Jul 22 2012 By Paul Warburton
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AS the countdown to London 2012 reaches its climax, we take a look at West London's Olympic legacy - whether through Olympians from the area, or those who have had a lasting impact on it. Today, with six days left, as Bradley Wiggins prepares to become the first ever Brit to win the Tour de France, Paul Warburton looks back on the West London lad's Olympic legacy.
TO DESCRIBE an Olympic gold medal as just another ‘high profile training run’ seems incredibly modest – but that is what the best in cycling do – provided they have the right people whispering in their ear.
And the best was certainly the West – London that is – when it came to the 2004 and 2008 individual pursuit titles.
Bradley Wiggins CBE, and son of Maida Vale, made the event his own – and will be the only one in this series of Olympic heroes capable of adding to his tally this summer.
Past perfect, it might be said for the former St Augustine’s school pupil, and a future anything but tense. However, he was denied the freedom of Westminster after his second Olympic win by petty Westminster councillors keener to wreck a Labour initiative than honouring their own.
But at the beginning of 2004, Wiggins was doing a decent job wrecking his own chances. The build up to Athens had been anything but smooth for a man who was the current world champion and was attempting to go two better than Olympic team bronze in Sydney.
Training had gone off the rails save for the last 11 weeks up to the Olympics. The Wiggins, Brad and wife Cath had imposed domestic upheaval on themselves by moving house, and the west Londoner was miserable with new professional outfit Credit Agricole.
But, and there was a massive ‘but’ in keeping Wiggins’s finger of the self-destruct button, he had fabulous back-up from the GB coaching team, and he had mentor Chris Boardman.
The man in the Wiggins ear knew all about Olympic glory. Boardman enjoyed a golden moment himself in 1992 as well as a Tour de France yellow jersey – and just as importantly – the world record for the pursuit.
There were times when the pair argued in 2004. “He stayed on my case and was a bit of a sod,” was how Wiggins described ‘Project Bradley’ taking shape.
But according to the champion, the mentor meticulously noted everything down in a small notebook and plotted and planned with the care of a nuclear scientist.
By the time the 24-year-old got to the qualifiers for the 4k ride against the clock, he was as ready as any man can be to fulfil a destiny started on west London roads age 12.
Wiggins set down a marker in the opening cycle with an Olympic record 4m:15.165s and attempted to look as nonchalant as he possibly could coming off the track – although the record ride had taken its toll.
However, if his legs and lungs were burning, then the psychological damage on his main rivals was terminal. Fast-forward to the final and the only man standing in the way was Australian Brad McGee.
On the other side of the track was a former world champion and the man who was master to Wiggins’ servant role when the two were at the Française des Jeux team.
McGee enjoyed a fantastic early 2004 when Wiggins was suffering, but it was clear the Aussie had overcooked it while the West Londoner was now in top form.
And from the off the portents looked good. By 2km, Wiggins was 0.3secs up and slap-bang on Boardman schedule, and the gap continued to grow all the way to the line and gold – a fantastic 4:16.304 to 4:20.436, massive by Olympic standards.
Later, as Boardman said: “It wasn’t a case of doing anything different than Brad had done a 1,000 times before. It may seem as if it was the big moment and he needed to rise to the occasion. But we left not a lot to chance, and in some ways it was just another high profile training run.”