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Bradley Wiggins stormed to an emphatic victory in the Olympic Cycling Time Trial on Wednesday, beating Germany’s Tony Martin and his team-mate Chris Froome.
The win concludes what has been a phenomenal season for Wiggins, with wins in Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné and, last but not least, the Tour de France, where he became the first British rider ever to win the General Classification. The taking of the maillot jaune was made all the more impressive by Wiggins’s lead-out of Mark Cavendish in the final stage, where the Manxman sprinted to victory on the Champs-Élysées.
The win in Wednesday’s Time Trial not only gives a morale boost to Team GB’s cyclists after a lacklustre performance in the Men’s Road Race but cements Wiggins’s place in Britain’s sporting history books; he is now Britain’s most successful Olympian by medal count with seven medals, surpassing Sir Steve Redgrave’s count of six.
Wiggins’s victory was achieved on the back of enormous expectation and anticipation, following a Road Race in which Mark Cavendish, the hot favourite, finished a disappointing 29th; he was unable to realise his dream of sprinting to gold on home soil following enormous media hype that was unjustified in such an unpredictable sport. The headlines which preceded the Time Trial did little to quell the enormous confidence in Team GB’s cyclists – ‘Bradley Wiggins set to deliver British Olympic time trial success’ read the Guardian – though thankfully this time, the confidence was justified.
Wiggins raced to victory on a route filled from start to finish with deafening cheers of support from British fans, with Union Flags and bunting peppered in amongst the crowd at times four deep. He completed the 44km route around Hampton Court in a time of 50 minutes 39 seconds, a convincing 42 seconds ahead of runner-up and current time trial world champion Tony Martin of Germany, and 68 seconds ahead of team-mate Chris Froome with whom he shared his recent Tour de France podium. Wiggins was marginally down on Martin at the first time check at 9km, though kept his cool and pulled out a lead from then on. Defending Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland had to settle for seventh place after crashing in the Road Race four days prior and sustaining injuries to his arm, while Road Race victor Alexandr Vinokurov came in 23rd. The day’s biggest stroke of bad luck was suffered by Spain’s Luis Leon Sanchez, who snapped his chain immediately at the start only to sustain a puncture on his replacement bike further down the course.
‘I don’t think my sporting career will ever top this now. That’s it. It will never, never get better than that. Incredible,’ said a delighted Wiggins, referring to his wins in the Tour de France and an Olympics on home soil within weeks of one another. Wiggins’s Olympic ambitions, however, are not yet over: ‘I have got to carry on to Rio now.’ Barring any lapses in form between now and then, Team GB can count on yet more Olympic success in 2016.
In the women’s race, American Kristin Armstrong defended her Olympic crown with a time of 37 minutes 35 seconds over the 29km course. Germany’s Judith Arndt and Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya took second and third. Team GB’s Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armistead, silver medallist in the Women’s Road Race, came sixth and 10th respectively.