OLYMPIC GOLD medallist and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has sparked fury in Ireland after claiming Irish cycling star Sam Bennett is “almost British”.
Wiggins made the remarks in the wake of Bennett’s victory in the 10th stage of the Grand Tour.
The Carrick-on-Suir rider made history by becoming just the sixth Irishman ever to win a stage of the world's most famous cycling event.
However, the win was slightly soured for fans watching on back home after Wiggins attempted to rebrand the sprinter as British during an appearance on Eurosport.
Speaking on Tuesday evening’s edition of The Breakaway, sat alongside Sean Kelly, an Irish cycling legend and mentor to Bennett, Wiggins said: “He’s still relatively young in cycling terms and he’s a young sprinter really.
“We can almost consider him British. I know that you lot won’t like that, will you?” he then added, glancing over at Kelly.
Kelly interjected in an attempt to correct Wiggins’ comments
“You’re not going to claim him.”
But the Englishman was undeterred – even going as far as making a jokey jibe about Kelly’s Irish accent.
He said: “We spoke to him at the Vuelta last year when he came on our show, and at least we can understand what he’s saying. We can’t really understand what you’re saying Sean, can we?”
THE FUCKING NECK. And then he comes back with another insult.
Sean should've decked him. pic.twitter.com/7QtmFoutfu
— Aidan (@onthenickel) September 9, 2020
Viewers reacted with fury to the claims.
One said: "No Bradley Wiggins you can’t almost call Sam Bennett British!"
Another added: "Sam Bennett is from Carrick-On-Suir, Co. Tipperary, Ireland Last time I checked, that isn't anything close to being in Britain."
A third went even further.
“THE F***ING NECK. And then he comes back with another insult. Sean should've decked him.”
Wiggins soon found himself bombarded with similar messages on his personal Twitter account.
“Disgraceful what you said on the show yesterday to the amazing Sean Kelly,” a disgruntled fan wrote.
“'You lot' 'at least we can understand what he’s saying. We can’t really understand what you’re saying Sean, can we?' Have some f***ing respect for people will you.”
Another asked: “Brad, honest question, what is it about Sam Bennett that makes you think of him as 'nearly British'? Interested in what makes you or many British people feel this way about Irish sports people.”
Brexit really has brought ignorance, arrogance and bigotry to the fore. @SirWiggo you are right, you are not worthy of your title and it has nothing to do with promoting good causes. The decency of respect is beyond you. Your education and upbringing has failed you.
— The Big Goodbye (@BigGoodbye) September 9, 2020
A third, meanwhile, said: “Brexit really has brought ignorance, arrogance and bigotry to the fore.
"@SirWiggo you are right, you are not worthy of your title and it has nothing to do with promoting good causes. The decency of respect is beyond you. Your education and upbringing has failed you.”
A fourth added: “You should have shown more respect for Sean Kelly, the man is a legend, it was a very uncomfortable watch.
“How someone is nearly British is beyond me. I have no doubt if Sam Bennett does something wrong or doesn’t keep preforming like he is now he will revert back to being Irish.”
Your attempt to claim him attempting, attitude towards Sean Kelly & saying you cant understand him, referring to the Irish as "you lot"- arrogance & stupidity in equal measure
— Peter Hatton (@hatton_peter) September 9, 2020
Wiggins has yet to respond directly to the criticism.