Ordinary Brad is extraordinary
OH BRADLEY, My Lionheart. For years, it seemed as if Bradley Wiggins was doomed to make an invisible rise in English sport and to live always in the shadow of the Premier League playboys.
Yesterday, he all but took ownership of Hampton Palace. It was here in the former home of the Henry VIII, that lusty old maniac of Tudor England, that Wiggins became the first ever British man to win seven Olympic medals. Wiggins’s status as the latest winner of the Tour de France demanded that it be gold yesterday and he didn’t disappoint the thousands of home fans.
Wiggins maintains the flintiest working-class veneer since John Lennon and a pair of sideburns to match, but he is probably going to have to kneel before modern monarchy after this latest tilt with history.
“Sir Wigo? It doesn’t quite sound right, does it?” he said late yesterday noon, gulping water in the late sunshine. “As much as an honour as it would be to receive something like that, I don’t think I would use it. I would just put in the drawer. I’d rather just be Brad.”
He doesn’t need a title anyway with that wonderful name: Bradley Wiggins belongs to the first rank of unbeatable English anti-heroes, from Billy Bunter to Reginald Perrin.
Except, unlike those dreamers, Wiggins’s path is trailed with achievement and glory. And even if he has in the past mused about the level of appreciation in his home country, yesterday afternoon should have left him in no doubt that he is as loved as Marmite and Bobby Moore.
Bradley and those sideburns are on their way to becoming a national institution. Yesterday was one of those days for the English. The whole day might have been packaged as a tour into the heartland of England, from the dedicated and nouveau Wigo fans gathering at Waterloo station in their Union Jack bowler hats and flags to make the short train trip out the green fringes of London.
“Yeah . . . I don’t consider this London, over ’ere,” he joked. “It used to be called the Home Counties,” dropping his ‘hs’ to accent his Kilburn credentials. But he will have fond memories of Richmond after this. From the moment he shot down the pathway with the redbrick palace forming a panoramic backdrop behind him, he owned the day. Even the sight of poor Gil Luis Leon Sanchez halting just a few hundred metres into his race with a broken chain didn’t put Wiggins off.
“We saw it yeah. It was quite a noise. Everyone looked to see what happened.”
Sanchez would later suffer a puncture, as if to illustrate the best laid plans of mice and time-trials can be laid to waste by a pothole. But Wiggins was not concerned about gremlins. “Nah. I’ve got a good mechanic.”
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara, the reigning champion who suffered a shuddering fall in the men’s road race on Saturday, valiantly lined out but was unable to summon anything like his peak performance. With Wiggins’s team-mate Christopher Froome pushing for a medal place from his first split, it was clear that Germany’s Tony Martin would be the one man who could usurp the British throne and he led the home favourite after the first timed result (split) at the 7.3 kilometre mark.
But after that, Wiggins was in command and had biked into a 42 second lead by the time he was returning to the grounds of Hampton court in a time of 52.39.54 seconds. He is a formidable sight, the long back stretched over the bars like a man leaning out of his window pane and the lean legs pumping relentlessly.