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Bradley Wiggins says he regrets his fall out with Chris Froome almost a decade ago and describes making peace with his former teammate as “liberating”.
Wiggins and Froome were teammates at Team Sky with the latter helping the former to become the first British winner of the Tour de France in 2012.
Their relationship was not smooth sailing and major cracks were on show during the now-infamous stage 17 to Peyragudes when Froome rode away in the final 5km of the stage before being called back. Wiggins later said he’d considered leaving the race after the incident and he would ultimately never go back to the race as a professional rider.
In an interview on the Geraint Thomas Cycling Club podcast, Wiggins blamed his own behavior as a big factor in the breakdown of his relationship with Froome. The now 41-year-old said he’d had a chance to make up with Froome at this year’s Tour.
“I never went back to the Tour, the whole fall out with Chris Froome was really regrettable. I impacted a lot on that with the way I behaved,” Wiggins said. “I met Froome for the first time again at the Tour in a nightclub at the end. We hugged it out. I speak to him a lot now. It’s really liberating.
“Cycling is so consuming, and I was quite childish and petulant with the way I handled things. I think it stemmed from not knowing how to cope with things. It impacted on the relationships around me, and I left Sky on bad terms, which I regretted because I was sort of the maker of that.”
The @gtcc_ is back 💪🎙
In the first episode of season two, me and @tomfordyce catch up about my summer. And there’s a lot to get through… 👀🙈
Enjoy, and let me know who you want us to chat to this time around 🤔👇
— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) October 19, 2021
Wiggins eventually left Team Sky in 2015 and he retired the following year.
Speaking to Thomas, who still rides for the squad, Wiggins said that he had been drawn to Team Sky in 2010 by the money and what he saw as the only chance he had to win the Tour de France. However, he often struggled in the environment.
“Dave [Brailsford] came knocking on the door with big money and I think the money attracted me more than anything,” Wiggins said. “I thought if I was ever going to win the Tour then I was probably going to have to go back to a system that I didn’t like the most, which was being in that Dave set-up. It was quite intense and very cut-throat.
“Towards the end of Sky, I was quite lonely and a bit of a loner. I would room alone a lot of the time and I wasn’t enjoying it. I was going through the motions and ticking things off… I never really enjoyed anything after 2012.”
Struggling with fame
Following his retirement, Wiggins took up rowing and competed in the British Indoor Rowing Championships in 2017. Though he had initially planned to try and make the British rowing squad for the Tokyo Olympics, he ultimately gave up the sport a year later and began work as a pundit instead.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a couple of years. It took a while to find myself to be honest. I detached myself from cycling and everything that comes with it,” he said. “You have to be a real ruthless c**t as a cyclist. You become a horrible person at times.
“To be able to still comment on the sport that I love is such a privilege. To still earn a living out of cycling is great.”
Wiggins’ success at the Tour de France and the Olympic Games — where he won time trial gold — made him a household name in the UK. It was something he found very difficult to deal with and says he began playing an alter-ego to help him cope.
He attributes some of the challenges he had in dealing with his success to being down to his “dysfunctional childhood”.
“I ended up playing a bit of a character, a role, probably because of insecurities. I had this veil of playing a rockstar, and I think it was a good disguise to walk through life like that. The fame and the adulation, I couldn’t handle that as me,” Wiggins said.
“It probably stems from my childhood. I realized a lot about my childhood in later years. When I retired, I reflected a lot and a lot of the trauma I went through in childhood. I witnessed a murder when I was 15 and never really accepted that. My headteacher got stabbed when I was 15, Philip Lawrence, outside St George’s school… My dad got murdered in 2008.
“I think it affected me into adulthood when I had my own kids. I was never good at handling public fame and adulation, so I handled it a certain way. I would be quite shocking, contentious, and sweary. I would go and get drunk at things in order to perform and play the fool. That didn’t serve me well because I built up a persona that stuck for a long time.”
Wiggins’ estranged father Gary — a former rider — was found unconscious in New South Wales, Australia, and died of head injuries in hospital. The death was treated as suspicious, but nobody has ever been arrested for it.
Since retiring, Wiggins feels as though he’s been able to move past the persona he created and he’s in a happier place now.
“When I look back, I don’t like the person I was when I was cycling. There has always been a tendency to go polar opposite to that since I stopped cycling. I never want to go back to that,” he said.
“I feel like I have come out the other end of it and I don’t have any bitterness in watching people do well. Lots of people really struggle to watch other people do well and they’re constantly talking about themselves. I get a thrill out of watching other people do well, which is a nice place to be.”