Wiggins and Cavendish: We conquered the world in those eight years

The boys are back in town. Thin Lizzy blared out across the London velodrome as Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins laughed, hugged, picked each other up, shared piggybacks, and simply soaked up as much as possible of an emotionally-charged evening.

Heading anti-clockwise, the duo wound back the clock over the course of 200 laps of the track, winning the Madison world title just as they had done on home turf eight years ago. Like that night in Manchester in 2008, victory came thanks to a long, long lap-take late into the race, and it produced decibel counts this arena hasn't heard since the Olympic Games four years ago.

"You couldn't have written a better script," said Wiggins. "It was like déja vu back to eight years ago."

This was the first time the pair had ridden the two-man track event together at elite level since the disaster that was the Beijing Olympics, where the pair could only manage ninth and Cavendish left bitter and disappointed – the only British rider to come away without a medal.

This victory, then, had a cathartic and redemptive quality to it. More than that, though, it was an occasion bathed in nostalgia. Eight years. A chance to reflect on all that has happened in that time.

"When we won our first title together we hadn't won a Tour de France stage between us," Cavendish noted as he joined Wiggins in front of the press.

"That year I won the Giro stage, went on and won four Tour stages. The year after, you were fourth in the Tour, I won another six stages, then Brad won the Tour, I won Worlds…"

"We went on to conquer the world in those eight years," said Wiggins, cutting across his partner. "Like Barack Obama, over eight years we've had a good term in presidency. We've come back full circle and won it again.

"To think what we've done in that eight years together, there's some iconic images – going across the Champs Élysées together. Copenhagen when he won [the Worlds] there, leading him out in those Tour stages in yellow when he was world road champion…"

After looking back at the past, Wiggins couldn't help but look to the future.

"In 50 years' time… You see those iconic images of [Tom] Simpson and that now, and you think what those images are going to be like. Just brilliant."

It's difficult to quantify the impact these two have had on the sport in Great Britain. The hoards of lycra-clad figures that now fill the countryside each weekend are a clear indication, but in 50 years' time, when the generation that has been inspired by their achievements has gone some way to emulating them, the picture will be clearer still.

Cavendish has plenty of time ahead of him to enhance his position in cycling's pantheon, and Wiggins himself still has another Olympics on the horizon, but this Madison may well have been the final time the pair will race alongside one another at any real competitive level.

As such, it felt very much like the end of an era, and the poignancy was not lost on them.

"It's the last international Madison we'll ride together. It might, if I don't get selected for Rio, be the last ever international competition we do together, so it's just really nice," said Cavendish.

Though Wiggins joked he'd have to push his retirement back to make some Six-day appearances alongside Cavendish – "like the old days with Merckx and Sercu" – the pair were happy to cherish the most fitting of final chapters.

"This was like the perfect kind of close," said Cavendish, while Wiggins reached for an analogy of the kind only he can muster.

"It's like when the [Stone] Roses played at Heaton Park in 2012. It was a good gig, wannit. Everyone went home happy."

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.