A Waste of a Rainbow Jersey

Bradley Wiggins’s achievements have been immense. He has the most diverse palmarés of any active cyclist and he appears to be able to accomplish any goal he puts his mind to. But strictly speaking, the rainbow jersey he won in Ponferrada last year by finishing fastest in the elite time trial championships, was the most wasted rainbow jersey in road cycling history.

By that I mean the number of days that Wiggins spent racing in it. The former Tour de France winner certainly did not get his money’s worth. He called a halt to his season directly after he won it and only remained on Team Sky’s books until Paris-Roubaix earlier this year. Thereafter he only rode on home soil – two stage races, the Tours of Yorkshire and Britain along with the one-day RideLondon Classic, none of which involved a time trial. The only time he spent in the jersey was in the preparation races in the build up to the Spring classics.

Consequently, Wiggins spent a total of three days racing in the rainbow jersey he worked so hard to win.

Stage 3 Tour of Qatar – 3rd
Prologue Paris-Nice – 12th
Stage 3b Three Days of De Panne – 1st

Wiggins also decided to forego a fourth day in the rainbow jersey by choosing not to contest the Paris-Nice finale on Col d’Eze.

Three days is the least amount of days spent in the rainbow jersey by any time trial world champion since the discipline first appeared on the World Championship menu in 1994.

Below is a chart plotting the number of days each time trial world champion has spent in the rainbow jersey:

TT World Champ Days in Rainbow
I didn’t have accurate data pre-2000, so that’s why I cut the plot there, but each of the pre-2000 winners did all race more than three days in time trials, I’m just not sure how much more.

It should also be noted that all winners from 2012 and before also were afforded the privilege of wearing the rainbow jersey in team time trials, which are included in the graph above. If team time trials are removed, Wiggins’s three days is still the lowest.

The rider who made the most of his time trial rainbow jersey was Bert Grabsch. The German is perhaps the most surprising winner in the competition’s history. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. He won the rainbow jersey and he milked it for all it was worth. Who could blame him? After all, that’s the whole idea, isn’t it?

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  1. david - October 22, 2015 @ 8:13 am

    Didn’t he wear it in the Hull 10? 🙂

  2. Irish Peloton - October 22, 2015 @ 9:42 am

    That’s true. Although not an officially sanctioned UCI event, so he shouldn’t have actually worn it. But I guess a day is a day!

  3. Conor - December 16, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

    It begs the question: how many time trials does a typical rider complete in a year? The highest figure in your plot is 15 but the average is 9.7. These are guys who should be attracted to time trials as they have a good chance of winning. Does this mean that the average pro rides only 10 UCI sanctioned time trials a year? Wiggins’ 3 days doesn’t seem so remarkable given his concentration on the track. What might be more interesting is the ratio of time trials to race days. It could tell us if some of the world champions are apparently avoiding time trials.

  4. raistlon - February 21, 2016 @ 3:56 am

    Does he have some sort of duty to wear it? The sport of cycling is so fragmented and on the verge of extinction, is any surprise that he only wore in 3 events?

  5. Irish Peloton - February 21, 2016 @ 8:31 am

    He kind of does have a duty to wear it yeah. His team pay him to get exposure for their sponsor. A very good way of doing that is wearing the most iconic jersey in the sport at as many given opportunities as possible.

    Why do you say the sport is in the verge of extinction?

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