Bradley Wiggins’ hopes of retiring as the most decorated British Olympian of all time were given a boost on Friday as he made a storming return to the track.
At the opening round of the 2015/16 Revolution Series in Derby, the 35-year-old formed part of a Great Britain quartet that rode to victory in the team pursuit in a time of 3 minutes 54.974 seconds.
Joined by Steven Burke, Owain Doull and Jon Dibben, Wiggins was doing two-laps turns in the qualifying rounds before Ed Clancy replaced Dibben for the final and the quartet set a time that was just a shade over three seconds shy of the world record.
It will do no harm to Wiggins’ hopes of lining up in the team pursuit at the Olympic Games in Rio next year, where he would be going for an eighth Olympic medal that would take him past Sir Chris Hoy's tally of seven.
“It’s nice to get up and do a fast time like that, a world class time, on a not so good track. It’s good being back with the boys the last few weeks. It took me a while after the Hour Record to realise I wanted to do it again so it’s good to be back, it’s a good laugh, that’s what it’s all about,” said Wiggins in front of the BBC microphone.
“All that drivel they were talking about at the end of last year when I was watching the World Cup in London about whether I could still do it or not. You come back here and, it’s great, I love it, we’ve got a really good group of guys, which is what you need, you can’t do it on your own. Tonight was testament to that. We were looking at the graph just then and it was just flat really and that’s what it’s going to take to win Olympic gold so it’s really good.”
Wiggins, who broke the UCI Hour Record in June, left Team Sky in the spring to focus once again on track cycling and set up Team Wiggins so that a core of riders in the endurance events could come together and prepare for Rio in the best possible way. Burke, Dibben, and Doull all ride for the team, while Clancy, who joined Burke as part of the victorious pursuit team at London 2012, rides normally for JLT-Condor.
The Revolution Series meet marks Wiggins’ first competitive outing on the boards since making that switch and the UCI points on offer are crucial in terms of the path to selection for all GB track athletes. GB endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel was certainly encouraged by what he saw.
“We didn’t really know what to expect from the velodrome in qualifying, Bradley was nervous and he is such a dominant personality the rest of the team was nervous, and so probably played it a little bit safe,” said the German, according to the Guardian.
“He was much more confident for the final, and so the rest of the team was confident. Clancy rode superbly, he is ahead of everybody at the moment, but Bradley was powerful. This performance will do him a lot of good."