Sir Bradley Wiggins doesn’t miss being a rider anymore. Retired in 2016, the 40-year-old is happy being on the other side of the fence, watching, talking and relaying information to the world as a commentator about other cyclists and their quest for the yellow jersey.
But Britain’s most decorated Olympian with eight medals, including five gold, does get nostalgic watching the peloton in the ongoing Tour de France, the celebrated multistage bicycle race he won in 2012 - only a week before claiming the road time-trial gold at London 2012.
In an interview with HT, Wiggins - the only rider to have won both World and Olympic championships on both track and road - discussed the challenges of holding the Tour during the pandemic, the favourites to win this year and Chris Froome being dropped by Ineos.
How big a challenge is the pandemic to the ongoing Tour, keeping in mind both the cyclists and the lack of fans?
The race is still being run and the riders are still as competitive as they were, racing against each other. I don’t think it will affect the race outcome. I don’t think there is any rider who’ll put it down to the fact that there are no fans. There are and will certainly be fans on the roadside but it’s not going to be at the level that we’ve seen in the past. That’ll be the new challenge for everyone but I don’t think it’ll impact the overall result.
Was it the correct decision to hold the Tour now?
The decision that was made is based on safety and obviously they feel they can do it. They have put a lot of restrictions in place that ensure that it’s run off is safe. I don’t think they’ve made the decision based on pressure or anything like that and it’s the right one based on the fact that they feel it can be run off in the safest way possible. I don’t think there’s any risk involved.
Chris Froome was dropped for the Tour and won’t be going for a record tying fifth title. You’d backed him to be in Ineos. Are you surprised they didn’t pick him?
The fact that they (Team Ineos Grenadiers) haven’t picked Froome and Geraint Thomas shows you that they’ve probably picked a squad based on form. They’ve picked the strongest squad they possess at the moment in order to do the job. I suppose there was always a chance they would leave Froome out because he’s on a forward trajectory from where he was this time last year and he’s probably not just ready yet.
How do you see this year’s Tour being different from previous ones in terms of how teams and riders approach it?
Well there is no easy day in the Tour de France now and right from Stage 1 the race has been on… it’s why we love watching the Tour de France, for how unpredictable it is.
Ineos have won seven of the last eight titles. Do you see Egan Bernal as the favourite this time too?
Bernal is probably the favourite as the previous winner. He’s probably warranted that position with his success this year although it might be a question mark seeing as he climbed off in the Dauphine with a back problem.
Which are the teams that can challenge Bernal and Ineos?
His closest challenger will be Primoz Roglic, who has been very dominant this season in the races he’s done and would probably have looked set to win the Dauphine but for a crash. Tom Dumoulin is a previous podium placer in the Tour de France a few years ago and a Giro d’Italia winner and you’d have to say on his day Tom could be a contender for the Tour de France. Thibaut Pinot is not going to be a surprise but he’s one that’s outside of those two dominant squads in Jumbo-Visma and Ineos; who might not spring a surprise but could challenge those two squads. But outside of that I can’t really think of anyone else other than maybe one of the Yates brothers (Adam and Simon). You’d have to say the winner is going to come from one of those two squads in Jumbo and Ineos but cycling being cycling, it’s very unpredictable and who knows?
(The 2020 Tour de France can be seen Live on Eurosport and Eurosport HD)