It is probably no coincidence that Sir Bradley Wiggins has chosen the Easter weekend to announce that his famous sideburns, thought to have disappeared down a plughole in the Autumn of last year, will be making an unexpected comeback, but it is the nature of their resurrection that is going to surprise the many fans of the Tour de France winner.
In a statement released to the Press Association yesterday, Wiggins announced that his whiskers will be auctioned to raise money for the Bradley Wiggins Foundation, the charity he founded last year to encourage people to take up cycling and sport. In a decision that is likely to attract both attention and bidding, the Tour de France winner has chosen a unique and novel way to pass on his whiskers to the winning bidder.
Possibly the most famous sideburns since Elvis? (Picture: Scott Mitchell/Team Sky Procycling)
Following his victory in the Tour de France and the Olympic time trial last year, Sir Bradley was approached by the upmarket cycle clothing manufacturer, Rapha, to incorporate his facial hair into a short length of woven textile that will be transformed into a unique Rapha-designed base layer, similar in style to their best selling Wiggo vest, for the individual who wins the auction.
The sale should attract huge interest from both UK and overseas bidders. As Wiggins swept to Tour de France victory his sideburns became international stars and for a few months of last year they achieved national treasure status. Hardly a day passed that by without them adorning our TV screens, the pages of our newspapers and the covers of magazines. Then, in late October of last year, he arrived in Paris as guest of honour at the unveiling of the 2013 Tour de France route sans rouflaquettes! The sideburns that were as famous as the face they adorned were sadly no more.
As the nation was plunged into mourning, Bradley let it be known that his infamous sideburns had become a heavy burden. If press reports at the time are to be believed, Bradley was too easily recognised due to his luxuriant facial appendages.
Last night, Wiggins revealed that the real reason the sideburns had to go and it really is a case of fact being far stranger than fiction.
"To be honest, when Simon [Mottram, Rapha's CEO] first muted the idea I thought it was a piss take" Sir Bradley Wiggins recalled, "but within five minutes of talking to him I was persuaded. It's just a genius idea. You can definitely see the flecks of ginger in the material and the end result is pretty cool, actually ".
It is likely that the winning bidder will never wear the vest in anger - it is more likely to be displayed above the mantelpiece of one very lucky (and, no doubt, wealthy) cycling fan. Simon Mottram, however, is eager to stress that this unique Wiggo vest is designed to perform.
"Getting the balance of merino and human hair to weave together was a lengthy and highly technical process." After the sideburns were shaved off they were whisked up to the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, where they were hand woven with specially selected merino lambswool by islanders using traditional methods. "The finished cloth is not only beautiful but has a functionality and breathability equal to some of our Pro collection baselayers".
Weavers on the Isle of Harris, using traditional methods, were employed to undertake the complicated process of blending human facial hair and lambswool
Though Mottram is acutely aware that interest in the 'Wiggo weave' is going to be high, Rapha have no intention of harvesting body hair from other Team Sky members. "We did tinker with the idea of a pair of Sir David Brailsford merino cycling socks, but unfortunately he was unable to work with us on that project."
Sir Bradley, meanwhile, is philosophical about handing his sideburns over to a new owner. He told the Press Association that Mark Powell, the tailor responsible for the blue velvet suit that he wore on the night he collected his SPOTY gong in December, offered to knock up a waistcoat out of the material. Wiggins, however, declined : "This is not about me. This is all about raising money and awareness for the Bradley Wiggins Foundation."
The length of material will be auctioned on the Wiggins Foundation website in May, when Wiggins will be competing in the Giro d'Italia. No one involved in the project is prepared to suggest what Sir Bradley's woven whiskers will fetch and the man himself is reticent.. "It would be foolish to guess what price they might fetch. Fifty quid? A grand? I've no idea - though personally I wouldn't want someone else's facial hair rubbing up against my body, but if we raise some money for the Foundation, then that's all good.".
More information on the forthcoming sale will be announced shortly on the Bradley Wiggins Foundation website.
The official website of Team Sky runs regular bulletins on Sir Bradley Wiggins' preparations for the Giro d'Italia, as well as team and race news, features and photographs.
In September Simon Mottram will be cycling in the Rapha Bordeaux-Paris event to raise money for the charity, Ambitious about Autism.
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