Wiggins targets Games as dream becomes reality
In 1993, Bradley Wiggins travelled to Paris to see Miguel Indurain secure the third of his five Tour de France triumphs; 19 years later the Londoner followed his boyhood idol's footsteps onto the podium, becoming the first Briton to win cycling's biggest race.
There were no tears from Wiggins, just a huge smile of satisfaction, as he donned the final yellow jersey of the 2012 Tour de France and then listened to the British national anthem, flanked by Sky team-mate Christopher Froome, with Italy's Vincenzo Nibali in third.
The 32-year-old triple Olympic track gold medallist has now taken road racing's most prized victory after completing one of the most faultless race performances in the Tour's 109-year history.
Wiggins is an amazing example of sporting versatility, switching from the success in the controlled environment of team and individual pursuits in the velodrome to targeting and taking the biggest goal possible in the far more tumultuous world of road racing.
Furthermore, in their first wins, Tour greats such as Indurain, Bernard Hinault -- even Lance Armstrong -- made errors that were corrected in their following victories; Wiggins and his blue-clad Sky cohorts, on the other hand, have painstakingly constructed a clinically forged triumph which has made the Kilburn rider's victory feel almost as inevitable as any of Armstrong's or Indurain's -- and, in a sport as unpredictable as road racing, an extraordinary achievement.
A sign too, perhaps, that the Briton's reign at the top of the Tour hierarchy has only just begun.
Appropriately enough -- for a rider whose victory had a key foundation in the Tour's first long time trial at Besancon, in the first hour of the final stage from Rambouillet in the Paris suburbs onto the Champs Elysees, in the outer region of Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse -- the peloton passed by a monument to Jacques Anquetil, Monsieur Chrono himself, and the first ever winner of five Tours.
If Wiggins's achievement marks the maiden win for his country in the toughest endurance sport on the planet, Sky's domination of the race make it likely -- if not certain -- that there is more where that came from to follow in the very near future.
"It sounds cliched and pathetic, but this is what I've hoped for for 20 years, and I never dreamt it could become reality," Wiggins said later.
Speaking from the winner's podium, he added: "It's been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling.
"Some dreams come true. My mother over there... her son has won the Tour de France."
As for the British fans who were in Paris, he wished them "a safe journey home", recommending they did not overdo it on the celebrations, saying "don't get too drunk".
Asked if he had prepared psychologically as intensely as he had trained for overall victory, Wiggins said: "I haven't actually.
"Just age, maturity, past disappointments -- they all go towards aiding that.
"A lot of it comes from within. That's probably what makes me a good athlete, that I am strong mentally, and perhaps people don't give me enough credit for that.
"I sat in that little press conference in March in Paris-Nice (as the winner of that Classic) and people were saying 'have you peaked yet?'", and I said, 'no, I'm training for July'. I got to June and they were still asking the same thing.
"It's been a long old road, and that's my mental strength. I'm blowing my own trumpet here, but I'm good at burying my head in the sand, not answering my mobile... it doesn't work for other parts of life, but it works for cycling."
Although messages of support from one of Wiggins' favourite singers, Paul Weller, is perhaps not so surprising, they have also come from the most unexpected of quarters -- drummer Steve White, footballer Joey Barton, and even the drummer of legendary Derry band The Undertones, Billy Doherty.
"The amount of attention is quite incredible, you realise -- Jesus Christ, people are actually watching this thing we're doing," continued Wiggins.
"But it's nice because you are actually doing something in your life that is inspirational, and hopefully someone will watch it and go, 'I want to be like Brad Wiggins and go and ride my local time trial this weekend.
"Because that's what it was like when I was a kid. I remember watching Chris Boardman win the Olympics and getting out on my bike that summer's evening and pretending I was Chris Boardman. That's what it's all about."
There were no celebrations yesterday, not even a swig of champagne on the podium.
Today, after flying back to Manchester last night, Wiggins will be back on his bike riding round the roads near his Lancashire home, his head set firmly on the Olympic road race, and then the time trial -- the latter his second big goal of 2012.
"That performance yesterday (Saturday), those numbers -- I've already started thinking about the Games, and I think I can win the time trial now.
"A year ago, when I was beaten by (Germany's) Tony Martin at the World Championships, I thought I was probably just going to get a medal at the Olympics, but 12 months on, now, I've made so many improvements, I've certainly closed the gap."
Asked to compare the Olympics and the Tour, Wiggins said: "It will be a separate thing.
"Coming off the back of this, it will kind of add the hundreds and thousands on the cake -- the icing is already there." (© Independent News Service)