"Missing the Tour was the best thing that ever happened to me"
From the high of his 2012 Tour de France victory and Olympic gold medal, Bradley Wiggins plummeted to a low after a disappointing 2013 Giro d'Italia, but on Wednesday he put a different slant on his season with a silver medal at the UCI road world championship individual time trial, a result that follows on the heels of his overall victory in the Tour of Britain.
"From where I've come from in the start of June, I've come a long way. I won the Tour of Britain, won silver at the Worlds against one of the best assembled fields in last few years. I can look back and be pretty happy – it's a good platform for winter and next year,” Wiggins said.
"When you get second, there is always tinge of disappointment, but have to accept that when you're beaten by better athlete on the day. All in all, I'm pretty happy."
Wiggins likened the period that followed his failure to make an impression at the Giro – he eventually dropped out due to illness – as a sort of "fall from grace".
"I went back to the drawing board. I started training when the Dauphiné was on," he said. "I liked that solitude, I liked that low, it was nice, and it was the start of the road back.
"Missing the Tour de France and all that was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me realise that it took a good two years get there, and I had to start right back at the bottom. I realised it is a long way to the top."
Looking to the future
For Wiggins, claiming a silver medal behind Germany's Tony Martin, but in front of former world champion Fabian Cancellara, mirrored his showing in the same event in Copenhagen two years ago, and offered some redemption at the end of a trying campaign. "It's nice to end the season on a high,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins' team director David Brailsford agreed that his time trial augured well, and also spoke of his "ending the season on a high compared to where he was in the middle of the season".
His season is not quite done, either. Wiggins is scheduled to race with the British team in the road race on Sunday, which Brailsford confirmed, although he did not say that he would definitely take part.
Both Wiggins and Brailsford agreed that it would be too soon to say whether he would return to focusing on the Grand Tours, or if he would go back to his previous modus operandi as a rouleur - a powerful rider who could win time trials, break away, or win gold medals on the track.
"I don't know yet," Wiggins said. "We will see when we get into the winter months and then have a think about it. It has not been occupying my mind. All focus has been on getting through this."
Brailsford expanded on that note, stating, "Like everything in sport, you do an event, you wait until the appropriate time, and you sit down and look at the whole season, what worked, what didn't, and having done all of that you start thinking about the following season. Prior to that you're just guessing. We'll go through that process and see what comes out."
Having brought two riders to their first Tour de France victories in the past two years, Brailsford has masterminded an immensely powerful team and effective race strategy, but he still has not been able to shield his riders from the doping suspicion that plagues the sport, nor convince the jaded cycling fans that his Sky programme is indeed transparent and clean.
What can restore the trust in these riders and lift the burden that tarnishes the joy of what was once the highest honour a sportsman could experience - winning the title of the Tour de France?
"The sport in its entirety needs to regain trust across the board," Brailsford said, stopping short of weighing in on which UCI presidential candidate could restore that faith. "I think all the different stakeholders - the teams, the UCI, the riders, race organisers - have to work together to regain the trust and respect of the fans. There's no one solution for that."
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