Monday, 16 July 2012

No Line On The Horizon

I watch the Tour and I think about Bradley Wiggins. I think about his meteoric rise to where he is today, and how it seemed to come at such a late stage of his career. The Wiggins who was racing when I was, some 6 years ago, was the Wiggins who would come a hundred and something-or-other in the Giro, and would occasionally pick up a stage win in a week-long stage race, before mumbling something about the track and disappearing for a while.

In a way, many people pigeonholed Wiggins right there and then, and to them, nothing about the former track-man winning the Tour makes sense. But there is no accounting for what goes on in someone’s head, and Bradley Wiggins is a man who has long since had vision beyond his apparent horizons.

A friend of mine told me a story about Bradley Wiggins once. We were on the U23 national team, and we would only see Bradley occasionally when he would come and dabble on the road for a bit. I think by that stage he was already at La Francais des Jeux, and we were already all mightily impressed that he was wearing Pro Tour shorts and had bleached his hair like the pros did in 2003.

Anyway, on one of these trips my mate had roomed with Wiggins. When he came up in conversation at a later date, at some dinner table somewhere, he had said in absolute awe, “You know, when we were sharing a room once I asked him, ‘Brad do you think you could ever win the Tour one day?”

This, remember was at a time when Wiggins was focused on the track, and the only murmurs he had made about being good on the road had seemed more like lip service to his profession for the three non-Olympic years each cycle.

To my friends amazement though Wiggins response was thus, “He put his book down, considered the question, looked at me, and just said ‘Yeah, maybe one day- if everything goes right.”

It astounded my friend, because he really meant it. What astounded me was the fact that Wiggins mind hadn’t worked like the rest of ours. Normally, you start off believing you can win the Tour when you are a kid, and then you race more and more, and you get good, but you discover at some stage your level and your ambitions match that.

For most riders, this is formed in their first few years of getting a kicking in the pro peloton. The hiding’s you take temper your goals, and you learn what you could one day possibly win, and what remains way beyond your grasp. For most riders, the question ‘could you win the Tour?’ becomes a stupid one beyond the age of nineteen or twenty.

For Wiggins though, despite his apparent early limitations as a road rider, his goal remained winning the biggest race on earth. He has always seen himself as the rider he is now; it was just us, perhaps, who didn’t see it.

In a weeks time, everything could have conspired to go right, and whether he knew it or not those ten long years ago, should Wiggins win, it will, in my mind, remain testament to one thing; the indubitable power of innate self-belief.