With his UCI Hour Record attemptfast approaching, Bradley Wiggins has been relishing the unique nature of the challenge over the last seven weeks.
The current world time trial champion will take on Alex Dowsett’s benchmark of 52.937km on Sunday at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London and is widely tipped to surpass it. Wiggins has always had a fierce individualistic streak and now has the chance to indulge it after years of being a cog in the machines of Team Sky and the British Olympic set-up.
“You’re a one-man band,” he told reporters at the velodrome on Tuesday. “From the start of this it was my project – I had to take control and lead it, and have my own input and ideas on what I thought I needed to do for this record. So in that sense it’s been a lot easier than just being dictated to. It’s quite liberating.
“I’ve kind of been the head of it for the last seven weeks, dictating to everyone, ‘we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that’. So you are your own boss really. It’s like being in charge of the company and telling everyone what to do. It’s a lot easier – a hell of a lot easier.”
Wiggins’s power is not completely unchecked, though. In his corner is British Cycling track coach Heiko Salzwedel, with whom he has struck up an effective working relationship.
“It’s quite difficult for anyone coming in and coaching me for this,” said the 35-year-old. “I’ve known Heiko for a long time. He’s old school and he’ll just tell me how it is. So there’s a nice balance there, which has really helped from a coaching point of view.”
Inspiration from Boardman, Indurain, and Obree
Wiggins may be his own boss but he is by no means trapped in his own bubble. He has a keen appreciation of the history of the UCI Hour Record and has drawn on his encounters with the likes of Chris Boardman, Graeme Obree, and Miguel Indurain to put himself in the best position to break it.
All three have held the record at various stages, with Boardman and Obree running into trouble as the UCI tightened regulations on bike set-up and position. Wiggins looked up to Boardman in particular as he started racing as a junior and became involved in the world of pursuiting.
“I had a long chat with him in January,” said Wiggins. “He was on training camp in Mallorca and I was just saying ‘what do you reckon? Do you think I’m stupid going for it? What’s it like to do it?’ He it’ll either be the worst thing you ever do or the best thing you ever do.
“I also spoke to Miguel Indurain last year about it. He wouldn’t really give much away. He was so raw he had no experience on the track. He had three weeks to get ready for it after the Tour and he’d never ridden a track bike. All he wanted to do was get the record – he wasn’t interested in putting it out of sight, it was just to put his name on it, tick the box to say he’s done it.
“They used to say he wouldn’t warm up or anything he’d just get up and go. Whereas with Chris it was a bit more in depth – you could tell he’d thought about it, I think we spoke about temperature and things like that. But with Miguel it was more old-school.
Another key figure in the history of the UCI Hour Record is Obree, the two-time record breaker who has been a pioneering figure in pushing the boundaries of physical capability on two wheels. Wiggins remembers meeting him back in 2003 when he had just won world championship gold in the individual pursuit, a feat that Obree had achieved 10 years earlier.
“I haven’t seen Graeme for 10 years now,” said Wiggins. “When his first book came out I went to London and got on the tube with him, and that was the last time I saw him. He’s a fascinating guy, there’s so much going on in his head, so much knowledge that he pours out to you.
“I don’t think he gets enough credit as an athlete. He gets all the credit as an engineer, because of the bike he built and all he’s done since. But because of the way he went about his business, his physical attributes get overlooked a lot. It’s a shame no one got hold of him and tested his power output cause I think in some ways he was a bit of a freak of nature athletically. There was so much focus on the engineering side and the other events in his life that you forget about Graeme the athlete.”