Sir Bradley Wiggins is to launch a new professional cycling team this year as he prepares for the team pursuit at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Wiggins, who lives in Eccleston and would become the most decorated British athlete in Olympic history if he clinches an eighth medal in Rio de Janeiro next year, is keen to give something back to the sport and wants to use his success to encourage a healthy cycling culture within the UK.
“Cycling has given me everything,” he said via a press release on Thursday. “Now I want to build something to inspire kids and to reach all those people who might be on the fringes of the sport. My message is simple: If I can do it, then so can you.”
The new team - named ‘Wiggins’ - will be sponsored by the 34-year-old’s long-time supporter Sky and is fully endorsed by UK governing body, British Cycling.
It will feature a dynamic stable of young British talent including Andy Tennant, Owain Doull, Mark Christian, Jon Dibben, Steven Burke, Daniel Patten, Mike Thompson and Iain Paton.
Details for the team’s bike and resource suppliers, colours, logo and team jersey will be unveiled in spring, along with the team’s calendar of UK track and road events - including Wiggins’ live televised attempt on the prestigious ‘Hour Record’ in the summer.
“I’ve dreamt about the Hour Record since I was a boy,” the four-time Olympic gold medallist and 2012 Tour de France winner said.
“Anyone can have a crack at it and measure themselves against the best in the world. We’ve seen cycling grow in popularity over the last few years and I want ‘Wiggins’ to inspire a new generation of cyclists.”
The Hour Record - riding as far as possible in 60 minutes in a velodrome - was first established in 1893, when Henri Desgrange cycled 35.3 kilometres in an hour, and was stretched to 49.4km by Belgian Eddie Merckx in the 1970s.
Despite multiple road world champions Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and Germany’s Tony Martin also looking at the Hour Record - currently held by Austrian Matthias Brandle (51.852km) - many in cycling predict Wiggins will set a long-lasting mark which will be difficult to beat.
The move to create a new British team has been welcomed by leading lights including Team Sky general manager Sir Dave Brailsford and Britain’s most decorated female Olympian Victoria Pendleton.
“Bradley has written one of the greatest stories in British sport over the last 10 years. His exciting new project, ‘Wiggins’, will undoubtedly have a lot to offer cycling in the UK on the road to Rio 2016 and beyond,” former British Cycling performance director Brailsford said.
“It is a really positive move for the sport and further evidence - if any were needed - that cycling is continuing to go from strength to strength in the UK.”
Pendleton added: “It’s great to see how cycling is gaining popularity in this country and Brad’s new team is bound to help attract more people to our sport.
“I think everyone will be behind Brad as he prepares for Rio 2016, and I want to wish him the best of luck with ‘Wiggins’.”
British Cycling’s membership has more than doubled since Wiggins’ 2012 Tour de France triumph, with more than two million people now cycling at least once a week in England.
“Sir Bradley’s performances on track and road have helped to inspire a new generation of British cyclists,” British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake said.
“He won his first Olympic medal in Sydney in 2000 and it’s impressive to see him still breaking new ground now, 15 years later, as his team ‘Wiggins’ represents a great opportunity for some of our most promising young riders to develop their skills and abilities on the road to Rio 2016.”
As announced on Monday, Wiggins will be continuing to ride with Team Sky until Paris-Roubaix in April, after signing a short-term contract extension.