Discuss: Is Wiggins a Bust?

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I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with great white sharks. Seriously—one of my lifelong dreams is to hop a plane to South Africa or San Francisco, charter a boat, and see one up close and personal (just ask my wife, she’s tired of hearing about it). I don’t need to touch it, swim with it, or even hop in a cage to get a fish-eye view—I just want to throw some chum in the water and see one glide up for a free meal.

Similarly, I want to “see” more of you, dear readers—in the form of your comments, insights, and opinions about all matters racing. Maybe the Feed Zone inspired me or maybe I’m just tired of Twitter and the fact that all anyone talks about there is doping, race radios, and the UCI. Regardless, we want to hear more from you.

So today, we’re trying something new. From time to time, whenever the urge strikes us, we’ll throw out some interesting racing-related “chum” and let you all weigh-in on the topic. Topics will be designed to generate conversation and may or not be the opinions of the site’s contributors. The only ground rules: leave the ad hominem attacks for Twitter, and make an effort to educate your peers whenever possible. If you know of a historical parallel, share it. If you happen to have some data someone else is not taking into account, post it. In the end, the goal is quality, passionate, and informed discourse—the kind we all enjoy.

Let’s call it “Discuss”.  Here’s your first topic:

Thanks his lackluster results and failure to be a model team player, Bradley Wiggins is the sport’s biggest and most expensive bust.

Discuss.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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18 Responses to Discuss: Is Wiggins a Bust?

  1. Hunter says:

    Yet to be decided. Wiggo has the potential, but failed to deliver last season. My one major gripe with all potential Anglo tour winners (See: Wiggo, Cadel, Vandevelde, etc) is tunnel vision on the tour. I understand the demand of sponsors and the fact that it is the largest grand tour, but why doesn't a DS ever say "Lets learn to win a grand tour at the Giro, or even the Vuelta, then focus all our guns on the tour." The pressure at the Tour is immense, I think Wiggo buckled under it last year, and I think much could be gained if they would focus on another of the Grand Tour's first. Worst case scenario you win the Giro. Look at Menchov, he will most likely never win the tour, but a giro and vuelta victory is not too shabby a palmares, its probably more than my 3 examples will retire with.

  2. kingofpeaks7 says:

    Hmm, this is a tough question. I think Wiggins has shown a reasonable ability in short stage races, he was third in Paris Nice and hes still a good time triallist (4th in the hilly Romandie tt). I think he was poor last year for several reasons.

    Firstly the hype, secondly a brutal Giro d'Italia which tired him out too much rather than being good training and a Tdf that didnt suit him with an emphasis on large numbers of climbs and little time trialling. I think he can do well up a single climb (e.g. mont ventoux). He wont win but he can limit the time he loses and make it back in a tt. Last years course had too many stages with lots of climbs before the summit finish and he couldnt take this, thats not the kind of rider he is.

    His legs were miles and miles from form in the tour and I dont think this is because hes a poor rider. The fourth place in 2009 WAS a bit of a fluke but for him to drop to 20 something so quickly is, in my mind, due to some of the factors mention above. Hes skipping the Giro this year to prepare for the tour but the tour route doesnt really suit him this year so i think we are unlikely to see a strong performance. I think he needs a bit more time to develop and get a feel for what kind of races hes really good at. He also needs less pressure on him to succeed at the tour as i think this hampered him last year. The issue is, how long does he have left to develop, hes in his early 30s so probably not that long…

  3. beev says:

    I preferred the poor/hungry wiggins of pre '09, to the one we see these days. i don't begrudge him his money just feel it is weighing on him. He's an awesome talent – i just get the feeling he performs better given anything from "firm persuasion" (vaughters) through to "a rocket up his arse" (boardman) as opposed to being allowed to roll on as cool as you like with a 7-figure income….

  4. Ken says:

    I think that sometimes under the right circumstances we are capable of extraordinary things. That was Wiggins in the 09 tour. He is a gifted athlete for sure, but I don't think his top 5 placing in the tour is repeatable. Sky gambled that Wiggins could repeat and possibly improve his placing in the tour and lost that gamble.

