LONDON - Sir Bradley Wiggins has 17 seconds to make up before he will even be considered fit to take his Olympic rowing dream on to the water.
The five-time Olympic cycling champion hopes to compete as an oarsman at Tokyo 2020, but that ambition was badly bruised by a disappointing result on the rowing machine at Saturday’s indoor championships, staged at the London Velodrome where he set the one-hour world record on his bike in 2015.
This time, Wiggins finished 21st in the men’s open category with 6min 22sec for a virtual 2,000 metres — way off the 6:05 qualifying time for British team selection trials.
The 2012 Tour de France winner, who retired from his bike at the end of last year, had piled on the pounds in an attempt to switch sports, reaching 14st 9lb; his Tour de France-winning weight was 10st 8lb.
Wiggins fell 34sec short of Saturday’s winner, 6ft 8in British squad member Adam Neill. Wiggins promised to come back ‘stronger next year’.
Despite the chasm to the big men at the front, Wiggins’s coach James Cracknell believes his 6ft 3in pupil can turn himself into a credible rowing performer.
"This was the first time Bradley had ever done 2k," said Cracknell, the double Olympic champion who has been working with Wiggins for nine months.
"If he had been doing this for 10 years, you would not see a significant improvement. But being new to it, he should be able to eat into his time."
Wiggins was disturbed in his challenge when he heard a public address instruction to another group of competitors to stop rowing. "Huge disappointment," Wiggins said. "Upon hearing the call in the background, I thought the race had been false-started so I put my oar down. Schoolboy error. We live and learn."
Wiggins, 37, fell away in the last 750m, as British Rowing’s chief coach Jurgen Grobler prowled along the rowing machines. Wiggins concluded: "It was a fantastic experience racing with everyone."
Huge disappointment today! Upon hearing a call in the background, I thought the race had false started so I put my oar down. School boy error but hey we live & learn as my plan was 6.02. Fantastic experience racing with everyone, will come back 12 months stronger next year! 👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/oMNPxKD8ip