Sir Bradley Wiggins finished what was purported to be his final race, attacking with partner Mark Cavendish to lap the field on the final Madison of the Gent Six Day in Belgium to take out the overall victory, but the world champion was coy as to whether this would be his final race amid speculation that more Six Day races lie in his future.
"This will be the last time we race together for sure," Wiggins said of his partnership with Cavendish before adding: "Maybe not my last, individually. When you think of all that we've achieved together, it's incredible."
When pressed on his future plans immediately after the finish, Wiggins was non-committal. "I'm not sure. I just want to enjoy this moment,” he said. “I still have really good legs, so I don't want to say it's 100 per cent the end, and then make an announcement next week. At the moment, I'm just going to enjoy today."
Wiggins’ appearances in Gent and London in recent weeks have been overshadowed by the fall-out from the Fancy Bears hacking group’s revelation that he had received a therapeutic use exemption for the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide on three occasions during his tenure at Team Sky, including immediately before his 2012 Tour de France victory.
The Daily Mail has also reported that Wiggins was the recipient of a mystery package following his victory at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, an incident which is expected to be queried at a parliamentary select committee hearing into doping in sport, due to be held in London next month. Sky manager Dave Brailsford has been invited to appear before the committee.
Wiggins made a pointed reference to the furore when asked to elaborate on his future plans in Gent on Sunday evening.
“I’m going to go and become a journalist for the Daily Mail. No I’m not. I’m not a c***,” Wiggins said.
“What am I going to do? I have a team which is about inspiring young lads and I have some really talented ones coming through. I want to try and help them and develop the next champions who’ll come here and race and win in the future.”
Wiggins was then asked how he wanted to be remembered. “I don’t care anymore, I’ve given up caring. It’s very hard to take praise, you do what you do and you don’t think about the memories you’re giving people,” he said.
“I think it’s not about being remembered as whatever, man of the people — says what he thinks, very unpolitically correct, very anti-establishment in part. Some things never leave you from childhood and I used to hate being told what to do when I was at school — says the man what accepted a f***ing knighthood — I’m not contradicting myself at all, but whatever.”
Wiggins had earlier been asked to discuss his relationship with his Gent Six Day partner Cavendish. Together, they claimed the world title in the Madison at the Track Worlds in London in March, but Cavendish was denied a place in Great Britain's gold-medal winning team pursuit squad in Rio. Although Cavendish took out the silver medal in the Omnium, he remains one of the few top British track riders to not have Olympic gold, in part because of a lacklustre Madison in Beijing with Wiggins in 2008.
Winning in Gent, Wiggins said, placed the pair among some of the greatest partnerships in cycling history.
"We're brothers. We have a good time together, and we'd do anything for each other," Wiggins said of their sometimes rocky relationship. "We fight and bicker, but we know each other’s strengths. We've raced together for 12-13 years now. It's been one of the great partnerships like Patrick [Sercu] and Eddy [Merckx], [Danny] Clark and [Don] Allan."
Wiggins wanted to close out his career in the place where he was born and lived until being estranged from his father Gary, who raced here in the 70s and 80s, at the age of 2. His father inspired his cycling career but died in 2008, before Wiggins' Olympic success in Beijing, London and Rio and before his Tour de France victory.
"I still think about my father every day. He's still one of my heroes as a bike rider. I'm not the biggest fan [of him] as a person, and as a father he was rubbish, but as a bike rider he inspired me. That's why I'm here as a racer today, because of what he did. I'm always thankful for that, and obviously he gave me some good genes and a good fine spirit.
"I can still remember as a child the smell of embrocation from the legs of the riders," Wiggins added. "I came here as a 16-year-old to watch [the Six Day]. It hasn't changed a bit, the velodrome. It's always special to win here, and I always said that this could be my final send off – to come here and race Gent for one last time."