LONDON — British cycling director of performance Dave Brailsford says Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins could struggle next season if he does not find a way to cope with his new celebrity status.
The 32-year-old Wiggins has become a national hero after giving his country its first Tour de France. He then added the Olympic time trial gold medal to his yellow jersey as a wave of “Wiggomania” spread over the country.
Wiggins, who rang the Olympic Bell to mark the start of the opening ceremony, is expected to be knighted by the end of the year.
Brailsford, the man who masterminded Britain’s harvest of medals in Beijing and London, says the lanky Londoner will find himself in a difficult position next year if he fails to deal with the intense attention that comes with being a Tour de France champion during the offseason, a crucial period when champions work on their base endurance.
“It will be very difficult,” said Brailsford, who also manages Wiggins’ team Sky. “I’d go as far as saying that most people, when they win something that they’ve really (wanted), a big major, career defining victory, the period after that is difficult.”
Since pulling out of the 2011 Tour de France with a broken collarbone, Wiggins has been nearly invincible. This season, he achieved an unprecedented run of successes in some of the most prestigious stage races, with victories in Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, the Criterium du Dauphine and his triumph on the Tour de France, cycling’s showcase event.
Wiggins’ victories have raised huge expectations and the former track specialist, who has struggled in the past to maintain a healthy regimen for long periods, will be intensely scrutinized next year.
Wiggins celebrated his Olympic time trial gold medal with a binge drinking night out in London and said afterward he will probably never have to buy a drink again after making Britain so proud.
This week, he met his music idol Paul Weller at a Stone Roses gig packed with celebrities including Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.
“Bradley will get pulled this winter from award ceremonies to media things to all the things that normally aren’t there in life,” Brailsford said. “He will inevitably get asked to do a lot of that this winter. And the challenge with a lot of guys who hit a peak, they go through all of that and while everyone else is training really, really hard, they’re not. Not because they don’t want to, it’s just difficult to fit it all in.”
Wiggins expects to defend his Tour title next year, and Brailsford believes his protégé could find some inspiration in Lance Armstrong, who won the race seven times in a row from 1999-05.
“That’s where the guys who had repeated success on something like the Tour de France, like Armstrong, it’s a phenomenal achievement, in that sense, to manage your life and to have the discipline to manage your life,” Brailsford said. “And that’s the challenge for Bradley really now.”
British riders have dominated the road and track cycling events in London, claiming eight gold medals and irritating their rivals who have accused them of having “magic wheels” and other technical advantages.
Brailsford said other nations were frustrated because they were not expecting such crushing defeats.
“I think they were lulled into a sense of security because over the past four years, let’s face it, we haven’t lit it up for four years. We weren’t dominating at the worlds as we had done previously. And they got a lot of success to be fair to them. So I think they felt very, very competitive. That’s probably more of a shock than anything to them.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.