"I'm sick of being told how to feel about the sport by people who have never ridden a bike,” says Sir Bradley Wiggins. The 2012 Tour de France winner was responding to criticism of recent comments he has made about Lance Armstrong.
Wiggins included Armstrong in his new book, Icons, and has spent much of the last week doing the media rounds defending the decision.
His argument is that, regardless of what came later, Armstrong was one of the most significant figures who inspired him to become a cyclist.
“He’s iconic for good and bad reasons now, whether people like it or not,” he said.
Wiggins later described Armstrong as ‘the perfect winner’ of the Tour de France. This was according to the definition of the race’s founder, Henri Desgrange, who envisaged the ideal Tour as being one in which only one rider finished.
Not everyone has been happy to accept the nuance of Wiggins’ position. The Times said the inclusion of Armstrong in Icons "astonished the world of cycling," while the Daily Mail said he had been "praising the drug cheat Armstrong".
The comments sections under our news stories have featured significantly more colourful language.
Appearing at the Rouleur Classic exhibition in London on Thursday, Wiggins stood firm, telling Cycling News: “I'll decide what I want to feel about the sport."
He said: "This isn't to condone anything he did. He knows he did wrong, but at some point, you've got to get on with your life.”
He added: "I understand the open wound that cycling has. I understand that. Everyone's got the right to an opinion, but for me it's not a debate. I'm not going to go on Question Time and debate it, but that's the way I feel, having written this book, and I've realised that's how I feel.
The 2018 Tour de France winner, Geraint Thomas, has said he felt Wiggins lost his motivation once he’d won the race in 2012, but claimed the same couldn’t be said of himself.
Wiggins too sees no reason why Thomas couldn’t win again.
"He was without doubt the strongest rider in the Tour and he could win another two Tours, depending on how the team goes now," he said. "A Chris Froome on form for sure has got another Tour win in him, and he will want that for five. We'll see how it pans out."
Thomas says he has barely spoken to Wiggins in recent years, but his former team-mate clearly holds the Welshman in high regard – perhaps partly because his career achievements echo his own.
"This is a guy who has been team pursuit world champion, Olympic team pursuit champion, seventh in Paris-Roubaix. There's not many Tour winners who can go top 10 in Paris-Roubaix, so it shows you the diversity of G.
"One thing G is really good at – that he doesn't get enough praise for – is the way he rides on the flat stages. I don't think he came out of the top 10 positions in the whole Tour.”
That, you feel, is an opinion that is far less likely to get people talking.