Bradley Wiggins: I'm sick of being told how to feel about cycling

Briton says Geraint Thomas can win two more Tours

Bradley Wiggins has defended his recent comments about Lance Armstrong, declaring himself "sick of being told how to feel about the sport by people who have never ridden a bike."

The 2012 Tour de France champion has been making a number of public appearances to promote his new book, 'Icons', which focuses on 21 cycling figures, one of whom is Armstrong, who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles after confessing to doping.

In an appearance at the Rouleur Classic exhibition in London on Thursday evening, Wiggins echoed sentiments he'd voiced on TalkSport radio two weeks ago, describing Armstrong as his initial inspiration for becoming a cyclist and suggesting he has been looked upon unfairly since receiving his lifetime ban in 2012.

"He's a tough character. I know him quite well. I still speak to him - sorry about that - but I can't change it," Wiggins said on Thursday. "This isn't to condone anything he did. He knows he did wrong. But at some point, you've got to get on with your life.

"And you've got to move on, because we've seen what's happened to Jan Ullrich. For some people, you're going to find them in a hotel room like Marco Pantani, and I don't think that's winning the war."

At one point, Wiggins pointed to his new book and asked, "Is it better not to write about Lance in here?", acknowledging that his recent comments have divided opinion. On Thursday there was no shortage of applause from the audience, but not everyone has welcomed the sympathetic stance on such a controversial figure.

Wiggins - who has himself been the subject of controversy since revelations of his use of corticosteroids under TUE's ahead of the 2012 Tour and other major races, and also been investigated by UK Anti-Doping and the British Parliament over the so-called Jiffy Bag scandal - appears to have softened his stance on Armstrong over the past few years.

In 2012 he voiced his anger when the US Anti-Doping Agency's report came out, complaining of having to "pick up the pieces" while Armstrong was "still a multi-millionaire and not here to answer the questions". Then in early 2013, when Armstrong confessed to doping on the Oprah Winfrey show, Wiggins described himself as thinking, "what a fucking arsehole" and, in relation to Armstrong's insistence he didn't dope on his comeback between 2009 and 2011, "you lying bastard".

Wiggins, however, makes no apologies for his recent comments.

"I'm sick of being told how to feel about the sport by people who have never ridden a bike. I'll decide what I want to feel about the sport," Wiggins said.

"I understand the open wound that cycling has. I understand that. Everyone's got the right to an opinion, but for me it's not a debate. I'm not going to go on Question Time and debate it, but that's the way I feel, having written this book, and I've realised that's how I feel.

Referring to the memorabilia he has collected and featured in his book, he added: "I started collecting these jerseys at 18. I just happened to end up winning the Tour. I still do it, I still go around Belgium… it's always been a passion of mine, to curate this and care for it and look after for the next generation. I've got Simpson jerseys, Ocaña, all these guys. I would have done that anyway - I just happened to win the Tour. So it's irrelevant. I don't want to be relevant, I'd rather not be relevant - I could go out and get pissed without being in the Daily Mail the next day. But you can't and I accept that, but I ain't gonna bloody change either."

Thomas can win two more Tours

During the event, Wiggins also spoke about his former Sky teammates Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome.

Froome finished second to Wiggins at the 2012 Tour and has since gone on to win the title four times, putting him one shy of the all-time record. This year he finished on the podium behind a teammate again, as Geraint Thomas seized his opportunity to win the sixth yellow jersey in seven years for Sky.

With the routes for the 2019 Tour de France and Giro d'Italia both recently unveiled, a big talking point is how Sky will play their cards next season.

"He [Thomas] was without doubt the strongest rider in the Tour and he could win another two Tours, depending on how the team goes now," Wiggins said. "A Chris Froome on form for sure has got another Tour win in him, and he will want that for five. We'll see how it pans out."

But it's not just a two-horse race; Sky also have the young talent Egan Bernal, who impressed on his Tour debut this year and could assume leadership in the near future. "After way he rode this year, you have to put him as a future Tour winner, definitely," Wiggins said of the Colombian.

As for Thomas, who followed a similar path from the track to Tour de France victory, he added: "This is a guy who has been team pursuit world champion, Olympic team pursuit champion, seventh in Paris-Roubaix. There's not many Tour winners who can go top 10 in Paris-Roubaix, so it shows you the diversity of G.

"One thing G is really good at - that he doesn't get enough praise for - is the way he rides on the flat stages. I don't think he came out of the top 10 positions in the whole Tour. And the praise Luke Rowe doesn't get, because he puts him in those positions. The pair of them, I don't know anyone like them, maybe Stuart O'Grady or someone who can ride in the bunch like they can."

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