Sir Bradley Wiggins will be a novice at the scene of some of his many successes when he returns to competition on Saturday.
The 37-year-old five-time Olympic cycling champion is slated to compete in the elite men’s two-kilometres event at the British Rowing Indoor Championships at the LeeValley Velodrome.
Wiggins in June 2015 set the Hour record at the 2012 Olympic velodrome and in March 2016 won the world Madison title there with Mark Cavendish.
The 2012 Tour de France winner’s most recent prior competitive appearance on British soil came in the London Six Day event at the venue in October 2016. He retired from cycling two months later.
Wiggins turned to rowing for fitness, having long admired the sport, and in June raised the prospect of competing at a sixth Olympics in Tokyo 2020, but this time in a boat.
An endorsement from James Cracknell this week should come as no surprise, given the two-time Olympic rowing champion is a friend of Wiggins and has mentored him in this process.
Cracknell says Wiggins, who will be 40 by Tokyo 2020, is worth a gamble by the British team, while his flirtation with the sport has undoubtedly raised its profile.
Wiggins has been shrouded in scrutiny since winning his fifth Olympic gold in the team pursuit at the Rio Olympics, a triumph which saw him become the Briton with the most Olympic medals with eight.
He was part of a UK Anti-Doping investigation which closed after 14 months last month after a lack of sufficient evidence.
Wiggins railed at a “malicious witch-hunt” after UKAD ended the investigation into the contents of a jiffy bag delivered to him and Team Sky at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race. Team Sky and Wiggins deny wrongdoing.
But the episode – plus seeking and receiving permission to use a powerful corticosteroid before three major races, including his Tour triumph – impacts on his new pursuit and means the charismatic Wiggins will not be engaging with the media this weekend.
Wiggins has a long history with the site where he will compete on Saturday, as it was the location for the Eastway road cycling circuit where he took part in some of his first races as a junior.
He did not compete there at the London 2012 Olympics, instead riding in, and winning, the road time-trial at Hampton Court.
He compared his Hour record success – cycling the furthest distance possible in 60 minutes – to childbirth, with tongue firmly in cheek.
The 2km effort on an indoor, static rowing machine, such as the ones found in most sport centres and gyms, should take under six minutes.
It is a far cry from competing in a boat, but should provide a measure of Wiggins’ potential.
The British record is held by Olympic champion Moe Sbihi, who in December 2015 clocked five minutes 41.8 seconds to beat four-time Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent’s long-standing best.
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