Wiggins and outspoken British cyclists are a breath of fresh air

Jul 18, 2012
Jonathan Harwood

Bored with listening to the platitudes of footballers? Why not follow cycling instead?

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CYCLING is enjoying a huge surge in popularity thanks to the exploits of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish in the Tour de France and the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy on the track. And with Wiggins poised to become the first ever Englishman to win Le Tour and the prospect of another impressive haul of medals in the Olympics, the sport is likely to become even more popular.

And that is good news for the media because cyclists do not appear to be cut from the same cloth as other sportsmen who trot out bland platitudes about giving 110 per cent.

Just yesterday, the outspoken Wiggins took a swipe at celebrity culture in the UK, apropos of nothing. The Daily Telegraph reported that when asked what it would mean to him to win the most famous cycle race in the world he replied: "It's nice to be recognised for achieving something in life because so much of British culture is built on people being famous for not achieving anything.

"It's nice in sport when people stop you in the street and respect you for something you have achieved," he declared.

Earlier in the tour Wiggins exploded at a journalist who intimated that his achievements could be down to doping, suggesting that anyone who thought as much was a "f***ing wanker" before adding that they should "get off their arses in their own lives and apply themselves and work hard at something and achieve something".

He subsequently won over the European press still further by refusing to press home his advantage when several rivals suffered punctures after tacks were thrown onto the road. Those actions prompted the French to dub him "Le Gentleman".

Meanwhile there have been widespread rumours that the man in second place in the Tour, Wiggins's Sky team-mate Chris Froome, is unhappy that he has had to abandon his own dreams of winning this year's race to support Wiggins. "I know my time will come one day," he said, while Wiggins has been at pains to state that he will back him all the way when that time comes.

Mark Cavendish, who has been relatively anonymous in this year's Tour, is expected to take gold at the Olympic road race and has made it abundantly clear he expects the support of his team mates at London 2012.

Previously the Manx sprinter has never been shy of unloading on his opponents after close sprints, and earlier this year he called for Italian Roberto Ferrari to be thrown out of the Giro d'Italia after a crash.

The reigning BBC Sports Personality of the Year has also been accused of being arrogant. But in 2008 he explained himself by saying: "When journalists at the Tour de France ask me if I am the best sprinter, I answer yes, and that's seen as arrogance, but if they don't ask me, I don't say I'm the best sprinter in the world."

On the track circuit, Victoria Pendleton has not been shy of cashing in on her glamour-girl image and has posed naked for several magazines. She is just as happy to bare her soul in interviews and in a documentary on the BBC tonight she admits that she feels "trapped" by success and says that the revelation that she was in a relationship with her coach led to a split in the GB team at the last Olympics. It meant that the day she won gold at Beijing was "the saddest day of my life".

Her protégé Laura Trott, who is only 20 and has a penchant for extravagant nail polish, has already shown in interviews that she has more about her than most of the England football squad.

But it is the granddaddy of British cycling Chris Hoy who summed up the sport’s refreshing approach best. After winning two gold medals at Beijing he was asked about all the hoop-la. "What does Chris Hoy think of Chris Hoy?" asked the reporter.

Hoy replied: "Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day Chris Hoy disappears up his own arse."

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The thing I really love about professional cycling (having been introduced to it in the early 80s by my Father when I was around 6) was how resilient and tough these guys were.

The footballers would flounder on the ground after a light tackle. La Professor and Greg LeMond's lot would crash at 30mph, get back on the bike and ride another 70 miles. There is an old photo of a Tour rider who broke his collar bone, and is holding the steering with a spare inner tube, his face covered in mud and blood.

Only rugby compared for the resilience.

Good to hear that #Allezwiggo #GoCav & Froome are getting the recognition.
Makes a change from bottler Murray and puffed up, non achieving, footballers