The secret is out – Sir Bradley Wiggins’ renowned prickly personality was all an act!
The 38-year-old cycling great was a man who had many sports reporters running for cover when he was ruling the world on two wheels.
Cantankerous, difficult, cranky, bearish, grumpy, grouchy, quarrelsome – there have been many adjectives used to describe the legendary cyclist.
A serial Olympic champion – and most famously, of course, the 2012 Tour de France winner – Wiggins admits the dark moods he often exhibited to the outside world were his way of coping with the pressures of trying to become the best endurance rider in the world.
His eccentric persona has certainly made the headlines – nearly as much as his ability to win in the saddle.
But as Wiggins, who lives in Eccleston, near Chorley, said: “Winning the Tour de France – it was pretty tough.
“Obviously I was so focused during the Tour that you find that one day sort of rolls into the next. And you have to deal with the pressures in your own certain way.
“It’s like a defence mechanism in many ways – you look for something which helps you deal with the stuff which is going on all around you.
“For example I might have been prickly in interviews or very guarded in what I said.
“Or I might be very extroverted, but that was my way of dealing with the pressure. That was a way of coping with things.
“To be honest, you don’t really have any control over that.
“In those situations when the world’s attention is on you, you deal with it your own way and the way your personality allows you to.
“At the end of the day I got the job done and then I came out of the bubble that is the Tour, and then prepared straight for the London Olympic Games when I won gold in the time trial.
“It’s weird. When I look back at the way I was in 2012, it doesn’t feel like the same person.
“Winning the Tour and then gold at the Olympics, I kind of don’t really identify with that person any more.
“When I look back at that person that I was, you looking at somebody who was incredibly focused and incredibly driven. It’s not somebody that I identify with now – now that I’m at a different stage of my life.
“It is like I was a different person – like I had this public persona or television person that you show to everyone, but it’s not really you.
“It’s a good thing, to be honest.
“I am quite proud of all that – the way I was, the silly sideburns and stuff.”
When Wiggins triumphantly rode down the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 22, more than six years ago, proudly wearing the yellow jersey, many people thought he would go on to win it again.
However, the Belgium-born Londoner has never taken part in the event since and he revealed competing in it again after his solitary victory was never the plan.
“I always said once I had won it, I could never do it again,” said Wiggins, who rode for Team Sky and became the first Brit to ever win the Tour.
“I can’t imagine going through all that again.
“Putting your children and your family second so that you can go and train on top of a mountain for three weeks at a time.
“The priorities for me changed after 2012.
“I never wanted to go through that experience again after winning it. I won it once and I never really wanted to go through the process again.
“I wanted to go and do other things, like the hour record at the Olympics.
“That was always enough for me – winning the Tour once.”
Wiggins is one of Great Britain’s most decorated Olympians, having won five gold medals across five Games from 2000 to 2016.
He owes a lot of his success to his move to Eccleston, in Lancashire, where he was in short commuting distance of the Manchester Velodrome.
“I am very fortunate where I live in Eccleston,” said Wiggins.
“The people are great. They don’t care what you have done or who you are.
“People just treat me normally and that’s one of the beauties of being here.
“I love living in Lancashire, in particular around Eccleston.
“It’s been great. Eccleston is our home and we love where we live.
“I’m proud to be an honorary Lancastrian.”
Although now retired from competitive riding, Wiggins still enjoys going out on his bike, enjoying the Lancashire countryside.
He does not, though, expect to be pulling on his lycra past the his sixth decade. “Well I want to be dead by 60. I don’t see much point in living beyond that point,” he said.
“Six decades on this planet will be enough for me. I don’t want to get to a stage where I am old and decrepit.
“I think once I get to 60 then, yeah, that will be enough for me. But at the moment, I’m at the stage where I enjoy riding my bike again – it’s become more of a pleasure.”