  5. George says:

    It seems very clear to me that for a great part of the 2009 Tour he flew way below the radar because nobody expected him to be climbing strong climb after climb and day after day, so by the time they realized he was a different kind of rider he was already inside the top 5. Having said that, it is quite obvious to me that one thing is to be able to climb with the very best and a totally different thing is that they let you ride away from them knowing you are aiming for the top of the podium, or just a podium spot. Now, when he finished the '09 Tour in 4th he said that to win the Champions League you neded to play for ManU, not for Wiggan (implying that Slipstream was a 2nd rate team and Sky would be a 1st rate team) he sealed his fate, and thought that it would all depend on just one simple variable –changing teams–, whereas it really depends of tens or hundreds of variables. So I really don't think he's cycling's most expensive bust, but he needs a firm strong boot to kick his ass and make him realize all that.

  6. Pappy says:

    Wiggins: Cancellara-lite. Plus very large ego. Equals very little.

    • Whit says:

      Sometimes Wiggo reminds me of Bobby Julich–a terrific Tour result, then… I wonder if Wiggo can reinvent himself in a way similar to Bobby J.

      Great comments!

      W.

  7. mds says:

    I, like others above, think Wiggo is a rider more than capable of some serious wins. I think part of the problem is the obsession with The Tour. Ever since the world cup events in Manchester earlier this year I've also wondered if his head/heart aren't in exactly the right place for him to get the best results. It was clear from Wiggins's comments that he loved being back on the track and part of that team, that it was a relief compared to riding on the road. I've never read or heard comments from him about road racing that came any where near the passion and excitement he exhibited in talking about his track competitions. Perhaps he needs a DS that can sit down with him and find a way to get him as excited about being on the road as he was a few years ago and, more importantly, as he clearly is about dominating in the velodrome.

  8. JV says:

    I don't think the most expensive–maybe the highest profile, given his comments and the fairly shifty nature of his contract break with Garmin (whom many of us love and probably a high profile amongst your readers) and subsequent comments. And one of the most recent.

    For the most expensive bust, I would have to go with Lance's second comeback year. 3rd in your first year back is respectable, but an anonymous, crash-strewn Tour (very un-Lance), and the apparent major damage to the Lance brand, legend, and reputation that all seemed to crystallize and achieve critical mass–huge huge cost, very little return. If Lance really does have the killer instinct and couldn't stay away from competition, he paid a high price to give it another go.

    As for Wiggo, he has always been slightly mercurial. Very very fast, but sometimes a meter or two ahead of his own mind. When everything seems right, he's bloody quick–but there may be a lot of unseen and unknown things that were done correctly before that he'll now have to arrange for himself. My jury is still out.

  9. Luc Prévost says:

    Monsieur Wiggins is a good racer who’s stars aligned right in time for a great TdF.
    Same happened to Jean-Francois Bernard, par exemple.
    I’m sure everybody who reads this site would dream to have this type of career.
    So I always inject myself with a great dose of respect before I judge any athlete…

    One aspect of a career that we rarely take into account is the individual response to setback or injury.
    Picking yourself up is in itself a different sport that has nothing to do with the motor.

    Is Wiggins a Bust?
    Not for me as I watch cycling without any demand or expectation.
    Could he do better? Maybe. Could he do worse? Oui…
    Expensive racer?
    Not compare to other sports and maybe not at all if you calculate the media space he still can generate. And that is why he was hired: to advertise a product.

    My conclusion: is there any team that do a psychological evaluation of their candidates before signing a contract? ;-)

  10. Souleur says:

    Is Wiggo a bust…no.

    was 09' Tour for him a fluke? I don't believe so, but the karma in the cosmos has not re-aligned themselves since for wiggo to appreciate the season he had in 09. For one, I heard Vaughters talk about wiggins from early on, how he specifically helped him transition from the track w/great horsepower to a GC rider. Its a big leap, but specifically Vaughters had insight into helping wiggins transition via training properly and utilizing his strengths, plus Christian Vdv falling helped put someone else up front for the team. And lastly, Wiggins appreciated the 'unmarked' man status for 09, and the cosmos will never allow that again.

    His tenure at Sky so far is unremarkable, but with the right help, training and frankly 'unhyped' status, he may have another really big show coming up.

