Bradley Wiggins will never forget the summer of 2012. Already a six-time Olympic medallist by that stage of his career, the Belgian-born British cyclist made up for past disappointments in the Tour de France by riding into yellow on stage seven of the 99th edition of the race. He stretched his lead two days later by winning a 41.5km time trial, an advantage he then consolidated in the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Wiggins made sure of victory in the time trial on stage 19, cruising down the Champs-Elysées a day later to become the first British rider to win the oldest, most celebrated and most prestigious multiple-stage cycle race of them all, crossing the line three minutes and 21 seconds ahead compatriot Chris Froome and 6:19 clear of Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali.
King of the time trial
A mere two weeks after that historic victory, Wiggins set about winning the fourth Olympic gold medal of his career in the road time trial, held on a 44km route around south west London and starting and finishing at Hampton Court.
Sporting a red helmet and urged on by the large and passionate crowd lining the route, Wiggins reprised his Tour de France form, leading at every split and crossing the line a full 42 seconds ahead of Germany’s world champion Tony Martin. In collecting his seventh Olympic medal, Wiggins joined cycling team-mate Chris Hoy at the top of the list of the most successful British Olympians of all time.
“I don’t think my sporting career will ever top this now,” said Wiggins after his time trial victory. “That’s it. It will never, never get better than that. Incredible.
“It had to be gold today or nothing. What’s the point of seven medals if they’re not the right colour? The main number is that is gold number four. So I have got to carry on to Rio now and make it five. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Chris Hoy is very special.”
His achievements and services to his sport were recognised with a knighthood the following year.
An elder statesman in Rio
Continuing to divide his time between the road and the track, and having cemented his status as one of the very few cyclists to have excelled in both, Sir Bradley then won the world road time trial title in Ponferrada (ESP) in September 2014.
He has since returned to the track to prepare for Rio 2016, teaming up with Marc Cavendish to win Madison gold at the 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in London this March, where he also took silver in the team pursuit.
It was in the second of those events that Wiggins then earned selection for Rio 2016, where, at 36 years and four months old, he will be the veteran of the GB cycling team, which features a whole host of other Olympic champions, namely Jason Kenny, Phil Hindes, Steven Burke, Edward Clancy, Peter Kennaugh, Geraint Thomas, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell.
Just as in the lead-up to London four years ago, when it was a case of “gold or nothing”, Wiggins has his sights set on one colour only: “For me it’s always about gold medals, and five gold medals sounds a lot better than four. They’re the only ones I really ever think of. I don’t really think of the haul or ‘a bronze medal will do’. I want to win golds.”
Having won two individual pursuit golds to date, as well as team pursuit gold, silver and bronze, Madison bronze and that time trial gold at London 2012, the freewheeling Wiggins needs just one more medal to become his country’s most decorated Olympian of all time.