LONDON • If Bradley Wiggins needed reassurance about his near bulletproof popularity with the public, he got it on Tuesday in London.
Questions may remain about the British cyclist's use of powerful steroid injections before three key races in his career, including his 2012 Tour de France win. However, under the brightly coloured lights of the London velodrome, his troubles appeared temporarily forgotten.
The first mention of Wiggins over the public address system drew an appreciative cheer from the crowd as the venue began to fill up. There was more support from fans interviewed on the big screen, especially from the younger ones.
The pine boards in the Olympic Park were the stage for some of his greatest achievements, including the hour record last year and the madison world title, alongside Mark Cavendish, seven months ago.
The 36-year-old has returned to Stratford for one last hurrah, at the London Six Day race, before finally signing off as a professional at the Ghent Six Day event next month.
Both meetings market themselves as a party. And Wiggins must be hoping that the pending results of a UK Anti-Doping investigation into a medical package that was allegedly delivered to his doctor before the 2011 Tour de France do not arrive to spoil it.
"It's good to get back on the bike," he announced over the public address system, without smiling much. "I was born to ride the madison. It's the event I want to go out on."
That brief interview with the in-house master of ceremonies was the first time he has spoken live and in public since his three injections were revealed by Russian hackers more than a month ago.
He gave a recorded interview to the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, in which he explained that he needed those three steroid injections to treat previously unpublicised allergies and breathing problems. He also spoke to a newspaper to further deny any wrongdoing.
There will be no answers forthcoming this week, though, because he has refused interview requests.
He and Cavendish were undoubtedly the headline act and the roars were deafening as they set an early pace in the the 40km madison.
Although the atmosphere did fall flat when the pair finished third after a frantic surge at the death from the victorious Dutch duo of Yoeri Havik and Wim Stroetinga.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN