After Bradley Wiggins won three medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics, he should have been on top of the world, but instead he turned to drinking, going on what he calls a "nine-month bender." This year, after winning two gold medals in Beijing, he is reacting differently and looking back at the last four years.
In a painfully honest interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, the 28-year-old said that after his success in Athens, his family's financial problems didn't disappear. "I woke up every Monday morning and we were still overdrawn and I'd think, 'God, I don't feel like riding my bike again.' There was a bitterness that nothing had changed after all the hard work but it went deeper than that. I'm not saying I was clinically depressed but there were definite bouts of depression - and lots of drinking."
One difference this year is that he is getting recognition for his Olympic accomplishments. He is even recognised on the street. After Athens, the BBC ignored him and fellow medal winner Chris Hoy at its "Sports Personality" presentation, but this year the two will be "VIP representatives" of the sport at the gala.
Perhaps things haven't changed as much as he hoped. He finished off the Olympics with the Madison, in which he rode with Team Columbia teammate Mark Cavendish. "Cav is young and brash but he was exceptional - which just adds to the frustration we felt in Beijing."
The pair had won the event in the World Championships and were favoured to repeat their success n Beijing, but finished way back in ninth place. Wiggins gives himself the blame for the loss. "All through the race he kept saying, 'Brad, what's going on?' and I'd be telling him, 'Put me out there,' because I didn't have the legs to attack. But if he attacked I'd have the legs to keep up. I was knackered but he was a bit cocky. Who wouldn't be when you're 22, you've just won four Tour stages and you're riding with a double Olympic champion? He thought we'd piss all over it but the reality was different."
Looking back at that race, Wiggins said, "Cav is like my little brother and I love him dearly. But we left the stadium without saying a word to each other and we've yet to speak." He continued, "I came off the track and downed a couple of beers straight away. He went the other way and so I proceeded to get blind drunk with my wife and friends. It was a disappointing end to a fantastic Games and I like to think he doesn't hate me now."
Wiggins turned pro with the Linda McCartney team in 2001, and rode for Française des Jeux in 2002-2003, Crédit Agricole from 2004-2005, Cofidis from 2006-2007 and Team Columbia this season. He has signed with Team Garmin-Chipotle for next year. Riding on the track, he has a total of six Olympic medals and six world championship titles.(SW)