell of a job helping Geriant Thomas at Roubaix. At the end of the race. Bradley single handedly pulled Thomas back to the front. What an engine!

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