The number-one voted male rider of the year may not have achieved the top-ranking in the UCI's WorldTour standings - Joaquim Rodríguez is the official number one - however, Bradley Wiggins won nearly every stage race he entered. His historic Tour de France victory was not even the icing on the cake, that was reserved for his gold-medal ride in the time trial at the Olympics. A season of history-making results for Great Britain.
Wiggins came close to the perfect start to a year. He contested a much lighter race schedule than previous years but with a specific focus on each race. The 32-year-old began his Tour lead-up in February's Volta ao Algarve and showed-off his early season form by winning the final stage five time trial while his teammate Richie Porte won the overall.
"I think the way we rode together made us the dominant force," said Wiggins to British Cycling after his team won three stages, the white jersey and the overall classification.
A month after his win in Portugal, Wiggins won Paris-Nice, a race in which he finished third in the previous year. He quickly returned to racing for the Volta a Catalunya, however the weather turned on the peloton and Wiggins pulled the pin, along with Tour contender Andy Schleck.
Wiggins returned to his swimming coach-style training before coming back at Tour de Romandie in late April. Leading out the 60-man sprint in the first stage, no one could come around Wiggins who took his first and only road stage win of the year. With the stage victory Wiggins took over the leader's jersey from prologue winner and teammate Geraint Thomas. Wiggins held the leader's jersey through stage four, but lost it to Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez. The following day, however, Wiggins crushed the closing time trial to earn overall victory.
"It was a true test of a GC rider; it had a bit of everything in it plus a mechanical for myself. I'm pleased with the way I handled that moment because a few years ago I might have thrown my toys out of the pram and chucked my bike down the ravine! It was a good test for the bigger races coming up and I'm delighted," Wiggins said at the finish.
Throughout the year and in the months prior to the Grand Départ Wiggins had to reinforce the idea that his biggest goal was winning the Tour de France. He repeated his Critérium du Dauphiné victory of 2011 and again reiterated his season objective.
"No disrespect to this race, but it's only the Dauphiné," Wiggins noted. "We're still a long way from the Tour."
Wiggins' win in the 'warm-up' race to the Tour was one of his first historic moments of 2012. He just had to win the Tour de France to achieve it. Before Wiggins, no rider had won Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France in the one season.
Sky arrived at the Tour with a star-studded roster that included last year's second-place finisher at the Vuelta a España, Chris Froome, who played an outstanding role in supporting Wiggins to achieve Great Britain's first Tour victory. He was almost too good and if it wasn't for team orders, things may have played out very differently. They didn't and Wiggins took out both time trials while his teammates proceeded to essentially ride all other contenders out of the race.
Wiggins first, Froome second but there was little time to relax before his home Olympic Games in London. The sprinter-friendly course was hyped as perfect for Mark Cavendish and the Great Britain team assembled for the task had only one goal: for Cavendish to become Olympic champion.
The Great Britain team gambled everything on a bunch sprint but it wasn't to be. Wiggins however, duly repaid Cavendish by working for his leader in the race. Did it make up for Cavendish's lost opportunities at the Tour? Well, he now has the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team at his disposal.
Days later Wiggins won the Olympic time trial and became Great Britain's most successful Olympian. He was handed the prestigious Vélo d'Or award shortly after and while the UCI Road World Championships were still to come, his intentions were not for personal glory in the road race.
"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."
The 2012 year has been one of remarkable success for his team and himself however, exactly which races he chooses to target next year are yet to be seen.
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