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YORK, United Kingdom (AFP) — Olympic and world time-trial champion Bradley Wiggins said he was enjoying life again now that he’s left Team Sky and is focusing on track racing.
Wiggins became a legend in British cycling during his spell with Sky as he won the 2012 Tour de France, as well as a host of other prestigious races such as Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, and Critérium du Dauphiné.
But it all turned sour over the last couple of years as he was replaced by his former chief lieutenant Chris Froome as Sky’s leader for the Tour de France.
Wiggins never raced the Grand Boucle again after illness and injury forced him to forgo the 2013 defense of his crown, and he wasn’t even picked by Sky to be a domestique to Froome last year.
His goals changed, and he made an unsuccessful bid to bow out in style from Sky earlier this month when finishing 18th at the grueling cobbled classic Paris-Roubaix, a year after coming ninth in the Hell of the North.
But speaking ahead of the Tour de Yorkshire, which begins on Friday, and where he will be riding for a new team he created that carries his name, he says even his wife has seen a change in his demeanor since his Sky career ended and he decided to dedicate himself to the track and a tilt in June at the world hour record before bidding for a fifth gold medal at next year’s Rio Olympics.
“I’ve made quite a big shift, the goals have really changed now on the track,” said the 35-year-old.
“I was building to that [returning to the track] and have had a long time to think about that and be ready for that, so it’s been really good actually.
“The last few weeks I’ve been feeling quite liberated and happy again; my wife commented on that, she’s never seen me so happy, which is nice.”
Relishing mentor role
Wiggins originally made his name as a track cyclist, winning three Olympic gold medals and six world titles before concentrating on road racing.
A time-trial specialist, he developed into an able climber and overall grand tour contender, becoming the first-ever Briton to win the Tour de France.
Now he says he’s relishing his role as a mentor to young riders with the ambitions to perhaps one day emulate his own achievements on the road.
“We’ve got some young guys like Owain [Doull], and that in the team who really want to do well,” said Wiggins. “It’s a platform for him to hopefully go on to [ride for a] WorldTour [team] next year, so it would be nice to just help those guys and really put them in a position to do that.
“The goals really have changed for me now. The days have gone where I’d get all those guys riding for me.”
Doull is a twice European champion and world silver medallist with the Great Britain team pursuit squad, which Wiggins is rejoining for Rio.
Before then, though, will come Wiggins’ world hour record attempt at the London Olympic velodrome on June 7.
And he admits that, rather than the Tour de Yorkshire, is his focus.
“I’d like to stay safe [this weekend] because I don’t want to put the hour in jeopardy, but still be part of the race. I don’t just want to sit up every day at the back,” he said.
And Wiggins believes he’s on course to break the 52.491km mark set by Australia’s Rohan Dennis in February.
“So far, yeah, it’s gone well. Since Roubaix all the initial track sessions were way above what we’d [expected] because I hadn’t been on the track for a year.
“I didn’t really know where we were going to be in terms of the record, so that all looks pretty good.”