Olympic gold medallist and 2012 Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins could make his final appearance on the road with the Tour of Britain gearing up to visit the Ribble Valley later this year.
Described by race director Mick Bennett as the race’s equivalent of the ‘Ardennes Classic’, the second stage of the 2015 Tour – beginning in Clitheroe on September 7 – will see some of the world’s best riders tested on the gruelling Nick O’Pendle climb.
The route then goes through Whalley, Longridge and the Forest of Bowland villages of Dunsop Bridge and Slaidburn, before a sprint finish in Colne.
“I think there is a very good chance that Bradley Wiggins will ride the Tour of Britain, and that would be huge for cycling fans in Lancashire,” said TV presenter Ned Boulting, who will host a special show about the Tour de France at Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre this Friday, June 5, at the start of the 2015 Ribble Valley Cycling Festival.
“Bradley trained there for many years, and the county has played such a big part in his life – he would get an unbelievable reception.”
Chorley-based Wiggins chose the Ribble Valley to make his first public appearance when he rode the ‘Ride with Bradley’ charity race through the heart of the county, shortly after his Olympic gold and Tour de France double three years ago, and thousands turned out to cheer him.
“What Bradley Wiggins did in 2012 was one of the greatest achievements by a British athlete,” said Boulting.
“It was a murderous schedule to deliver those two titles in a month and even now I scratch my head and say, ‘Did he really do that’? Cycling has transformed itself from a niche, backwater sport, to a pastime that hooked into the British sporting psyche with Bradley Wiggins winning the 2012 Tour de France and Olympic gold.
“If Bradley rides the Tour of Britain, then the Ribble Valley will go insane because everybody will want to see him for the final time on a road bike in that race.
“I think Bradley will want to be there.”
Wiggins, a four-times Olympic gold medal winner, will be aiming for gold in the team pursuit event at the 2016 Games, where a medal in the Rio Velodrome will make him Britain’s most decorated Olympian.
Last year, thousands of local cycling fans crossed the border to see the Tour de France pass through Yorkshire and Boulting (below) added: “I’ve covered 13 tours, and I’ve never witnessed scenes like that. It is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at a bike race anywhere in the world.
“The Tour of Britain is a much loved race too and we could see many thousands of people coming out to watch the race in the Ribble Valley, and I’m sure Bradley Wiggins will have it in his diary.”
l An evening with Ned Boulting. June 5. £12.50. 01200 421599. www.thegrandvenue.co.uk