I’ll never forget cruel comment long lost dad whispered to me – its the reason for my success, says Sir Bradley Wiggins

2 months ago 22

SITTING on a golden throne with his legs crossed, victorious Bradley Wiggins ruled the world and won our hearts.

On that hot August day in 2012, amid a cacophony of noise from a rapturous home nation, he carved out his own piece of sporting immortality.

Paul Edwards - The Sun
Sir Bradley Wiggins on the throne at the 2012 Olympics after taking gold[/caption]
Little Bradley with father Gary – who would later come back into his son’s life with a cruel taunt[/caption]
Triumphant Bradley roars with pride after winning the Tour de France, 2012[/caption]

No one had ever won Olympic Gold and the Tour de France in the same year. And no one has done so since.

But for Wiggo, who later became Sir Bradley and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, it finally settled a burning issue that had been gnawing away at him ever since he was 19 years old.

His absent dad, Gary, a former cycling champ too, had reappeared on the scene to share in his teenage son’s success — then cruelly told him: “You’ll never be as good as your old man.”

The spiteful comment whispered in his ear hurt him deeply, but also lit a fire inside that propelled him on to glory all those years later.

Now, in a remarkably candid interview for a BBC series on Imposter Syndrome, Bradley has revealed the inner heartache and insecurities that plagued him.

‘A haunting experience’

He says: “A lot of my cycling career was about running away from my past. It was a distraction.

“And a lot of it is intrinsically linked around my father and the lack of a father figure as a child.

“I can remember writing notes on the back of photos I had of him when I was maybe 12 or 13, writing him letters.

“To this person that was out there somewhere, that maybe wasn’t out there, ’cos we’d heard all sorts of stories about him being murdered and in prison.”

Eventually, when Bradley was 17, his dad saw his son’s name — B. Wiggins — in a magazine listing the latest cycling results.

Wiggo recalls: “He rang up my nan’s house.

“He wanted to be part of the success and make up for all those years, and then I eventually met him two years later, when I was 19.

“He had no money and he came over to Belgium to a race I was doing, and I’ll never forget it.

“It was probably the hardest day of my life, actually, meeting him.

“Within a week he said to me, ‘You’ll never be as good as your old man’. The sort of jealousy crept in. To this day I remember clearly where I was when he said it.

“I was in the centre of the track in Ghent in Belgium.

“I’d done quite a good performance on the track and everyone was cheering for me. I was racing against men and shining. And he couldn’t handle it. He couldn’t handle the attention on me.

“He said to me, ‘Just don’t forget, you’ll never be as good as your old man’.

“He squeezed my arm and came in quite close to me so no one else could hear.

“It was quite a haunting experience. From that day on there was this drive for so long after that to be better than him.

“That’s what spurred me on in 2012.”

Wiggo was born in 1980 in Ghent to Australian cyclist Gary and mum Linda.

Gary represented his home country several times at world track championships and was national champion in the 1km time trial and 4000m pursuit. His superstar son would far surpass his achievements in the saddle.

In 1982, Gary’s marriage to Linda broke down and she returned to the UK, where she raised Bradley on council estates in North West London.

Young Wiggo turned to cycling for “normality” and quickly showed huge promise.

His late grandad was so convinced he would succeed he put a bet on the 12-year-old to one day win the 2,200-mile Tour de France.

He died in 2010, two years before Bradley became the first Brit to win the world’s most famous cycling event, and had tragically lost the betting slip. At the end of a glittering 15-year career the cycling legend had won four world titles, eight Olympic medals — including five golds — and the Tour de France.

 His interview with rising BBC star Rob Adcock for Imposter Syndrome sheds a fascinating new light on his life, his vulnerabilities and his hazy reflections of the summer that changed his life.

‘I was so self-conscious’

And he admits: “I don’t ride a bike any more because I don’t like the person I became when I was on it. I can’t imagine achieving anything like that now in a sports perspective because I’m not the same person I was. I’ve grown now . . . I have all the answers. That all stems from my sporting career and greatness stems from an oddness about me which wasn’t resolved from childhood.

“I was the most confident bike rider when I was on it.

“But step off the bike and I had to step back as Bradley Wiggins, ’cos the bike was where I was most comfortable and gave me all my confidence in my life.”

He also admits that the celebrity that came with his sporting greatness wasn’t easy for him — so to cop, he leaned into a persona that he can barely remember.

Bradley says: “When I came off (the bike) and had to sit on the throne in front of a bank of cameras, I’d have to give it victory signs, be funny and perform.

“I have no memory of standing on the Champs-Elysees (at the end of the Tour de France) or on any Olympic podium.

“The only memory I have of it is watching it back on TV.

“When we were at my last Olympics in Rio, the TV camera came on me during the national anthem and I could see myself on the big screen, so I pulled my tongue out.

“I would do that quite a lot in those important moments, really. I was so self-conscious of being looked at.”

 Bradley, who has since shed his signature mod hairstyle in favour of a cropped head and beefed up muscles, says his distinctive look was part of the performance.

He says: “The minute I stepped off that rostrum I was back as myself and I didn’t have the veil, the cycling, the bike.

“I had to be me, the person, and suddenly I felt, like, on my own.

“Which is why I then started growing the sideburns, the hair longer. Put funny suits on.

“It was all a distraction from actually being me.”

But Wiggo was not the only one putting on an act.

Bradley with Modfather Paul WellerGetty Images - Getty
Bradley has shed his signature mod hairstyle in favour of a cropped head and beefed up muscles[/caption]
Bradley cycling in Ghent, Belgium, 2003Getty

He remembers fondly coming across Oasis rocker Noel Gallagher, his childhood hero and the reason he plays guitar, in a courtyard at an event.

He says: “He knew I’d met his brother and that we had a mutual friend in Paul Weller and that.

“And his wife and daughter and niece were over there as well, and they saw me.

“So they came over and said, ‘Excuse me, Bradley, my dad really wants to meet you but hes nervous to come over’.

“I said, ‘He’s f***ing nervous!?’ So I said, ‘Tell him to come over’.

“And Noel came over to me and we had a chat. And it was lovely, it was great.”

  • Imposter Syndrome is a six part series with BBC News and will be available on the BBC iPlayer from December 15.


BRADLEY chained his BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy to the bar of his local boozer.

The cycling legend capped off a perfect 2012 with the award, which is voted for by the public.

And he vowed to show it off at his local in Eccleston, Lancs.

 In the upcoming BBC documentary series Wiggo revealed: “I walked in the local pub after I won Sports Personality and put it on the bar there and we chained it up. It was there for a month. I never took it home because people were coming from all over the world, or all over the country, to see this trophy.

“It was the people’s trophy, so I thought it should be, you know.”

After receiving the gong at the awards, attended by Princess Kate and David Beckham, he said: “Winning this, winning gold in the London Olympics, it’s about as good as it’s ever going to get. I’ll cherish this moment for ever. I can die happily.”

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