An Evening With Bradley Wiggins – Review – Hull City Hall
By Karl Hornsey, September 2019
Think you know Bradley Wiggins? Well, An Evening With… at Hull City Hall will have changed the perceptions of many in the audience, mine included. Unlike many sportsmen of the modern era, Wiggins is free of the restraints that seem to require them to say the right thing or define themselves through their achievements. But then again, Wiggins is far from your average sportsman.
In terms of pure sporting achievement, he’s right up there with icons of Olympic success such as Daley Thompson, Steve Redgrave and fellow cyclist Chris Hoy. But in his public persona and attitude, he is closer to another maverick in Ronnie O’Sullivan, with both notable for saying what they think, not what people want them to think. Such an attitude made for a wonderfully entertaining evening.
Wiggins is a man at ease with an audience. Treating the occasion as if he were down the pub with his mates, chatting about anything and everything that comes to mind. There are still elements of the ‘old’ Wiggins, but also a new-found maturity and comfort from knowing that he has been able to move on from a glorious career of track and road cycling, of Olympic feats that will take some beating and, of course, from being the first Brit to win the Tour de France.
Retirement from a sporting life, especially one lived at the top of the pile and in the full glare of an expectant media, is notoriously tough to deal with. Wiggins tried his hand at rowing and launched his own cycling team, but his next venture takes him far outside the boundaries of the sporting world, and his audience in Hull came shortly after the announcement that he is to start an Open University degree in social work.
“Keen to move on to the next phase”
While most of the audience will have been well aware of Wiggins’ cycling achievements, far fewer would have known about his challenging upbringing, the effects of his father abandoning the family when he was so young and how he used cycling to avoid falling victim to the same vices and temptations as many of his peers. To listen to him talk of giving something back to children from disadvantaged backgrounds is to be inspired, and it is these moments when he is at his most interesting.
Wiggins himself is relatively bored of his cycling career and doesn’t define himself by his achievements, no matter how impressive they have been. He has found a new enjoyment in cycling as a roving reporter and analyst at this year’s Tour de France, but his chief cycling passion now centres on a jaw dropping collection of memorabilia, some of which he brought on stage with him, including shirts worn by legends of the sport such as Tommy Simpson and Lance Armstrong. Not to mention a carrier bag containing several of his Olympic gold medals.
Wiggins is keen to move on to the next phase of his life and twice explains the thought process that went on when he was inevitably offered a knighthood, consulting widely with those whose opinions he respected before accepting the honour. That such things matter to him is another window into his world and Wiggins the human being as opposed to Wiggins the sporting superstar.
If I had to pick a hole in the evening, it would be that the Q&A session at the end of proceedings was too brief and fleeting and written questions submitted in advance would have worked better than having them shouted from various locations across the floor. That said, it’s a minor quibble that failed to overshadow an entertaining couple of hours in the company of one of the finest British sportsmen of modern times, but who now seems set on starting what promises to be the next intriguing chapter of his life.