Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) made history at Hampton Court on Wednesday with a winning ride in the men’s time trial at the Olympic Games. The Tour de France winner beat Tony Martin (Germany) and Chris Froome (Great Britain) into second and third, respectively, to become Great Britain’s most successful ever Olympian.
Wiggins’s dominance became clearer as his effort progressed. After a steady start saw him post the second quickest time at the opening check, he simply pulled away from Martin over the remainder of the course. The win was his seventh time trial victory of the season, and maintained his unbeaten run in the discipline (prologues excluded) this year. After wins at the Tour de France, Critérium du Dauphine, Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and now the Olympics, he has completed a year of success that not even the great Eddy Merckx ever matched.
"I cannot put it into words,” Wiggins said. “I wouldn't do it justice. It was really incredible. To win an Olympic gold in your home city. When you win in the velodrome, there are three or four thousand people cheering. Here, around the streets of London, the noise is just amazing. I don't think anything will top that. I've just won the Tour de France. It's just been phenomenal.”
Wiggins came into the race as the outright favourite after his Tour win and two time trial stages in the race. His July form held true as he headed for the Games and despite Great Britain missing out on a medal in Saturday’s road race, there was little the opposition could do from stopping Wiggins from controlling his speed over the poorly surfaced London roads.
With seven Olympic medals [four gold, one silver and two bronze], Britain’s most successful cyclist has now become his nation’s most successful Olympian.
"This morning, I kept seeing all these reports on the telly. It's not so important that you have seven medals if they're not the right colour. The main number is four. It was important that it was number four (gold medals). I've got to carry on to Rio (de Janeiro for the 2016 Games). Just to be mentioned in the same breathe as Redgrave is an absolute honour, with Chris Hoy. To be up there with those guys is very special. It had to be one colour today. The most important statistic is number four for me and not number seven."
With a partisan crowd cheering Wiggins home, the British rider still had to wait for several riders to finish. He refused to celebrate until Fabian Cancellara, the defending champion, crossed the line and despite the Swiss rider’s low-key 7th place, Wiggins paid tribute to him in his post-race press conference.
Cancellara has dominated time trialling for several years, winning eight stages in the Tour as well four world championships. However, after crashing out of the road race on Saturday there had been questions over whether the defending champion would even attempt to defend his title.
“For many years Fabian raised the bar and everyone was chasing Fabian. He probably peaked in 2009 at the Worlds in Medrisio where he annihilated the field and everyone was thinking, ‘how are we going to beat this guy?’ From that moment on, my coaching team have been looking at powers and cadence and things. Tony [Martin] had been doing the same and he raised the bar and went past Fabian last year, and we were all quite far behind. That’s what sport is about. You can either give up at that point as most people do and say, ‘he’s on drugs or it’s impossible to close the gap,’ or you say, ‘this guy is an incredible athlete and let’s look at what he’s doing.’ The main thing we’ve changed is the cadence.”