Bradley Wiggins does not believe Lance Armstrong’s insistence that he did not dope after his return to cycling in 2009, greeting the American’s denial to Oprah Winfrey with the thought, “You lying bastard,” as he watched the interview last week with his son. Wiggins also admitted that Armstrong’s confession made him feel “smug” that he had won the Tour clean, and that he felt no sympathy for his former rival.
"I was very determined not to watch it,” Wiggins said of the Oprah interview. “I was a fan of Lance; I remember watching the Worlds in 1993 [in Oslo, where Armstrong won]. I was 13 then.
“Then he came back and won the Tour de France in 1999 when I was 19 years of age, I was on the track programme and that was so inspirational at the time, seeing what he had come from in those pictures with cancer.
"Part of me didn't want to watch it, the fan in me didn't really want that perception of him to be broken as an amazing athlete.
“But I watched it with my seven-year-old son, and those initial first questions, the yes/no answers… watching him suddenly cave in after all these years of lying so convincingly, there was a lot of anger, a lot of sadness.
“I was slightly emotional as well if I'm honest. It was difficult to watch really. My wife couldn't watch it, she walked out the room,” he added.
Armstrong’s comeback year, 2009, was also the one when then Garmin Slipstream rider Wiggins made his breakthrough at the Tour de France, finishing fourth overall, and he has since been awarded the third place stripped from Armstrong.
What Wiggins didn’t get was the opportunity to become the first British rider to stand on the podium, with Armstrong taking the plaudits alongside overall winner Alberto Contador and runner-up Andy Schleck.
Speaking to the media at Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca today, Wiggins contrasted separate performances by Armstrong during that 2009 Tour de France.
One was the Stage 15 summit finish at Verbier in Switzerland won by Contador, with Wiggins fifth, around half a minute ahead of Armstrong; the other was the climb of Mont Ventoux on the penultimate stage, when the American, 15 seconds ahead of Wiggins at the start of the day, put a further 22 seconds into him to seal third place overall.
"That was the thing that upset me the most about 2009 and 2010,” explained Wiggins. “I thought, ‘You lying bastard.’
“I can still remember going toe to toe with him, watching him and his body language. The man I saw at the top of Verbier in 2009 to the man I saw on the top of Ventoux two weeks later [actually six days – ed], it wasn't the same bike rider.
“Watch the videos and see the way the guy was riding. I just don't believe anything that comes out of his mouth any more."
Returning to Armstrong’s confession, Wiggins said: "It's heartbreaking for the sport, but then the anger kicks in and you start thinking, ‘You f*cking arsehole,’ or whatever feelings most people had when watching it.
“I had to explain to my son what it's all about, he's won the same race as his dad has won. But by the end of the hour-and-a-half, I had the best feeling in the world.
"When he [Armstrong] started welling up about his 13-year-old son asking him what it's all about; I never have to have that conversation with my own son – his father's won the Tour clean.
“There's this element of being smug about the whole thing to be honest. Then I got a ‘You deserve everything you get’ kind of thing.
“By the end, I was feeling no sympathy for him behind all the welling up and the tears."
Despite being denied his moment on the podium in 2009, Wiggins of course did get to enjoy the applause on the Champs-Elysées last July after becoming the first Briton to win the Tour, with Sky team mate Chris Froome alongside him as second placed finisher.
Today, Team Sky revealed the early season programmes for both riders, with Wiggins competing in the Mallorca Challenge next month before joining Froome for the Tour of Oman.
Froome will race Tirreno-Adriatico in early March, but it appears Wiggins will not seek to defend his Paris-Nice title, which takes place at the same time. He is however confirmed to race the Volta a Catalunya in the second half of March.
In April, Wiggins will ride the Giro del Trentino as preparation for May’s Giro d’Italia, where he is targeting the overall win.
While plans are still fluid, it looks unlikely Wiggins will seek a third consecutive win in the Criterium du Dauphiné, a race that Froome will ride.
Both will ride the Tour de France, and while Sky is non-committal about who will lead its challenge – it says only that they will ride “with the aim of securing a victory for Team Sky” – Wiggins told French newspaper L’Equipe earlier this week that he would be happy to support Froome’s challenge for the overall win.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.