KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — Bradley Wiggins has never appeared so proud of his nation as he does in the lead-up to the Tour of Flanders on Sunday in Belgium, where Great Britain could produce its second winner in the form of Sky teammate Geraint Thomas.
The only other time he showed such pride on the road was in July 2012, months before Queen Elizabeth knighted him. On the way to capturing his Tour de France, he led out then-world champion Mark Cavendish to a sprint win on the famous Champs-Élysées in Paris.
The 34-year-old Englishman felt that was a magical moment in British cycling: the country’s first Tour winner and its world champion winning the final stage. Another such moment may come Sunday on the narrow, cobbled roads of Flanders.
“If Geraint won on Sunday, Jesus Christ. … What a thing that would be,” said Wiggins.
Thomas had just left the hotel conference room before Wiggins arrived and sat down with the press in Kortrijk, Belgium. Wiggins tipped his hat at the progress that the 28-year-old Welshman, Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe, and Sky’s other young cyclists have made over the last five years since the team’s debut.
Wiggins said the clamor over having a British Tour champ and rainbow jersey saw the classics “get overlooked a little bit.”
“I don’t remember this much media attention last year,” he said. “We’ve got 20-odd staff members here this year. Every hanger-on and his dog is here. The bus driver has got his cat here. That just shows you how many people are interested in the race and that’s because we’ve got somebody who can win the race.”
With perennial favorites Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) out with injury, the media are paying greater attention to Thomas ahead of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. And rightly so.
Thomas put on a powerful performance in Milano-Sanremo, won E3 Harelbeke, and placed third in Gent-Wevelgem, results that followed his overall win in the Volta ao Algarve and a seventh-place finish in Paris-Nice.
“Everyone is talking about Geraint Thomas and it’s brilliant for cycling,” said Wiggins.
“He’s British when we want him to be British and he’s winning these races, and he’s Welsh when he’s doing something else. It’s funny how we always claim him. It’s brilliant, it really is, and just to be part of that. …”
Wiggins collects bicycles. He has one of Miguel Indurain’s, one of Gianni Bugno’s, and one of the famous Bianchi frames Gewiss used in Paris-Roubaix with RockShox suspension.
On Thursday, Sky and Pinarello rolled out a Dogma K8-S that Wiggins could add to his overflowing collection after he retires. Atop the seat stays sits a tiny suspension system that may save Wiggins and his teammates precious energy in the remaining cobbled classics, the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix.
“I did all the testing in the winter on the prototype, all the recon in Roubaix. The difference is unbelievable. It’s hard to describe until you are on it hitting the cobbles at full tilt in Arenberg,” Wiggins said.
“This thing changes the whole feel. It’s the first bike that’s made for the race, in terms of aerodynamics. In the past, they added RockShox and other things, but never to this degree with that much time and attention.
“When you get to the end of Carrefour and everyone’s dead, of course, you also have to have the legs, but the bike will make the difference to get there.”