- Jul. 21, 2009
- Individual Pursuit: Wiggins Eyes Podium as Tour Heats Up
Make no mistake: Bradley Wiggins is the revelation of this year’s Tour de France.
The Garmin-Slipstream rider again stayed with the leaders as today’s stage 16 took the peloton over two colossal climbs, keeping himself solidly in third place with only five stages remaining. “Wiggo” is already known world-wide as a master of the individual and team pursuits on the velodrome, but his incredible performance in the Tour so far has surprised just about everyone. So, how does a track rider become a podium contender in the world’s most grueling cycling event?
Well, to begin with, you gotta lose some weight. Extra pounds are a Tour rider’s worst enemy, and too many of them make it virtually impossible for a rider to get up the race’s long climbs with the leaders. Last year at this time, Wiggins weighed in at around 175 poundsnot exactly ideal climbing weight. But, by eating right and training specifically to contend in a Grand Tour, he now comes in at a svelte 156 lbs. At 6’3” tall, Wiggo has rightfully earned the nickname “Twiggo” among the more clever riders in the pro peloton.
Losing weight alone will not win a Tour de France, though, so you’ve got to be able to suffer. Although most folks envision huge riders with bulging muscles and lightening-quick acceleration when they think of track racing, the pursuit, Wiggin’s specialty, is a different animal altogether. Essentially it is 4km of excruciating, lung-searing pain, and only a few riders in the world can tolerate it for long enough to excel in the sport. When you consider that Wiggins has won enough World and Olympic medals in both the team and individual pursuits to fill up a Mini Cooper (the original version), you begin to understand how he's able to suffer up mammoth climbs with the best riders in the world.
If feathery weight and the ability to suffer alone do not make a Tour contender, simply throw in some redemption. At the 2007 Tour, one of Wiggin’s teammates on his former squad tested positive for a banned substance and his entire team withdrew from the race. Wiggins was angry, frustrated and vowed never to return. But, rather than abandon the world’s largest cycling spectacle, he joined a team committed to riding clean and returned to the race with the goal of not just finishing, but finishing high in the overall standings. Funny what a little anger can do.
OK…I know this may be going on a little too long, but bear with me.
The 4th thing you have to do to compete in the Tour de France is look like a rock star, and Wiggins has this down. In the off season, with his hair grown out a bit, along with his new leaner frame, Wiggins could easily fit in onstage with Oasis and you’d never know the difference. In fact, at the Garmin-Slipstream team intro gala at the Boulder Theater last fall, Wiggo managed to outbid me at the auction for a custom electric guitar. So, apparently he doesn’t just look the part.
Next year, I’m bringing a huge wad of cash and bidding on whatever item Bradley decides to go for, regardless of what it might be. You might be able to finish on the podium at the Tour, Wiggo, but you’re going down at next year’s auction.
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