Bradley Wiggins: We need characters in the sport like Peter Sagan

British rider talks about enjoying his final season, his WIGGINS team and Cavendish’s chances on the track

Bradley Wiggins has revealed he is a fan of Peter Sagan, saying the sport needs more characters like the current world champion and less regimented riders who are afraid to be different.

Wiggins is determined to enjoy his final season on the road and track with his WIGGINS team, and has helped the team secure an invitation to the Dubai Tour and the Tour of California in May. He is using this block of road racing to work on his form before the track World Championships in early March in London and for his final big goal of his distinguished career, a fifth Olympic gold medal on the track in the team pursuit.

His distinguished career and unique character has meant he has always stood out amongst his peers and he is still a huge draw at the Dubai Tour for the many British expats who live and work here and the local cycling fans. Wiggins enjoys being different, he likes to provoke and joke with the media and his fellow riders.

He acutely aware of how the sport lacks interesting characters, hence his admiration for Peter Sagan.

“I like the fact that he’s a bit different and brings something else to the sport, which not a lot of other riders do these days,” Wiggins explained.

“It’s his demeanour, and the way he carries himself. I think it’s what the sport needs. We need characters in the sport like Sagan and there aren’t many left now. Everyone is so kind of regimented and fearful of their jobs I think, fearful to be different. It was just the way Sagan threw his bike when he won the Worlds. It’s the kind of thing I would have done…”

Wiggins has brought his family with him to Dubai and immediately laid out his lack of ambition during the four stages during the pre-race press conference on Tuesday. He is now in mentoring role with his younger WIGGINS teammates. He is the boss and the father figure of the team but avoids putting any pressure on himself and his riders.

“I like coming back to road race in this capacity because there’s not really pressure on me. We’re not talking about the Tour de France or even selection for the Tour de France, so it’s quite nice now. I’m the only person here without any aspirations for the race. That’s quite rare these days. Everyone is fighting for contracts and stuff. But I’m the boss here and so I can’t lose my job,” he quipped.

“I don’t feel responsibility as the head of the team. It’s a pretty relaxed team, including all the staff. They’re all kind of ex-BC (British Cycling) rejects and we picked them for a reason: to create that atmosphere. They’re basically all my mates I wanted to give a job to. It’s a nice environment and a lot different to the previous one I was in (Team Sky), which is about winning big races.”

Reaching for the stars at the Olympics

Following the Dubai Tour, Wiggins and his track teammates will return to Manchester for their final track training before the world championship. Wiggins has beefed up during the winter, adding muscle and power that will hopefully give him the speed to win the world title, gold in Rio and perhaps set a new team pursuit world record.

“We’ve had a tough winter in the gym and on the track,” Wiggins explained.

“This little block of road racing, with first Mallorca and now here at Dubai, leads us to the final three and half weeks. After this we’ll be back on the track and taper for the world championships. I think we’ll be alright. We haven’t got Ed Clancy but we’ve got enough fire power at the moment.”

The goal is to do a new world record time of 3:49 to ensure victory.

“Breaking isn’t necessarily the goal but to win gold in Rio I think we’ll have to break the record,” he pointed out. “The standard is that the record comes down in every Olympics. 3:49 is the target time we’ve set ourselves and is probably good enough to win it. We’ve got to reach for the stars all the time and I think we’re on target to do it.

Wiggins has spent a lot of time on the track with Mark Cavendish as the Manxman tries to secure a place in team pursuit squad and so ride the Omnium event in Rio in an attempt to add an Olympic medal to his rich palmares of success on the road.

Wiggins has huge admiration for Cavendish’s pursuit of an Olympic medal. But is not afraid to question if he can do it.

“I’ve seen him training hard. He’s hardly been home since October. He’s rented a flat in Manchester ad trained on the track with us every day. I admire what he’s trying to do,” Wiggins said.

“He’s probably taken a little bit too much on. It remains to be seen if he can do it all but if anyone can, it’s probably him.”

Despite a bitter spat with Chris Froome while at Team Sky, Wiggins is also convinced Froome can do the Tour de France-Olympic gold double just he himself did in London 2012.

“If he wins the Tour and has got the conditions, I don’t see any reason why he can’t do it,” Wiggins said. “That was the big question for London, about Tour de France tiredness. But if you finish well, there’s every chance you can do well at the Olympics. The winner of the Olympics will come from the Tour de France. I think it’s doable.”

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