Wig­gins backs Sut­ton to re­turn as Bri­tain’s coach

Rio cy­cling suc­cess down to Aus­tralian, says rider Sport had a ‘cul­ture of ex­cel­lence, not bul­ly­ing’

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 - By Tom Cary

Sir Bradley Wig­gins says that he fully ex­pects Shane Sut­ton to be cleared of al­le­ga­tions of sex­ism and dis­crim­i­na­tion in Bri­tish Cy­cling and that he would then “have the right” to re­turn as coach.

Bri­tain’s most dec­o­rated Olympian of all time said that Sut­ton, who re­signed his post as tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor in April amid a flurry of ac­cu­sa­tions that he had bul­lied ath­letes and made dis­crim­i­na­tory re­marks to­wards Par­a­lympic cy­clists, was re­spon­si­ble for “a lot of ” the stun­ning suc­cess cur­rently be­ing en­joyed by Bri­tish cy­clists at the Olympic velo­drome in Rio and that he would leap at the chance of a re­turn.

The 59-year-old Sut­ton has de­nied all the claims and an in­de­pen­dent re­view panel has been set up to in­ves­ti­gate.

“Ob­vi­ously Andy [Har­ri­son] has taken over in the last cou­ple of months and stead­ied the ship if you like,” said Wig­gins, who won a fifth gold medal in the team pur­suit on Fri­day night. “But I would say all this [Olympic suc­cess] is a re­sult of [Sut­ton’s] work. He was in charge of it. He put all the foun­da­tions in place for this week, over years.

“He en­cour­aged me to come back and I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have come back had it been some­body else in charge 18 months ago.”

Wig­gins said he knew that many of the Bri­tish rid­ers and coaches, in­clud­ing head coach Iain Dyer, had re­mained in reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Sut­ton in the build-up to th­ese Games. He even scrolled through his mes­sages – past con­grat­u­la­tory texts from the likes of Paul Weller and Paul Smith – to read out a mo­ti­va­tional mes­sage the Aus­tralian had sent him on Fri­day morn­ing ad­vis­ing him “not to chase records, just chase the op­po­si­tion”.

Wig­gins said in his opin­ion there was a ‘cul­ture of ex­cel­lence’ within Bri­tish Cy­cling rather than a ‘cul­ture of bul­ly­ing’, and that some­times that called for blunt talk­ing.

“I think so – when you’re deal­ing with the likes of my­self or the Mark Cavendishes of this world,” he said. “What you’ll find, when you get into the po­si­tion of win­ning the Tour de France, stages of the Tour, is that a lot of peo­ple within cy­cling will just ad­mire you in some way,” he said.

“It’s hard not to. Then it’s hard to dis­agree with you and then they be­come ‘yes men’. Whereas Shane was never afraid to tell you what he thought or whether he thought you were f------ it up.”

Wig­gins said that ul­ti­mately the lit­mus test for him was that he would be happy for his 10 year-old daugh­ter to join the Bri­tish Cy­cling pro­gramme.

“100 per cent,” he said. “This whole sex­ism thing, I’d never, ever seen any sign of that, re­ally. If I’m com­pletely hon­est I think there’s a lot of bit­ter peo­ple that didn’t make the grade, got the boot and they have now come out picking holes in things.”

Wig­gins added that he thought Sut­ton would be cleared by the in­de­pen­dent re­view panel, say­ing many of the al­le­ga­tions – such as the one made by for­mer sprinter Jess Var­nish that Sut­ton told her to “go and have a baby” – needed to be taken in con­text.

“I think he will be, yes,” he said. “I don’t see what ev­i­dence they can have, other than some­one com­ing in and say­ing ‘he said this to me, he said that’. And I think the tone of how some things are said can be skewed quite a bit as well. For ex­am­ple, ‘why don’t you go off now, have a baby, start a fam­ily?’ is dif­fer­ent to ‘go and have a f---ing baby’. That’s just an ex­am­ple. I’m not say­ing that that quote is right. [But] I know Shane bet­ter than any­one and I be­lieve he’ll be cleared.”

Asked whether he should be re­in­stated if that hap­pens, Wig­gins said: “Well he wants to, he wants to come back. I spoke to him two weeks ago and he said his life is pretty empty with­out this. I think he has the right to. Why not?”

Wig­gins, who ad­mit­ted to hav­ing a few Caipir­in­has on Fri­day night al­though noth­ing “crazy” like in Bei­jing in 2008, will fly back to the UK to­day. He said he wanted to take some time to re­flect on his fu­ture.

He plans to ride in the Tour of Bri­tain and a few Six Day events this au­tumn, fin­ish­ing his ca­reer once and for all in Ghent, the Bel­gian city where he was born, along­side his old spar­ring part­ner, Mark Cavendish.

“My first child­hood mem­o­ries are in that build­ing with my Dad and I rode the Ghent Six when I was 19,” he said. “It’ll be nice to end it there, yeah.”

Af­ter that he said he would con­tinue to grow his Wig­gins bike brand and his cy­cling team, mak­ing it the “best un­der-23 team in the world” with the in­ten­tion of “find­ing the next Bradley Wig­gins”. He also said there were plans to cre­ate an un­der-23 women’s team by 2018.

Mostly, though, he said he just wanted a rest. “Half-jok­ing, half-se­ri­ous, there is talk with Ed [Clancy] say­ing I should take over the pur­suit team,” he smiled. “I might do my coach­ing badges at the end of the year but I don’t think I ever want to run this pro­gramme. Plus, Heiko [Salzwedel] has still got the job. I dunno...maybe a few years down the line.

“I’ve been read­ing Chris Board­man’s book this week, ac­tu­ally. He talked about re­tire­ment and had about two years where he just went SCUBA div­ing and just waited for some­thing to come along. That’s more ap­peal­ing to me at the mo­ment. I’ll look forward to just do­ing those sim­ple things other peo­ple take for granted and prob­a­bly get bored with it af­ter a while.”

In clear: Sir Bradley Wig­gins is back­ing Shane Sut­ton

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