Jonathan Vaughters is feeling better, thank you. He appreciates your cards and letters.
The man they call JV took the ugly departure of star rider Bradley Wiggins personally. There were all the soap opera emotions: anger, a sense of betrayal, loss — staying locked up in his house in Boulder, Colorado listening to Nirvana and Nick Drake. You know, that dark period after the breakup, the black pall that was Brad. Late nights staring into the fire, wondering if he should have coughed up the dollars for Contador. If Vaughters had been Latin, he would have flown to London and shot Wiggins outside his flat, a crime of passion.
Vaughters liked Wiggo a lot, loved his Brit humor in a Monty Python kinda way, valued his intelligence. There are plenty of lunch pail lunkheads in the peloton. The sports’ euro roots are in the farm fields, the coal mines, guys just happy to escape the Dickens drudgery. Pedaling a bike at insane speeds doesn’t requite a college degree or a working knowledge of Nietzsche or quantum mechanics or even an intriguing Netflicks queue.
Wiggo is a genuinely curious, intellectual guy with a wide range of interests like Vaughters himself. It was a separated at birth thing, they were man pals. The breakup was hard on JV. Rumor was for several weeks Vaughters grew listless, could no longer look at a men’s fashion magazine and that his trademark sideburns grew unruly and unkempt. The batteries ran out on his Garmin GPS and he just didn’t care. Bad, you know, really bad.
This was personal and this was professional. There’s no question, Vaughters believes he discovered Wiggins and did the Frankenstein routine on him. Piecing together a physical and psychological training plan that re-made the British rider into a scary good tour rider. The Garmin head honcho made Wiggins his personal project, discovering his immense potential when the rest of the cycling world saw just another track cyclist. Brad betrayed Vaughters’ vision of Brad. There have been dramatic, violent breakup movies based on less.
But Vaughters is back, with a serious case of Wiggin’s amnesia. The past is past and like Chinese history before communism, Wiggins doesn’t exist anymore in Garminville. First, JV hit New York with the Men In Plaid party, doing the cycling twist on the popular TV show Mad Men. Adult beverages were consumed and the party went full blast. New York doesn’t give a crap about Bradley Wiggins unless he’s a DJ opening a new night club.
Then JV let go of his angst and turned it over to Garmin Statesmen David Millar. It was Millar who did the dirty work of dumping on Wiggins and it was okay because Millar has props in the peloton and like Wiggo, he’s a fellow Brit. His disses have dimension and weight. He was a quote machine, and if anyone could illicit some remorse from Wiggins, it was Millar. Unfortunately, Wiggins was already happy with Uncle Fester at Sky and had closed the scab.
In any disaster, a family must close ranks and Garmin did. From Millar and Tyler Farrar on down, the party line was repeated: We’re a stronger team without Wiggins. We’ll miss him but the loss won’t have anything to do with results. Have a nice life at Sky, you clueless, greedy, betraying emaciated Brit. End of story in Velonews, Cyclingnews and Eurosport.
And then, the future. With sponsors and the cycling press waiting for the end strategy, Vaughters went on the offensive. In interview after interview, the message became, don’t forget about Christian Vande Velde, Zabriske is going to surprise in 2010 and watch out world, we’ve found the next Wiggins in Irishman Dan Martin. That was a nice symbolic touch, Irishman replaces ungrateful Brit. And being the savvy guy he is, you can bet Vaughters wrote some new protective measures into Martin’s contract extension. Should he have an amazing season, Martin, unlike Wiggins, is not leaving early.
And so the Wiggins chapter closes at Garmin. Lessons learned. Jonathan Vaughters left himself open, he cared too much, but the breakup is well and over. It was Director Sportifs Who Love Too Much And The Riders That Leave Them. That won’t happen again. As David Millar has said, he loves the “soul” of team Garmin. Vaughters is still going to put his heart and soul into his team. But he won’t be burned again.