Sir Bradley Wiggins has confessed that he considered turning down the offer of a knighthood when the honour was offered to him in following his Tour de France and Olympic time trial victories in 2012. Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, Wiggins admitted he had been persuaded to accept it by his grandmother and one of his musical heroes, Paul Weller.
He added that Weller, "actually gave me the nod. We were talking about it in a tailor's one day. He said, 'It's different for sport.' As soon as he said that, I thought I'd better take it. I kind of had his blessing."
Wiggins spoke revealingly about his early life. Recalling his upbringing by his mother, Linda, in Kilburn in north-west London, Wiggins confessed that the emotional and financial support she had provided had been crucial to him, especially after his father, Gary, had left them.
He continued: "My mum put herself into £50,000 worth of debt to service my sporting career. I look after her now but she is not the sort of woman who wants a lot in return. She's just content and proud that I've held a marriage for 12 years and that I've got two kids – that I've got the fundamental things, things than mean more than sport, that I've become a good person."
Asked about his father, the Briton said Gary Wiggins "did not fully see the responsibilities of having a child", and went on to discuss his father's involvement with drugs, which he confirmed included smuggling amphetamines in his infant son's nappies.
"He did a bit of everything. His nickname was 'The Doc'. In those days it was amphetamines and speed. He was a user and used to sell. Given all that's been said about Lance Armstrong over the last few years, my mum's got some great stories about the people who, when I was a baby, came through our apartment door to buy stuff off my dad. These people are now beating the drum saying, 'I didn't do anything,' which is quite funny."
Asked about next month's challenge for the Hour Record, he responded: "I wouldn't do it if I didn't think I could break it. But these are the things that have always driven me, these huge challenges. I'm only going to do it once, and topping it off in London as well where it all started is quite fitting."
Surprisingly, Wiggins didn't choose any of Weller's songs among the eight that he would want to take with him to a desert island. His selections were:
I Am The Resurrection by The Stone Roses
The Queen is Dead by The Smiths
That's What I Like by Chas & Dave
Reasons to Be Cheerful Part III by Ian Dury and the Blockheads
Rock n Roll Star by Oasis
Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones
Cosmic Dancer by T Rex
Sound and Vision by David Bowie
Asked which he would take with him along with the programme's staples, The Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Wiggins admitted: "I'm not a big book reader and the books that I have read are ones that I've got inspiration from.
"One of the ones I've got most from was [American athlete] Michael Johnson's. He seems a real gentleman and was so focused, and I love that about him. He did a book after Atlanta that was slightly autobiographical, but also talking about his training methods and coping strategies and I'd take that with me as a reminder as to why I'm here where I am today." As his luxury item, he selected a photo album of his family.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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