“I can’t go shopping at Tesco in Euxton without people asking me for a photo or autograph.”
That is the daily dilemma facing Eccleston’s Bradley Wiggins, after he became one of the hottest tickets in the town, winning the Tour de France and following it up by taking Olympic gold at Hampton Court.
The 32-year-old spoke to the Guardian after enduring a 160K trek with more than 1,500 cyclists at the Bradley Wiggins Foundation charity event, Ride With Brad, in Barnoldswick this weekend.
Wiggins claims the mass hysteria since winning both competitions has been ‘phenomenal’.
He said: “I left home on June 22, nobody really knew who I was locally, apart from a couple of people.
“This overwhelming adulation bears no comparison to anything I have ever had before.
“It was fantastic and brilliant, and it was bizarre that the media was queuing up at the bottom of my lane when I won the Tour de France. A lot changed – we couldn’t even go for a pizza any more.
“It was difficult trying to integrate back into what you normally do, always being watched. ‘Sorry to disturb your dinner, can I just have a photo?’ – it’s difficult.
“I think the kids struggled. They just wanted to see me. They hadn’t seen me for the best part of seven months.
“We tried to go to Mallorca last week and have a quiet glass of wine on a brick wall and I got photo’d there as well. I hadn’t comprehended that everything you do, somebody is watching.”
He added: “As far as support of the local community is concerned, it is great. This was my fourth gold medal win and it seemed that every time I won I came back unrecognised.
“This Olympic Games has attracted the community and they latched onto it. I find it overwhelming and we have become somewhat national heroes.
“I have met different people who I would only dream of meeting, and it will never go back to how it was before.”
When asked about rumours that some of Team GB’s top athletes would be appearing on TV show X Factor, Wiggins said: “Let’s not talk about the X Factor. Compared to the Olympics, everywhere you went the country was on a high, and as athletes it was phenomenal to see that.
“Then you see X Factor and it’s like, ‘Oh God, everyone’s got to put up with that all winter now’.”
Wiggins confirmed that he was looking to get back in action soon.
“It was good to be back again but I have now three weeks of training before the Tour of Britain.
“I had not really been on a bike for almost a month since the Olympics and found it tough at first.”
The Tour of Britain will collides with Team GB’s celebrations in London but Wiggins is not worried about it.
He said: “It doesn’t bother me. I have been involved in the Olympic bubble for a while now and it is time to get on with my job.
“The Tour of Britain will be like one lap of the country and there will be lots of celebrations for that.”
Now, Wiggins is planning for the future and his foundation is one way of doing that.
It only started in May this year, and it was the cyclist’s way of helping young people in sport.
Already he has funded a Under-Seven rugby league team, as well as amateur cyclists with the potential to go further.
He said: “It is important for me to be able to put something back into sport and the Bradley Wiggins Foundation will become my way of inspiring others to achieve their best.
“Supporting and taking part in the event is just the first step in the process.”
For more information about the scheme, check out www.bradleywigginsfoundation.org.uk