The man who helped revive British cycling

Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning the gold medal on August 1 (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/GettyImages)

While Britain wallows in the wonder of Bradley Wiggins, a hat-tip (or even a doff of the helmet) should be conferred on Peter Keen, the man who a decade ago set about to revive the fortunes of British cycling.

Mr Keen created Britain’s high performance cycling programme around Manchester’s velodrome, before passing on the baton to British Cycling’s performance director Dave Brailsford.

Wiggins came under his wing in the late 90s, a very different creature to the other budding 17 and 18 year-olds in his charge, Mr Keen recalls.

“He was completely immersed in cycling. It is all he wanted to read about and study, whereas many of his contemporaries wouldn’t have had that level of fascination and focus,” Mr Keen says.

The Wiggins riding style has barely changed over the years: “He was almost too aware of how he would look and flow on the bike.”

What has changed is the way Wiggins has grown and matured as a person. “In the sporting sense, it is that complete understanding of what you are doing, what it means to take responsibility from the start line, which [in his gold medal race] was absolutely immense.”

Mr Keen, who went on to become performance director at UK Sport, the body responsible for funding elite athletes, describes a man who in the early days of his professional career was “searching for what he could do”.

Wiggins and fellow British cycling colossus Sir Chris Hoy were key participants in the development of the high performance programme. Mr Keen said discussions about how to achieve it involved “absolute honesty and clarity” (which in sporting code usually means a lot of shouting, arguing and clearing the air).

He recalls a particular meeting in 2002 about persuading Wiggins to become a professional cyclist in a continental team. “It was an interesting evening,” is how Mr Keen puts it.