Double Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell says he believes Sir Bradley Wiggins “is worth a gamble” for a place in the Team GB squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Cracknell has been coaching Wiggins since the five-time cycling gold medallist and 2012 Tour de France winner switched sports earlier this year.
He said that Wiggins’ competitive debut this weekend at the British National Indoor Rowing Championships, which take place at Lea Valley VeloPark this weekend – the venue where he set the current UCI Hour Record two and a half years ago, gives him a chance to stake his claim.
“First and foremost, Brad isn’t going to be rowing on the water at the British indoor championships – he’ll be taking on a machine, and it’s an opportunity for him to put a score on the board which could mark him down as a contender,” Cracknell told The Mirror.
“He’s been very quick to pay respect to the sport, and he’s not larking around. He’s also got to be realistic and accept he’s a bloke of around 6ft 3in and 93kg taking on guys who are 6ft 6in, 110kg and all the power they can generate.
“It’s the equivalent of him riding a static Wattbike. It’s a useful measurement of his power, but the real test will be on the water.
“Can he put himself in the same ball-park as the guys at the bottom end of the national squad, and will the coach take a gamble on him for Tokyo?
“In my opinion, it’s a gamble worth taking.”
Besides his five gold medals, Wiggins, aged 37, has also secured one silver and two bronze medals during the past four Olympic Games, his total haul of eight being a record for any British athlete.
Cracknell said: “On his own, Brad has won more Olympic medals than any British athlete in history, and even if he doesn’t quite make the standard, there’s a huge amount of guys who can learn so much from him about what it takes to be a champion.
“By 2020, he will only be a bit older than Steve Redgrave when he won in Sydney, and he has a track record of achieving his target when he puts his mind to something.
“If I was running British Rowing, I’d be looking at the profile of the sport and thinking how much it could be lifted by having someone of Bradley Wiggins’ stature,” he continued.
“As a sport it needs funding, it needs publicity and it needs to extend its profile beyond once every four years in the headlines when we win Olympic medals.”
“He will need to pace himself, but we have seen in the past there is a natural aptitude among rowers who take to a bike, like Rebecca Romero [winner of a silver medal in the quadruple sculls at Athens in 2004 and gold in the individual pursuit in Beijing four years later], and there’s no reason why the reverse shouldn’t apply,” Cracknell added.
Last month another British Olympic gold medal-winning rower, Mark Hunter, said he believed Wiggins has what it takes to win a place in the squad for Tokyo, suggesting he could be best suited to a place in the men’s coxed eight, an event in which Team GB are the reigning Olympic champions.
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.