ALL eyes will be on Sir Bradley Wiggins when the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire gets underway on Friday.
Cycling superstar, visionary team promoter, British sporting icon – Wiggins will be all of these things and more as the poster boy for his sport’s new flagship event.
Having severed his ties with Team Sky after a hugely-successful five-year association that saw the 35-year-old create history as the first British rider to win the Tour de France, Wiggins will line up at the start line in Bridlington on Friday in colours he has never worn before.
He has formed a new team, Wiggins, with the intention of ensuring he can adequately prepare for the team pursuit at next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, an event he hopes will provide a successful culmination to his career, but also with the express intention of helping to develop a new generation of British track and road riders.
“The ultimate goal is winning the team pursuit in Rio,” said Wiggins. “So this is to facilitate everything we need for the track programme. The team is track-based and we have got a lot of the guys from the track programme so we can stay and race and train together all year round.
“We can get exactly what we need in terms of achieving the end goal, winning the team pursuit in Rio.
“But cycling has given me everything, and now I want to build something to inspire kids and to reach all those people who might be on the fringes of the sport. We’ve seen cycling grow in popularity over the years and I want Wiggins to inspire a new generation of cyclists.”
Wiggins has been joined in his new team by Andy Tennant, Owain Doull, Jon Dibben, Mark Christian and London gold medallist Steven Burke, as well as Da niel Patten, who raced in the US in 2014.
Throughout the Tour de Yorkshire, it will be Wiggins himself who is the focus of attention, with the last two years having represented something of an unexpected struggle for a rider who had grown accustomed to unprecedented levels of success.
Having enjoyed a golden 2012 that saw him add the Olympic time trial title to the Tour de France crown, plus the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, Wiggins failed to finish the 2013 Giro D’Italia, which was his stated target for the season, and was unable to defend his Tour title after suffering a knee injury.
Last year, proved even more disappointing, with Team Sky overlooking him as they assembled their Tour de France team despite the race starting with Yorkshire’s Grand Depart.
He returned to the track to win a silver medal in the 4,000 metres team pursuit at the Commonwealth Games, but even that was something of a tarnished achievement as England’s defeat to Australia in the final underlined just how much improvement is needed ahead of Rio.
His appearance on the Yorkshire roads this weekend is an opportunity to start making that improvement in a competitive environment.
With no Chris Froome or Mark Cavendish to command national attention, Wiggins is the undisputed star of the show.