Bradley Wiggins says he has had problems dealing with the level of fame that accompanied his becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France in 2012 – and says there are times he wishes it hadn’t happened.
Less than a week after winning the yellow jersey in Paris, Wiggins was similarly attired as he rang the bell to start the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London and days later took the fourth Olympic gold medal of his career in the time trial.
“It was nice people saying ‘it changed my life’ and hearing things like ‘the Wiggo effect’; that was a positive,” he told BBC Scotland’s David McDaid ahead of his going for Commonwealth Games gold in the team pursuit on the first day of competition in Glasgow today.
“From a personal point of view, there’s been times I wish I’d never done all that,” he continued.
“I left for the Tour de France that year relatively unknown in the general public’s eyes. When I came back, for a week or so I felt like the most famous man in the country.
“It’s quite hard that level of fame, when you just want to do normal stuff with the children, things like that. That was hard but I think you learn to deal with it.
“You can plan physically to try to win the Tour but I could never plan for what was going to happen after it.
“It just went mad for a bit. Looking back now you don’t fully appreciate it at the time, you just try to take it in your stride… and drinking and stuff to try to ease your way through it.
“It was massive really. I can’t really put it into words how much it changed everything.
“Talking to people like Chris Hoy really helped, because he went through a similar thing after Beijing [in 2008]. You realise that it’s not just you.”
Wiggins, who aims to end his career at the Rio Olympics in 2016, said he decided to take part in the team pursuit after he was left out of Team Sky’s line-up for the Tour de France, and that it had been Sir Dave Brailsford who suggested that he ride on the track rather than the time trial which he was originally targeting.
“As soon as he said it, I thought that was the next best thing really,” Wiggins explained. “I got straight back in the velodrome and training with the guys.
“The last six or seven weeks since I’ve been back on the track have just been really refreshing and a good distraction from all of that Tour de France nonsense.
“It’s given me another focus rather than just lolling about at home feeling miserable.”
Wiggins has three Commonwealth Games silver medals, and will hope to race for gold in this evening’s final at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
“It’s one of the few things missing from my collection,” he went on. “Being in Scotland, it’s almost a home Games and there’s always a nice feeling with that.
“So it’d be nice to come away with a gold and put that with the rest of them, 16 years on from the first one.”
Looking ahead, Wiggins two remaining career goals are to win Paris-Roubaix and a fifth Olympic gold medal in the team pursuit in Brazil.
“If I am to compete with this team in Rio - which is what I want - I’m going to have to give it the time necessary,” he said. “The guys have got so fast and the event’s moved on.
“I didn’t want to take it for granted that I could just come back in with a couple of weeks of preparation and be able to do it. This gives me a chance to see where I’m at and see what I have to work on.”
Wiggins added: “I’m pretty content with what I’ve achieved. I never imagined years ago I’d achieve all of this. Cycling’s given me everything and if I had to stop tomorrow I’d be content.
“I remember when I got my first [Olympic] medal in Sydney in 2000. We got bronze, I was 19, and I walked away from there thinking ‘if I never do anything else, I’ve always got an Olympic medal’. Everything else is a bonus really.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.