The 2012 Tour de France winner and London 2012 gold medallist pulverised the distance set by his fellow Briton Alex Dowsett and said: “That’s the closest I will come to knowing what it’s like to have a baby,” although afterwards he would not be drawn on what his wife, Cath, had to say.
At the Olympic velodrome in front of a capacity 6,000 crowd, Wiggins rode seamlessly – minor problems in the saddle area excepted – to what should be the penultimate challenge of a career which he hopes will end with an eighth Olympic medal next year in Rio.
Speaking of the record, which was first set in 1893, Wiggins said: “There’s not many Tour winners have done it, in the modern era there are five of us. I always compare myself to the greats and I am just glad to be in the company of those guys. To get up there and do that … to put yourself on the line takes a lot of courage and it’s a mental game as much as anything.”
Asked where it ranked in a career that includes four Olympic gold medals and victory in the 2012 Tour de France, the 35-year-old said: “It tops it off. To do everything and come here as an old man, it’s memorable.”
The pressure did get to Wiggins, but it was not stress which slowed him down but the area of atmospheric high pressure which has brought summer weather to the capital. High pressure makes it measurably harder for a cyclist to penetrate the air and Wiggins said he could perhaps have gone some 700 metres further without the barometer hitting over 1030 millibars.
“My wife and children know so much about air pressure now; on a freak day, say 980 millibars maybe, I’d have got close to Chris Boardman’s record.” Boardman, the 1992 Olympic pursuit champion, set a distance of 56.375km in 1996, which is no longer on the official record books. It is viewed as unattainable due to rule changes.
The Hour is better known for pressure of a different kind: the relentless need for the rider to maintain an even pace, while on the edge of cracking. As Boardman said, a rider is constantly asking, “is my pace sustainable? If it’s a definite yes you’re not going hard enough, if it’s a no, you’ve overcooked it.”
“It’s torturous, unforgiving, such a niggling pace,” said Wiggins, although he conceded that he “had no physically bad spells, just a couple of moments when I wavered”. He added that for sheer toughness it did not come close to the Tour de France.
“I wouldn’t say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You try leading the Tour for two weeks, looking over your shoulder every day. But it’s a quantifiable record, which is what draws me to it. It will never surpass the Tour in intensity or difficulty but it’s such a pure thing. There are no ifs or buts.”
Towards the end, apart from the mind games that he had to play to count down the laps, Wiggins’s main problem was a common one to all cyclists: a sore backside.
“It’s one of the inevitables of riding the track. It was the last 10 minutes, I noticed that more than anything. It’s hard to sit down at the moment.
“No shying away from that, luckily I had a decent saddle. I don’t know how Eddy Merckx did it on one of those plastic things.”
Asked how he would celebrate, Wiggins was succinct: “Standing up.”
This article was written by William Fotheringham, for theguardian.com on Sunday 7th June 2015 22.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010