As a former Six-Day racer who rode with Gary Wiggins in the 1970s, Maurice Burton felt that he couldn’t miss the opportunity of seeing Gary’s son, Sir Bradley Wiggins, take part in his last race at Ghent this weekend.
The former national champion and owner of De Ver Cycles in Streatham in South London, said, “I saw an online article about Bradley riding his last Six-Day. He said I’ve trained really hard for this. And it made me think, although I really need to be in the shop selling bikes and trying my best at this time of year, I thought, you know, I better go to Ghent. Because there’s a lot of history behind all of this, and I was there when Bradley won the tour on the Champs Elysées, and I thought I needed to be there.”
Bradley’s father, Gary, had quite a reputation in his day. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph a few years ago, Maurice remembered a “flash man” who would regularly take drugs to improve his cycling and was prone to violence. He gave Bradley the middle name, Marc, so that his initials would be BMW, the same as the car that Gary had bought with his prize money.
Maurice said that he never had any problems with Gary himself – “He didn’t mess with me or give me any grief but it didn’t do anything to upset him…if he was high on something or other or in a mood he would go off on one.”
Maurice went on take an interest in Bradley’s career from its beginnings at Maurice’s local Herne Hill velodrome and he took great delight watching the same person who he held in his arms as a week old baby win the greatest accolade of all, the Tour de France in 2012.
Bradley and riding partner, Mark Cavendish, were on winning form again at Ghent yesterday in an exciting finish when they took a lap on their opponents right at the end of the Madison. An emotional Sir Bradley spoke after the race:
“It’s been 18 years since I first came here as a 19 year old boy … and I was sat down here in this cabin with my father in 1981 and it felt like, well I was born here, I’ve always felt like this was a second home to me, and I can still remember as a child the smell of embrocation from the legs of the riders…it’s always special to win here. I always said that my final send off was to come here and race Ghent one last time. To win it with Mark as well, after everything we’ve been through in the last ten years together. This is probably be the, well this will be the last time we race together for sure.”
His father would have turned 64 on Sunday and Bradley said that, “I think about him every day. He’s still one of my heroes, as a bike rider, not the biggest fan as a person or as a father, he was rubbish. But as a bike rider he inspired me and that’s why I’m here as a racer today, it's because of what he did, so I’m always thankful for that and obviously he gave me some good genes and a good fighting spirit.”
And he had a warm message to send his riding partner, Cavendish:
“We’re like brothers, we have a good time together, we’ll do anything for each other, we fight and bicker but we know each other’s strengths and we’ve raced together a lot, 12/13 years now so it’s been a great partnership, like some of the greats, Patrick and Eddy and Clark and Alan, all these guys.”
This was Sir Bradley’s second Six-Day title at the Kuipke velodrome and was a fitting end to his career as a full time cyclist, racing on the same boards as his father did, in the city of his birth, and cheered on by one of his oldest admirers, Maurice Burton, who has followed him from infanthood to knighthood and beyond. Congratulations on a fabulous career, Sir Bradley!