Bradley Wiggins made history on Friday evening in Rio, winning his fifth Olympic Games gold medal as part of the Great Britain men's team pursuit squad. Wiggins, who dedicated the last significant phase of his career to his track ambitions now has eight Olympic medals, thus making him the most decorated British Olympian of all time.
And the former Tour de France winner helped break the team pursuit record twice in a thrilling evening of racing. In the final, Great Britain saw off arch rivals Australia with a new world record time of 3:50.265. In their semi-final ride against New Zealand the British team – consisting of Wiggins, Owain Doull, Steve Burke and Ed Clancy – had already broken the world record with a time of 3:50:570.
For Wiggins, it was a highly emotional moment and certainly a seminal moment in his already long and illustrious career. Only Chris Hoy has more gold medals - six to be exact - but few have a career as varied and successful as Wiggins.
"It's hard not to come off the track and spout a load of cliches but really, the last 12 months we have done everything together," Wiggins told the BBC after the gold medal ride.
"Training camps at altitude, early starts and late finishes. Cycling on Christmas Day. It was all for this and we've done it. These three guys here are amazing.
"When you have guys like that it makes your life easier. I was trying not to think about winning but these guys have been bouncing off the ceiling all afternoon. It was fantastic."
Wiggins' gold in Rio adds to his haul of eight Olympic medals in total. He won gold in the individual pursuit in Athens in 2004 before backing that up with gold in the same event and the team pursuit in Beijing four years later. In London, after winning the Tour de France, he claimed victory in the individual time trial, with Rio now completing his Olympic set.
"This is justification for stopping on the road and coming back to the track. This is the way I always wanted it to end for me," Wiggins told Belgian television Sporza, hinting that he will end his career by riding the Tour of Britain and then the Ghent Six with Mark Cavendish.
"It's where it started for me 16 years ago. The road was something I was good at but I never really loved the road. To then come back to the track and a final like this is incredible. I don't that we've realised what we were involved in but it probably made for a great final and a nice way to finish."
Inspired by Redgrave and Cancellara
"I won my first medal in Sydney and (rower) Steve Redgrave won his fifth gold there and I remember idolising him and thinking: 'Wow, what a thing to do.' Here I am, 16 years later, doing the same thing. You never think you're up there with those guys. The other day, watching Fabian Cancellara win the time trial was inspirational. Everyone had written him off and so to comeback and do that made me think: 'What a great way to finish your career. Here we are three days later and it's a nice feeling."
True to character, Wiggins joked and pulled faces on the podium after collecting his fifth gold medal. He later talked of the relief of ending his Olympic career on a high after months of hard work.
"I wanted to go out with this. I wanted it to end like this, not some crappy little race in northern France – Paris-Tours – climbing off in the feed zone. It's brilliant," he said.
"Now it's done, and it's more relief than anything," he said. "I was just saying to myself, thank f*** that's over. I don't have to live with this anymore. It's gone now."
Wiggins has often pushed back full retirement and hinted he may compete with his Wiggins team. However, two further farewells are on the horizon: The Tour of Britain (September 4-11) and then the Ghent Six (November 15-20), where he will team up with Mark Cavendish.
"That wasn't my last race, but it was my last Olympic Games. My kids have never known anything other than me being an Olympic athlete and they need me now. My kids need a proper dad in their lives. My wife needs a proper husband," he explained.
No rift with Cavendish
After hugging his wife Cath in the stands, Wiggins also faced a question about his alleged rift with fellow teammate Mark Cavendish, who missed out on a ride with the team pursuit squad despite quitting the Tour de France five stages from Paris to prepare for Rio.
"That's been blown out of proportion," Wiggins said.
"The reality is that we gave Mark the opportunity to come into the squad at our training camp in Newport and he didn't deliver. It wasn't me who froze him out – so ask him about it after he has done the Omnium."