Bradley Wiggins has talked about his love of cycling, his search for perfection on the bike and the fear of losing his fitness when he eventually retires from professional racing.
The 2012 Tour de France winner is currently training for the team pursuit on the track the Rio Olympics and is expected to bring the curtain down on his long career at the end of 2016. He will be 36 in April but has said he intends to continue riding his bike after retirement, in continual pursuit of a perfect ride.
"I've always been fascinated by the aesthetics of cycling. And I always find myself thinking about pedal strokes and position on the bike," Wiggins revealed in a recent interview with the Sunday Times as he presented his book on his successful Hour Record attempt.
"One of the things that struck me as a kid, while watching Francesco Moser in [the film] 'A Sunday in Hell' was his riding on the cobbles. You would never realise he was on the cobbles if you didn't see the road, because of his smoothness. I always find myself trying to replicate the best possible riding position when I'm on the bike.
"The worst days on a bike are when you don't feel comfortable, if you've got a saddle sore or a little bit twisted after being sat in a car all day. I find it's never enjoyable then and I have to get off the bike and crack my back. In some ways I have to be comfortable and be at one with the bike. Then it's easy and I enjoy it."
Executing a perfect ride
Wiggins has enjoyed an enviable career, starting with success on the track as a Junior, then a long professional career that culminated with victory at the Tour de France and a gold medal in the time trial at the 2012 London Olympics, which cemented him as an icon in Britain, for his results and style on the bike and his unique character.
Wiggins set a new Hour Record of 54.526km in June, describing it as one of his days of near perfection, despite high air pressure dashing his hopes of going over 55km and putting the record on the shelf.
"The hour record is very much that. If it's flowing and you're on it and you feel at one with the bike, then in some ways, it's quite easy. I've had quite a few of those in the last few years, when the performance has gone absolutely to perfection," he explained.
"For me executing a ride is about being at one with the bike. It sound quite like a guru but that is as a big a part of it for me. I hear it other sports too. People like (Formula 1 pilot) Jenson Button, when he says the balance of the car wasn't quite right, or a football player's first touch wasn't quite as good in a match. When those things work, that's what I'm after. Because the minute you get on the bike, when you roll off from your gate or the first traffic light, you know how you feel. When I come off the bus and ride to the sign-on, with that first pedal rev, I know how I'm going to feel. It's the first thing that comes to mind. It's those things that give me satisfaction."
The effortless feeling
Wiggins ended his career with Team Sky after riding Paris-Roubaix in April. He has stepped down from WorldTour level to ride for his WIGGINS Continental team as he prepares for the team pursuit at the Rio Olympics. He will ride the Dubai Tour in February and probably the Tour of California in May. He has hinted he will end his career by riding the London Six and Gent Six next winter. But has said he will always ride his bike because he never wants to lose the feeling of enjoyment that cycling gives him.
"I never want the effortless feeling of cycling to go away," he said. "I know it's going to go away at some point, because I won't be as fit as I am now. I know that some of the hills I ride and that hardly touch the sides, I know that some point in the future, they're going to get really hard. It could be riding around Mallorca, my 17 minutes up Lluc or 23 minutes up Sa Calobra. At some point, that's going to take me 45 minutes.
"It's the effortless and the being at one with the bike that I really enjoy. It's doing five or six hours, coming back and feeling like you've done one. They're the thoughts that every cyclist goes through really. It's perfection for me that, riding a bike."