"He might be a c*** but he's a bloody good athlete."
That's what someone in the know told me yesterday about Bradley Wiggins. Oh yeah, sorry, Sir Bradley Wiggins.
"in those final few laps, there was nothing particularly pretty about other side. Agony, as opposed to poetry, in motion."
Before the most enthralling team pursuit final we've seen in history, less controversially, this is what a few of the Australians said...
Hepburn: "The pursuit of gold is what's driving us all right now. We were there in London four years ago; we didn't get to achieve that."
Bobridge: "Anyone would say any medal at the Olympics is fantastic, which silver was, but we went (to London) with one aim and that was to win."
Hepburn: "The silver medal there is one reason why a lot of us are still here today, searching for that gold medal.
"At Rio, we're ready to go to another level, 'cause that's what it's going to take."
Edmondson: "That's what we dream about every day, every time we get on the bike - it's about getting to the Olympics, (and) being able to stand on that top step.
"Everyone here is 100 percent on-board to win that gold medal. And we won't settle for anything else."
They did go to another level. In the gold medal final against Great Britain, they broke the world record from London (although in GB's semi-final against New Zealand, that record was already smashed, which the Australians did not surpass). "It felt like old-school teams pursuit like we used to ride five, six years ago - go out full-gas and try and hold onto it," said Michael Hepburn of their last ride, the strongest of his coterie on the night. "It was good fun."
But they had to swallow the very thing Alex Edmondson said they wouldn't settle for. "To win the silver medal is something special but when you aim for something so high, it's hard to take," said the distraught 22-year-old from South Australia.
Still, they almost didn't make the final. Had Denmark not imploded against them in the semis with just a half-lap remaining, they would have been racing for bronze. There, they rode a fairly ordinary (by their standards) 3:53.429. The Brits against the Kiwis? 3:50.570.
Unlike the Australians, who had five riders to choose from, Team GB had to stick with what they had from the outset: Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Owian Doull, and of course, Bradley Wiggins. That bloody good athlete.
It was unusual that Jack Bobridge, Australia's answer to Wiggins and the leader of his side, sat out the semi-final against Denmark. As commentator Scott McGrory said, it raised questions about his condition that was brought to bear in the final, for he left his erstwhile companions still with 1,250 metres to race. Team GB lost their fourth only with 500 metres or so to go. Perhaps there was something of a mea culpa in his remarks when Bobridge said afterwards: "Today, I definitely wasn't the leader of the team."
As fine an athlete Wiggins is, above all other track cycling events, the team pursuit demonstrates you are only as strong as the sum of your parts. Among all the plaudits for Sir Brad, as the graph below shows, there are three unsung heroes.
Nevertheless, in the end, there was less than 8/10ths of a second in it; a remarkable turnaround from the Australians' semi-final performance. The Brits almost suffered the same fate that met Denmark in the Aussies' semi-final against them, but if we're honest, in those final few laps, there was nothing particularly pretty about other side; agony, as opposed to poetry, in motion.
You have to hand it to Sir Brad, Sir Wiggo, Wiggo, or whatever you want to call him.
Unlike the Aussies - "We had nothing to lose," said Bobridge - it could be argued the 36-year-old kid from Kilburn had the least to gain (after all, he's done it all before) and most to lose. He could've easily retired after leaving Team Sky following last year's Paris-Roubaix, which he followed up with a successful hour record attempt two months later. It now feels he's come full circle, and like Fabian Cancellara, permanent retirement from top-level cycling surely isn't too far away.
Yes, he might be a c*** but he's a bloody good athlete. Or maybe, just maybe, he's a bloody good bloke and a bloody good athlete.