Cycling's elder statesman Wiggins feels heat as Rio looms


Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Bradley Wiggins admits that he is feeling the effects of time as he aims to end his glittering career with a World Championship and Olympic gold medal double.

The former Tour de France champion returns to London this week, scene of his Olympic time-trial triumph in 2012, as part of the British men's team pursuit squad seeking victory in the World Track Championships.

The 35-year-old says racing the sons of some of his former rivals has brought home to him the size of the task he faces in attempting to win selection for the Rio Olympics later this year.

"I do sometimes feel a little bit like the elder statesman because there's a lot of guys riding the track now whose dads I rode with," Wiggins told reporters in Manchester.

"Philippe Ermenault –- we rode against each other for the bronze in the team pursuit in Sydney (the 2000 Olympics) and now his son is in the French team, riding the Worlds this year.

"And then Rick Zabel, although Erik rode until he was 50, so that's not so hard! But I notice it more. When you start racing people's sons, you know you are getting old.

"I'm just trying to get to the Worlds. I don't think about the end because I haven't made the end. I haven't made the team for the end.

"It has got harder. The training has got harder. It's quite different. The first time I rode the event in the Olympics in 2000, 16 years ago, we broke the Olympic record in qualification with 4min 04sec.

"We are now planning on going 3:50, or quicker. It's 15 seconds faster. The whole thing has just evolved and snowballed."

- 'Cut-throat' -

He added: "The event has got faster and faster and we are now training like sprinters through the winter, in the gym and everything.

"It's brutal. Compare it to the speeds we were going eight years ago. It's moved on that much. The good thing about here is the fact that you come in and it's a numbers game.

"You get shown the numbers after every ride and if you're not up to scratch, you go home. Reputations and results have got nothing to do with it.

"It's brutal, really, quite cut-throat. But it's quite evidential as well. You can see on the board who's slowing and who's picking it up."

Wiggins, who is targeting a fifth Olympic gold in Rio, has already made his mark on the track in the past 12 months by setting a new World Hour Record at London's Lee Valley Velodrome, the venue for this week's Worlds.

The veteran believes that another world record could be broken in London, with the British pursuit team aiming to beat their own mark of 3min 51.659sec, which they set at London 2012.

"We're all quite excited we could break the world record next week, if the conditions are right," he said.

"If the World Championships were in Manchester next week, we know we can crank this place up to 30 degrees (Celsius). It's a fast track, we're used to it.

"I think we could go close, if not break the world record. But as I learnt with the hour record, you can't compare anything you do on here (with London).

"You go down to London, if it's sticky in there, whether they get the temperature up, if people are lagging behind before the start of the session and wandering in and out of doors and things -- you just don't know what the conditions are going to be like on the day."