It’s fair to say that the reputation of cycling has taken a fair few knocks in recent weeks. The revelations that have ruined former golden boy Lance Armstrong have proven immensely satisfying for your faithful correspondent, who always despised him, but I’m aware that it could lead to the perception that the sport is utterly corrupted.
Chief amongst Armstrong’s great many weaknesses is his colossal and all-consuming ego, which clearly contributed to his ill-advised return to the sport a few years ago. He simply couldn’t help himself and his real motivation, not his stated one of raising awareness of his charity work, was embarrassingly transparent. Fortunately his conceit blew up in his face.
Ego drove Armstrong (and many others) to dope and then blithely pretend that he was clean. Ego motivated the bullying of his critics and rivals. One man’s ego created the edifice that has finally crashed down on him.
So it was hugely refreshing to see that Bradley Wiggins suggest that he little desire to defend his Tour de France title next year. I for one welcome the decision as a heartening display of humility and admission that even the best athletes are fallible:
“I haven’t got that much of an ego………It was always about winning one Tour de France for me and I’m proud of the way that I did it. Cycling’s a team sport and I wouldn’t have won last year if it hadn’t been for the help of my team-mates, so if I can play a part in one of them winning next year that would be great.
“If everything goes to plan and I get the nod to do the Giro, that’s what is going to happen. I’m a great historian of the sport and I’d like to win a pink jersey to go with the yellow one.”
Can you imagine Armstrong ever saying like this?
I have no great affection for Cadel Evans, but it was rather distressing watching him implode at this year’s race trying to defend his Tour title. It was sad watching a great athlete fall apart before your very eyes. I fear Wiggins, 33 next time round, could be in for a similar beating.
In a post-doping age we need to accept that it simply isn’t realistic for athletes to keep winning the Tour year after year and winning multiple grand tours in the same season without resorting to cheating, and that we need to encourage people to accept and acknowledge that. Wiggins is being exceptionally mature and it is hugely refreshing that he has decided to use his remaining time in the sport to try something else and also help his team-mates attempt to replicate his success. He accepts that he has had his moment and other people should be allowed their chance.
Bradley, I salute you. As well as being the coolest athlete in the world you are also one of the most likeable.