Sir Bradley Wiggins has laid out the road map for the remainder of his career, and is planning to finish on a high note the same way he started: on the track.
In an interview with Owen Slot of The Times, Wiggins said he plans to ride for Team Sky for one more year, and then focus his attention on making the British squad for the team pursuit in the 2016 Olympics.
“I’m going to continue to the next Olympics and try for a fifth gold on the track. That’s the plan,” he said. “Having lost weight and muscle the last few years, I wouldn’t be able to walk back into that team pursuit squad, so I’m not taking it for granted, but I am working towards that. It would be nice to finish the career with another Olympic gold.”
And while he thinks he has one more Tour de France in him, it will be as a support rider for Team SKy’s 2013 Tour de France winner, and not as team leader.
“I don’t mind admitting that Chris is probably a better Grand Tour rider than me,” Wiggins said. “He is a much better climber, he can time-trial well. He has age on his side, he has no kids. That’s fine.
“If Chris wants to, he could potentially win five Tours now. So if I want to win another Tour, I’d probably have to leave the team.”
He's not planning on going anywhere, though. “I love this team. This is my home. I’m not going to go, ‘I want to be the leader still, so I’m off.’ ”
Wiggins has already said that he is rebuilding the less-skeletal version of himself that rode to track glory before he targeted the Tour de France. He now says there is no turning back, even if Chris Froome’s spot as team leader for the 2014 Tour somehow became vacant.
“Because of the work I am doing,” he said, “I am p*****g on my chances for that.
“I can’t put all this weight on and then suddenly lose muscle and do GC again,” he said. “Anyway, the next person in line, the natural successor, is Richie Porte. He really is the next one who could potentially win the Tour.”
Instead he will target the one-day Classics next year, then hope for a spot on Sky’s Tour team - if he’s good enough. He also questions openly whether “there is a place for me on that team” if he’s carrying too much weight to be useful support to Froome in the mountains.
And despite the soap opera frostiness between Wiggins and Froome in the last few months, and between their partners Kath Wiggins and Michelle Cound, Wiggins says he is now desperate to ride for Froome.
Since dropping out of the Giro in May, too injured to have any chance of making the Tour team, Wiggins has been through “a lot of reflection”.
But this is an older, wiser Wiggins than the rider who returned from Athens in 2004 and when on a nine-month bender in the comedown from Olympic hero to everyday working pro bike rider.
This time, he says he was content to sit on the bench during the Tour.
“I was thinking: ‘You know what, I am quite happy with my lot. I’ve achieved everything I want to achieve. I am good at what I am good at; I am good at the odd time-trial. I’ve already won the Tour de France, no one can take that away from me.’”
Despite his previous claims that he didn’t watch Froome’s Tour win, he admitted he did catch up with the news and daily highlights after long training rides in Mallorca.
“It made me appreciate how far I had come the year before,” he said.
“You can look at it two ways. You can go: ‘F*****g hell, he’s got my crown.’ Or, you can think: ‘You know what, this race is unbelievable. I did this last year. How did I do it?’
“A year ago, I took everything in my stride, but a year later, you are on the outside watching it and it is inspiring in some ways, watching the guys doing what they were doing. And in a way I was like: ‘I’m glad I’m not there because it looks bloody hard.’”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.