Bradley Wiggins says that he’s enjoying road cycling more now and is happy to have left behind the pressure of leading a team behind him. He told Cyclingnews that if he had to endure the scrutiny and pressure that former teammate Chris Froome faced at the Tour de France without another outlet, such as racing the track, he may have called time on his career.
"I did quite a few years doing that and it’s nice to do something else. If I was just doing that alone then I perhaps would have given up cycling," Wiggins told Cyclingnews. "It’s all for something, it’s all on the track, so it’s easier to keep track of the bigger picture."
Wiggins is currently riding the Tour of Britain in a role that he doesn’t often find himself in as he works for his 22-year-old teammate Owain Doull, who is set for a top 10 finish and perhaps the sprint classification. The former winner of the race has been put to work for Doull on the front of the bunch in the latter half of the stages before pulling off and rolling in at his own pace. It’s a world of difference to his time at WorldTour level.
"It’s been a tough week but it’s certainly been enjoyable not having that pressure day in and day out to be there and not lose a small gap. It’s definitely more enjoyable," said Wiggins. "It’s much less pressure and I get to enjoy it a bit more and I don’t have that pressure to be there at the final when it really matters. I can do it for him (Doull), talk to him during the race and make sure that he’s got everything that he needs and rally the boys when he needs it."
The next few days will be about protecting Doull’s lead and keeping himself out of trouble before he returns to the track. In just two short weeks, Wiggins is set to ride the national championships in Manchester for the first time since 1999, when he won the Madison title with Rob Hayles.
"I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to be able to go back and do something like that. It’s a couple of weeks’ time so it’s nice to go back to the discipline, which I haven’t done since Beijing," said Wiggins. "It’s not an Olympic discipline. It kind of takes the pressure off a little bit. I don’t know what I’m capable of that in that discipline any more so it’s a little bit unknown because it takes the pressure off having to do anything in it."
The event will give him a chance to test where he is against his potential team pursuit companions. The battle for the four spots for the Olympic event is tough with as many as six riders hoping to be selected. Wiggins hinted that Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) is interested in behind one of the chosen four and said that the competition can only be good for the team.
"It’s not out of the question that he can make the team pursuit. He’s not eliminated it totally because he’s doing the World Cup in January with the academy guys. The fastest four on the day will ride, whatever they’ve done before," Wiggins told Cyclingnews.
"The main thing is that we’ve got strength in numbers which is what you need in team pursuiting. As soon as one gets ill and there’s no one to replace him it gets difficult. Just having as many bodies as possible at this point is a big help. It pushes everyone else and it keeps them on their toes. Nobody can take their place for granted because it could be any line-up. We haven’t always had that so I think that’s really good."
The Tour of Britain will be Wiggins’ last appearance on the road in 2015 but it won’t be his last ever as the team plan to ride a few short stage races in 2016, such as the Dubai Tour and the Tour of California, which Wiggins won last season. Wiggins and the other team pursuiters will be joining forces again at the European Championships at the start of next month, and he will also head to Cali, Colombia for the opening round of the World Cup. Following that, his next big focus will be the World Championships in London next year.