Paris-Roubaix marked an emotional end of an era for Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford with the exit of Bradley Wiggins from the road scene. Although the Hell of the North wasn't the swan song either man was hoping for, Brailsford praised Wiggins for giving "it a good old crack, like he always does".
Brailsford and Wiggins have worked together since Wiggins graduated from the junior ranks on the track, when British Cycling became funded by the national lottery and started its ascent to Olympic domination. A Tour de France victory, four Olympic gold medals, six track world titles and last year's time trial rainbow jersey performance later, and Wiggins will now head back to the track with an eye toward Rio and gold in the team pursuit.
Although Wiggins had made headline after headline in the days leading up to Paris-Roubaix, his final road race with Team Sky, his one bullet proved insufficient and after his attack was neutralised, he finished an less than ideal 18th place. Brailsford, however, was not disappointed.
"So much was made about this race with it being Brad’s last appearance for us, and it was difficult to watch it in the same way you normally would," Brailsford said to TeamSky.com. "Some detractors may say him finishing 18th is a little underwhelming, but if you take a step back, the guy has won the Tour de France and the Olympics and did absolutely everything he could today. He was there with 30km to go attacking on his own, and at that point I was thinking ‘Jesus, he might ride away from everybody here’.
"That takes some doing and he should hold his head up high. He gave it a good old crack, like he always does. For a lot of people it was all about him and his performance today, and I think he did exceptionally, as always."
Brailsfored admitted that it was emotional to watch Wiggins in his last ever road race with Sky. "These things comes to an end, though, and you try to think of a nice way to end a sporting career - do you step out at the top or do you become a fading light and drift away?
"We thought long and hard about that and decided this was a good way of doing it. It doesn’t feel like he’s stopping and retiring because he is obviously not, and I think we made a good decision to do it like this. It feels like a nice way to end."
It's difficult to quantify the impact that Wiggins has had on British Cycling. His appearance in the programme coincided with Brailsford's transformation of British Cycling from underfunded, plucky underdog to a dominating force in world cycling.
"Personally, we have been through a lot together and he has done an awful lot for British cycling, and the whole of sport," Brailsford said. "When you consider his versatility, he has got to be right up there with one of the best athletes that the country has ever produced."
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