LONDON (AFP) — Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins is planning a return to the track ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, he told a British newspaper in an interview published Monday.
Wiggins made history last year when he became the first ever Briton to win the sport’s greatest stage race, but he has since been surpassed by compatriot and Sky teammate Chris Froome, who triumphed at this year’s Grand Boucle.
Wiggins, now 33, admits he cannot challenge Froome for the Sky leadership and says he will now aim to add to his four Olympic gold medals.
“I’m going to continue to the next Olympics and try for a fifth gold on the track; that’s the plan,” he told the Times newspaper. “Having lost weight and muscle the last few years, I wouldn’t be able to walk back into that team pursuit squad, so I am not taking it for granted but I am working towards that.
“It would be nice to finish the career with another Olympic gold.”
Wiggins won individual pursuit gold in 2004 in Athens and in 2008 in Beijing, where he also won the team pursuit. In 2012 in London, he won the time trial on the road and he has seven Olympic medals in total, dating back to a bronze in the team pursuit in Sydney in 2000.
He is tied with track cyclist Chris Hoy as the two most prolific British Olympians. Hoy retired following the 2012 Games, meaning Wiggins could again claim the top spot on the all-time list in Brazil. With four gold medals, Wiggins is third on the British list, behind Hoy and rower Steve Redgrave.
However, he says he will spend another season riding on the road before making the change in 2015, giving himself 18 months to prepare for the Olympics. And although he previously said he would not ride another Tour, he now feels he would be prepared to be Froome’s domestique.
“I don’t mind admitting that Chris is probably a better grand tour rider than me,” he said. “He is a much better climber, he can time trial as well.
“He has age on his side, he has no kids. That’s fine.
“If Chris wants to, he could potentially win five Tours now. So if I want to win another tour, I’d probably have to leave the team.
“I love this team. This is my home. I’m not going to go, ‘I want to be leader so I’m off.'”
Wiggins missed the defense of his Tour crown due to injury and illness.
He had pulled out of the Giro d’Italia in May due to illness and then a knee injury disrupted his preparations for the Tour. Up until that point he had insisted he wanted to lead Sky in France, even though boss Dave Brailsford had publicly backed Froome for the role.
But Wiggins claimed he was always prepared to follow team orders.
“At this team, everyone is encouraged to be as good as they can be,” he said. “I felt, as the defending champion, I was quite entitled to put my hand up and say, ‘I would like to be considered for the leadership.’
“But if someone is chosen over me I am professional enough to do my job.”