Sir Bradley Wiggins says that the reaction to Geraint Thomas’s comments that cycle helmets should be made compulsory for riders in the UK reflect the Welshman’s status as the latest winner of cycling’s biggest race.
In 2012, Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, and discovered that winning the yellow jersey brought with it a degree of fame and media attention beyond that which had previously come with winning Olympic gold medals.
His own view, expressed the following year and repeated several times since that people riding bikes in the UK should be required to wear a helmet – the Highway Code only recommends that cyclists do so – saw him hit the headlines, just as Thomas’s comments, made in an interview with yesterday’s Sunday Times, have.
Speaking in The Bradley Wiggins Show vodcast which made its debut on Eurosport during the Tour de France and has returned for the Vuelta, Wiggins said: “I feel a bit sorry for him [Thomas] really, because I don't know what his views are.
"Geraint has been concentrating on what he's been trying to do – win the Tour de France. The last month he's been preoccupied with that, and all of a sudden he comes back from the Tour de France and everyone wants to know what he thinks about certain topics.
"I don't know what capacity it was asked in, but I'm sure it was just, 'what do you think about helmets?'. And just to maybe appease people, having no strong views on it, he probably thought of saying yeah, they should be made [compulsory].
"But it's caused just as much uproar by saying that as by saying 'I don't think you should have to wear a helmet' which would probably have been equal front page news.
"It's one of those things if you don't have a strong opinion on it either way,” added Wiggins, who rode alongside Thomas as Team GB won gold in the team pursuit at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, with the pair joining Team Sky when it was set up at the end of the following year.
“He's the Tour de France winner now, and everyone wants to know his view on certain things like he's some sort of Messiah,” Wiggins continued.
Thomas himself was rather taken aback by the strength of feeling his comments unleashed on social media and pointed out on Twitter that it was just one opinion expressed in an interview that lasted an hour – albeit, the one that the Sunday Times chose to feature on its front page yesterday.
But former world and Olympic champion Chris Boardman, who in recent years has turned to cycle campaigning and is now Greater Manchester’s Cycling & Walking Commissioner, told the Welshman that it was a view he once shared, until he began researching the issue.
“Exactly what I thought when I was a pro,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s an intuitive stance until you research levels of danger compared to other things we do helmet-less and crucially, the unintended consequences.”
Regarding the attention that Thomas’s comments had garnered, Boardman added: “Comes with the job I’m afraid, you talk, people listen.”
Wiggins also echoed that sentiment, saying: "This is one of the ways [Thomas’s life has changed]; you're supposed to have the answers to all these questions.
"Someone like Chris Boardman is far more in a position to understand all the detail around a question like that, but as the Tour de France winner Geraint's now in a position where people expect him to answer those questions."
Wiggins’ own stance on the subject of whether cycle helmets should be compulsory seems to have softened.
"I think it should be a choice still,” he said. “There's a responsibility to kids, but when you're an adult you should be able to make that decision for yourself.”
He added: "I think there are other things in terms of road safety and safety towards cyclists that should be implemented before helmets are made compulsory."
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.