  11. Wielsucker says:

    Wiggo is similar to Julich to this point. Benefits from circumstances (wait for Lance, he's clean this time) to score a good result in Tour, never to be repeated. Julich recognized it and went on to be a good team player, Wiggo hasn't figured it out yet despite everyone else knowing it. He'll alway be a good TT man, possibly a classics threat but can certainly be a leadout monster if he'll extract his head from his ass.

  12. David says:

    The course in 2009 suited Wiggins to a degree. The mountains weren't too steep (anything over 7% and he seems to be in trouble) and he just about managed to hang on in the last few stages. I think part of his problem is his track mindset. He is used to setting specific goals. On the track that is easier, but races on roads have far more variables. Last year he set the goal of the TDF and wasn't feeling great when it arrived. This year he is doing things differently. If he doesn't achieve a top 10 this year I think he will need to reassess. He certainly needs to be achieving more results though in other races. Look at Cadel Evans. He wins his first race back from injury. This is one of the people Bradley will be racing against in July. All Bradley managed in Romandie was 4th in the time trial.

  13. Hung Low says:

    What about the project of Tommy D at Garmin. At least Wiggo has had some results in the past, but SKY had pie in the sky dreams about where there were going. The humble pie they at at the end of last year must have been a bitter slice to swallow but, have they learned? At the end of this year, 2 year contracts will be up and the exodus will begin. The foreign riders will soon complain about the team's lack of focus or guidance or expeirence or whatever. Thing is, you cant always buy wins.

  14. ScienceTwitt says:

    Comparing to other sports is meaningless. Compared to other cyclists yes he is a loss. Will he win a TdF? No. Will he get a top 5? Maybe. Could he win a giro or a veulta? Only if they reduce the climbing and the stars align. He could be good in the classics but bought into the we will win the TdF for Britain child in a pram mentality. SKy have moved on from that he will too. If you check Sky's chart of potential winners and age which they developed as part of their recruiting process BW wasnt even in the Tour winning category as rated by BD et al. Perhaps News Corp insisted they get him and/or they wanted their top persuit racer in the fold who might just give them a GC result. I see BW as part of a road to a GC win for a team like Sky/British Cycling. They will learn from trying with him but he wont be the one to do it. Not if AC, AS, Evans et al show up. So the question is that money for a top 10-15 placing a perhaps a prologue or TT or TTT win?HE doesnt win enough doesnt place high enough in cycling terms to warrant all the fuss. HE generates enough media in the UK and maybe thats where he worth comes into play. BW the Olympian on a Sky team. That makes sense and keep cranking out the stories of him being a GC soon to be winner and you have a return on investment. It still wont make him win one.

  15. hamncheeze says:

    With respect to the Tour, I think Wiggins was fortunate in 2009. The route was favorable and he obviously hit peak form at the right time, plus the race was very controlled by Astana (otherwise LA would not have managed 3rd place). Also benefiting Wiggo was the surprise factor….no one expected him to be there day after day. It is likley much easier to be the surprise package who rides above all expectation as none of the other contenders are looking at him to respond to attacks. In 2010 there was the weight of expectation, not only from Wiggins' team but also the media and he was never going to get any easy ride from any of his competitors as he was on the radar compared to the year before.

    Interesting that Garmin has had 3 "surprise" packages in its 3 Tours. VdV in 2008 rode above everyone's expectations. Then Wiggins in 2009, and Hesjedal in 2010. Despite nasty circumstances, VdV rode a pretty good follow-up Tour in 2009, obviously Wiggo was a bust in 2010, and it will be interesting to see what Hesjedal does this year. I think he will have a hard time duplicating or bettering his 7th place, same deal as Wiggins before him is that it is much easier to be the surprise than a favorite.

    Finally is Wiggins a bust? I think the thing Sky has to do with him is have him target races that are more suited to him. Paris-Nice or Tirreno, Eneco Tour, Tour of Catalonia – basically any one week stage race without super-high mountains and with a time trial. I think he could rip these races if he chose to give up on the Tour dream. There were rumblings from Sean Yates on VelowNews after the Romandie stage that Vino won, about Wiggins not being a team player and that if he had made an effort Ben Swift would have won the stage. Interesting to note how Swift went out of his way to say the final day stage win was a team effort….not sure if he was prompted to do so by Brailsford et al to keep the peace.

  16. rich_mutt says:

    not to stir the pot, but didn't he post his blood values after the tour only to take them down after internet experts found it to be suspicious?

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