GHENT, Belgium (VN) — Bradley Wiggins arrived in Belgium on Friday to start the last chapter of his career with Team Sky. Besides his travel bag, he brings an extra boost to a team already motivated by Geraint Thomas’ win in the E3 Harelbeke.
Wiggins will compete in his last races for the British team before switching his focus to the hour record and the 2016 Olympics. On tap: Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, the Three Days of De Panne, the Ronde van Vlaanderen on April 5, Scheldeprijs on April 8, and of course, Paris-Roubaix on April 12.
“His presence is good for the whole team,” sports director Servais Knaven told VeloNews. “It gives a real boost for the team to have an Olympic champion and the former Tour de France winner.”
Wiggins was to have raced the E3 Harelbeke on Friday, but decided instead to start Sunday with Gent-Wevelgem. He is building for a win in his last race in Sky colors, Paris-Roubaix.
The buzz is already real with Ian Stannard’s win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last month and Thomas’ E3 Harelbeke victory, but the vibrations became much stronger with Wiggo’s arrival.
Wiggins won three track gold medals in the Olympics before aiming at the Tour de France. He spearheaded Sky’s debut in cycling in 2010, and in 2012 gave his home team a victory in the world’s biggest bike race.
Last year, he changed directions again. Instead of grand tours, he went for the big classic. Many followers did not believe in his chances, but once he rode to ninth place in Paris-Roubaix, two spots behind Thomas, they stood up and took notice.
For 2015, he made the “Queen of the Classics’” his last stop on the Sky train. And with his arrival in Kortrijk, Belgium, the team’s classics campaign got rolling.
“For everyone it’s special, they all want to perform in the classics,” said Knaven. “I don’t think they will ride faster when Brad is here, but still he brings something extra. You’ll see the difference when he’s at the start, around the bus and at the finish. He’s the best character of the whole peloton.
“Brad really loves the classics, he knows all about the history of the classics, he has the ‘grinta,’ the real motivation. That’s good for the young lads, the whole staff. If Brad is motivated and up for it, he’s one of the best guys to have around.”
Knaven rode with Wiggins in 2008 when they both were with Columbia-Highroad and they struggled side by side in the 2009 Gent-Wevelgem, when Edvald Boasson Hagen won. So for Knaven, seeing Wiggins end his road chapter is emotional.
“I got dropped with Brad in 2009 in Gent-Wevelgem, and came back with him, and was dropped again with him. That year it was raining all day. We talk and laugh about that,” said Knaven.
“Of course, I have a lot of respect for him, I already did so then, but now after what he achieved and with his big goal. … It’s been a long time since a Tour de France winner went on to win the Paris-Roubaix.”