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Wiggins swaps bike for rowing machine at British championships

Bradley Wiggins continues his foray into rowing at this weekend's British Rowing Indoor Championships in London.

LONDON (AFP) — Five-time Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins is set to return to competitive action in London on Saturday — on a rowing machine.

The 37-year-old former Tour de France winner is due to take part in the elite men’s 2-kilometer event at the British Rowing Indoor Championships at the Lee Valley velodrome, the scene of some of his memorable achievements.

In June 2015, Wiggins set the hour record at the velodrome that was the site of the 2012 Olympic track cycling competition, and in March 2016 he won the world Madison title there with Mark Cavendish.

He did not compete at the venue at the London 2012 Olympics, however, instead riding to victory in the road time trial.

The 2012 Tour de France winner’s most recent prior competitive appearance on British soil came in the London Six Day event at the velodrome in October 2016. He retired from cycling two months later.

Wiggins turned to rowing for fitness, and in June he raised the prospect of competing at a sixth Olympics in Tokyo 2020, but this time in a boat instead of on two wheels.

Former British Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell said Wiggins, who will be 40 by Tokyo 2020, was worth a gamble.

“First and foremost, Brad isn’t going to be rowing on the water at the British indoor championships — he’ll be taking on a machine, and it’s an opportunity for him to put a score on the board which could mark him down as a contender,” Cracknell told the Daily Mirror.

Wiggins tweeted a picture of himself training this week:

[twitter url=”https://twitter.com/SirWiggo/status/938146708181209088″ align=”center”]

The 2km effort on an indoor, static rowing machine should take under six minutes.

Wiggins’ return to competitive sport comes after UK Anti-Doping last month ended a 14-month investigation into the contents of a jiffy bag delivered during a 2011 race in France. Team Sky and Wiggins denied anything nefarious or illegal took place, and the authorities concluded that no charges will be sought.

Wiggins said he and his family had been subjected to a “living hell” during the period.

But the episode — plus seeking and receiving official permission to use a powerful corticosteroid before three major races, including his Tour triumph — means the charismatic Wiggins will not be speaking to the media this weekend.