Wiggins and Team Sky take historic victory in France
Bradley Wiggins has immortalized himself in cycling history – the first Briton ever to win cycling’s most prestigious race, the Tour de France.
Already a three-time Olympic gold medallist, Wiggins’ three-week battle for the yellow jersey – described by Sir Chris Hoy as ‘one of the greatest achievements by a British sportsman ever’ – confirmed lifelong British Cycling member Wiggins as one of the nation’s greatest ever riders.
For the 32-year-old Team Sky rider, the 3,497km journey through France was the denouement of a much longer narrative that began at Herne Hill Velodrome and has taken in Olympic track glory with British Cycling whilst continually progressing on the road – none of it without its challenges.
Track cycling was his forte and as a 17-years-old, Wiggins announced himself at the 1997 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships, winning the individual pursuit event, a discipline that he would later dominate. His success came on the eve of the launch of the lottery funded Great Britain Cycling Team and with ability that pushed him into senior competition, he was immediately fast-tracked onto the programme, becoming a full-time lottery funded athlete at the age of 19.
After adding a Commonwealth Games medal to his burgeoning collection – competing for England in the team pursuit in 1998 – Wiggins then made his Olympic debut, only 20 years of age, at Sydney in 2000. Bronze in the team pursuit acted as a trailer for Athens.
It was there where he would become the most successful British Olympian at a single Games since 1964. Gold in the individual pursuit, silver in the team pursuit and bronze in the Madison, and Wiggins was no longer an unknown entity.
After the Games, Wiggins took part in his first 'Grand Tour' ride, the 2005 Giro d’Italia, before he made his Tour de France debut in 2006 for Cofidis. On the track he remained strong with three gold medals in the pursuit, team pursuit and Madison at 2008 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Manchester. He then became the first rider to successfully defend a pursuit title at the Olympics in the individual event whilst setting a world record in the team discipline to win gold with Ed Clancy, Paul Manning and future Team Sky colleague Geraint Thomas.
Post-Beijing Wiggins shifted his focus firmly to the road. Fourth place in the 2009 Tour de France with Garmin-Transitions, including second-place in the time-trial, equalled Robert Millar’s highest British Tour finish at the time, and demonstrated that Wiggins could adapt from track to road.
With Great Britain’s Beijing masterclass raising the profile of cycling, the formation of Team Sky was announced in 2009 and Wiggins, fresh from his success in the Tour, signed on to the squad which had set an aim of ‘creating the first British winner of the Tour de France, within five years’.
'We are in this to win the Tour de France. It's never been done by a Briton and it's time to put the record straight,' Team Sky team manager and British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford said in 2009. 'We want to make heroes, persuade a generation to pull on Team Sky colours and inspire people to ride. This will be an epic story; building a British team to take on the best in professional cycling, and win.'
Now, 15 years on from his first world title, with a collection of Olympic medals attained in the pride of riding for Great Britain, he can savour a victory which he himself confessed had ‘been a dream of mine since I was a kid.’