When Bradley Wiggins completed a triumphant transition from Olympic gold medalist to Tour de France winner today in Paris, he secured himself a position among the greatest cycling champions ever.
The 32-year-old Englishman became his country’s first ever Tour winner with a three minute, 21 second victory ahead of fellow Team Sky rider and countryman Chris Froome. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali was third.
“It’s been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling,” Wiggins said, according to Sky News. “Some dreams can come true, and now my old mother over there, her son’s won the Tour de France … I would never have imagined it, this is a dream. It’s a weird feeling.”
The Tour is cycling’s premier event, stretching over three weeks and 2,100 miles.
Wiggins dominated this year’s event, the 99th edition, wearing the famous yellow jersey for the final 13 stages.
He secured the overall championship with an elite performance in Saturday’s time trial.
Today’s final stage along the Champs-Elysees, past landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde, is more about allowing the victor to revel in his accomplishment.
“I don’t know what to say. I’ve had 24 hours for it to soak in,” Wiggins told BBC. “I’m still buzzing from the Champs-Elysees, the laps go so quick. … I’ve got to get used to that (being in the spotlight), it’s going to take a while. I’m just trying to soak it all in. You never imagine it will happen to you but it's amazing.”
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Claiming a title at one of cycling’s big three tour events had eluded Wiggins until today.
He finished fourth in Paris three years ago and third at the Vuelta a España (the Spanish tour) last year.
A broken collarbone after a crash in France last year forced him to withdraw.
He's never finished higer than 40th at the Giro d'Italia (the Italian tour).
Now, with the 2012 London Olympics just days away in his backyard, Wiggins can join an elite list of athletes.
Only five other cyclists have won an Olympic medal and the Tour de France, according to Sports-reference.com.
Wiggins can put his name alongside Jacques Anquetil (1952), Lance Armstrong (2000), Miguel Indurain (1996), Jan Ullrich (2000) and Joop Zoetemelk (1968).
Wiggins first gained success at age 20, winning a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics in the team pursuit event.
Four years later in Athens, he won gold in pursuit, silver in team pursuit and bronze in the madison event – the first Brit in 40 years to win three medals at a single Olympics.
Wiggins added two more gold medals (pursuit, team pursuit) to his haul at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
“Tonight I go home,” Wiggins said after today’s race. “Everything turns to the Olympics and I’ll be out on the bike tomorrow and I’ve got an Olympic time trial to try and win. So that’s a higher priority than anything else. It’s a little weird to leave Paris without a party because it would be nice to spend time with the team and really enjoy it.”
It’s a good bet Wiggins will have even more to celebrate in a few short weeks.