Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) will be ready to race at the Olympic Games in Rio, according to British Cycling’s technical director Shane Sutton. Wiggins will be 36 when Rio comes around in 2016, but the Sutton - who took over from Dave Brailsford in April - is happy that Wiggins has the ability to match his younger competitors in the velodrome.
"Brad's not the same bike rider that he was in Beijing, obviously, he's a much stronger rider," Sutton said during an impromptu press conference after Sunday's Commonwealth Games track racing came to a close in the Chris Hoy Velodrome. "I think that Brad will adapt to virtually any pace if we continue to ride him in that position. We'll go to the line with the best four riders on the day, but I'm pretty sure that Brad will be there."
Wiggins made his competitive return to the track last Thursday when he rode for England in the team pursuit. The four-time Olympic gold medallist was originally down to do the road racing, but chose to ride the track after missed out on selection for Team Sky's Tour de France squad. Wiggins, however, chose only to ride in the team pursuit and gave up his spot in the road team.
The 34-year-old looked comfortable being back on the boards, where it began for him over a decade ago. However, his big turns on the front weren't enough to deliver England to gold. They were resoundly beaten by Australia in the final. Despite this, Sutton was pretty pleased with "Sir Bradley's" performance.
"The only disappointing thing for me was, looking at the data in training, was that he didn't ride the individual pursuit. The pace that he was doing in training, the individual pursuit was there for him to take as well," said Sutton. "He's come in and he’s done some training with us and he has delivered for us. We went four seconds quicker than we did at the worlds. There's still a lot of work to do."
Road versus Track
Just hours after taking silver in the team pursuit, Wiggins went on to announce that he would take a step back from road racing to focus on his goal of a track gold medal in Rio. He also stated that he would be unlikely to race another grand tour. Sutton, who has always had a good relationship with Wiggins, was highly supportive of the decision.
"When you're born with that greatness he's got, I think you can pick and chose and line yourself up long-term goals," said Sutton. "Brad's always wanted to leave this sport a legend, but he is a legend. I think just adding another gold medal, if the chance comes, to his palmarès is what he wants. He hasn't got to win the Tour again, he's done that. He's proved that he's capable of winning the Tour. I think Brad's focus is going to be on the classics and getting ready to win in Rio."
Sutton went on to say that the Wiggins factor is more than just about his form on the track. "I think Sir Bradley coming back has given everybody a lift. That's about iconic figures, I've always said that. Unfortunately we haven't got Vicky and Sir Chris any more, but Brad coming back and lining up alongside Jason and Laura, I think we're going to be very strong."