Bradley Wiggins wasn't going to speak to the press at the Gent Six Day, continuing his radio silence in the wake of the Fancy Bears hack that revealed his use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) during his career, but the 37-year-old appeared comfortable taking questions trackside during day 1 of racing.
In 2002, Wiggins took second place with his partner Matthew Gilmore. The pair returned the following year and won the overall. Wiggins, who is riding with Mark Cavendish this week, said that the 2016 Gent Six Day will be the final race of his career, but in recent weeks Wiggins has suggested he could race on. Asked if it would truly be his final race, Wiggins responded "ask me on Sunday".
"I just love it man. I love it, I have been coming here since I was born when my father was racing. Cycling has changed so much and a lot of people have been coming here since before cycling got really popular. It is just lovely to be back. I love this building, I love this place, I love this country. It is fantastic," Wiggins told the largely Belgian media at 't Kuipke, who failed to ask any questions about Wiggins' TUE in the short time he was available.
"I have trained hard for this, I have trained well for this and I have been looking forward to this. Nothing was going to piss on my parade."
During the impromptu media appearance, Wiggins, who was born in Gent, expressed his pleasure to be racing on the 't Kuipke Velodrome. "It feels like a second home really. I always say that when I go to London but that never really does. But when I come here, you know, like yesterday I went to see some old friends who we knew when I was a baby, back when my Dad was racing here," said Wiggins, whose father Gary also rode the Gent Six Day during his career.
"Everyone remembers, you know… 'Oh, I remember when you were a baby and you shit your arse and we had to change your nappy.' And I'm like 'Oh, cheers for that. I'm 37 now," added Wiggins with a laugh.
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Wiggins said that it would be an emotional week of racing with the memories of his dad and the added fact his two children will be watching him race for possibly the last time in his career.
"I am sure I will. Especially when my kids come because like I said, I always think of my father,and when I sat in the cabins with my dad when I was one, and I have a picture of that. I have my own kids now, that would be a really nice touch," he said.
After the first day of racing, Cavendish and Wiggins sit third on the overall standings with Elia Viviani and Iljo Kiesse in second, and Kenny de Ketele and Moreno de Pauw in first. When Wiggins first raised the idea of finishing his career in Gent, Keisse put his hand up to partner the 2012 Tour de France champion. However, he explained that while he would have enjoyed racing with the six-time Gent Six Day winner, racing with Cavendish "is special".
"I would have loved to have raced with Iljo. That was well documented. Obviously, with Mark it is special as well but he has had such a long season I don't know how he is still going. He started in Australia with that Cadel Evans thing in January and he is still here now in November. It is impressive," he said of Cavendish who he won the madison world title with in March.