Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sky is the Limit

We have a new super celebrity in cycling - step forward Bradley Wiggins -  2012 Tour de France winner (and hopefully the next BBC Sportsperson of the Year).  

If you're like me, I've been hoping that Bradley stayed out of trouble, avoided crashes and had the legs to get through the high mountains unscathed.  Since 2009 when he came fourth, the promise was always there that he had the potential.  2010 it kind of fell apart for him on the tour, 2011 a crash and a broken collarbone.  Here we now are with Bradley in Paris, crowned the first ever British winner of the Tour de France - awesome.

He couldn't of done it alone.  Grand Tours are won by the dedication and work rates of the entire teams, domestiques sacrificing themselves and - particularly on this tour - super domestique Chris Froome ably assisted at times by the the road race world champion - Mark Cavendish.  We can't forget either his wife and family who have had to endure the endless training camps, long periods away and media attention, it can't be easy.  Then there's the mechanics, soigneurs and back-room staff, pro-cycling has a big infrastructure behind it.

The role of SKY

One thing I thought of the other day was whether this would have happened in the timescales it has, without the mega £30M investment by SKY into British Cycling and SKY team in 2009.  In my view, it was a game changer.

When the annoucment was first made in 2008, the stated ambition was for them to put a British winner on the podium within five years.  Since then, they've invested huge amounts in signing the right riders, the right coaches and technology to achieve that grand goal.  Someone will be popping the Champagne corks, that's for sure.  In fact, SKY have already committed to a further four year deal with British Cycling, securing sponsorship until 2016.

Prior to that, no one had backed the concept in such a brave way.  Wiggins, Cavendish and the other riders could quite happily have ridden in other teams, however Sky backed the concept and no fewer than 9 out of their 28 squad are now British.


Bradleys life is going to change forever.  The Mod loving, Wigan living cyclist who shoots it straight from the hip, is a journalists dream (and a PR persons nightmare). Outspoken, forthright and unpredicatable, the cycling public love him for it.  His tirade of swear words at a press-conference when asked about doping, being a typical example of his no-nonsense style.

What people like most is that he is very down to earth.  No airs and graces, no delusions of grandeur and supportive of the fans that stood out to cheer him along the whole route.  It's been quite a journey for him, his auto-biography is well worth a read and will no doubt enjoy a good boost in sales, along with other endorsements.  I noted that Fred Perry have just launched a Bradley Wiggins range of shirts  with a cycling/mod theme.  

So, with the Olympic road race only a couple of weeks away, this win will give the entire team a big lift and I'm sure Wiggo will be paying back Mark Cavendish big style in his pursuit to be Olympic champion.  

Prior to then, life is going to be a whirlwind of media.  Cycling is going to have yet another big lift, more people will engage in the sport and it will move up the list of national past times.  To see Bradley Wiggins achieve his boyhood dream is inspiring, he's worked hard, had one hell of a journey and made a lot of British road cyclists very happy.  On behalf of us all, Chapeau Wiggo!

Bradleys Yellow Jersey and Race Number

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