Bradley Wiggins has this afternoon won the fourth Olympic gold medal of his career, and his first on the road, as he dominated the individual time trial. Once added to his one silver and two bronze medals, he has seven in total and becomes Great Britain's most successful Olympian in any sport by total medals won.
World champion Tony Martin of Germany finished second, more than half a minute behind Wiggins, with Great Britain's Chris Froome clinching bronze. Defending champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland was in touch with the fastest times early on but subsequently fell off the pace, and following the finish was clearly in pain from the shoulder he injured in a crash in Saturday's road race.
In any other year, Wiggins’ exploits in becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France would have seen him make a succession of appearances on chat shows and breakfast television sofas.
With last Saturday’s Olympic road race taking place less than a week after his victory in that race was confirmed in Paris, however, after spending a day or so with his family he was straight into lockdown mode with Great Britain’s other road cyclists, and he was one of the four British riders who dug in deep at the weekend as they tried in vain to set up Mark Cavendish to take gold.
Despite the setback of seeing the race run away from them when that group got away on the last lap of the Box Hill circuit, Wiggins then turned his attention to racing for gold himself today with the same consummate professionalism that has underpinned a stunningly successful season.
Now his Olympic obligations have been fulfilled, the Bradley Wiggins show is set to begin. It should be a cracker, and it will take something very special over the next ten days of the Olympics for him not to follow Hoy and Cavendish as BBC Sports Personality of the Year. A visit to Buckingham Palace to receive a knighthood is possible, some would say certain.
It was Martin, not Wiggins, who had set the quickest time at the first intermediate check on today’s 44 kilometre course that was centred on another royal palace, Hampton Court, but those who have followed the British rider’s progress this season knew there was no undue cause for alarm.
Undefeated in time trials longer than prologue distance during 2012, when Wiggins has trailed rivals early on he has continued to ride his own pace and has built a winning advantage well before the finish.
In the two longer time trials in the Tour de France, both of which Martin missed after fracturing a bone in his wrist, with Cancellara absent for the second due to his wife being about to give birth, Wiggins set the fastest time at the first check before pulling away closer to the finish.
In both of those stages, Froome confirmed his time trialling ability by finishing second to Wiggins, a far cry from his world championship debut in 2006 in the colours of his native Kenya, best remembered for his rolling off the starting ramp straight into a UCI official.
He may still be teased about that episode, but once again today, he confirmed his strength in this discipline with a flawless ride from start to finish.
Cancellara and Martin were were seen as Wiggins’ most likely rivals for gold today, but questions surrounded their fitness. Martin, who missed part of the season after being hit by a car while training in April, had looked strong in the Tour before being forced to withdraw.
Cancellara, meanwhile, shattered his collarbone in a freak crash during the Tour of Flanders but returned to take the Tour de France Prologue and would hold the maillot jaune for a week before Wiggins took it off him.
The Swiss rider had looked well placed in the break to challenge for gold in Saturday’s road race until his rear wheel slid from beneath him on a corner, sending him into the barriers, and after finishing today the best part of three minutes behind Wiggins, he was clearly in a lot of pain from those injuries as he received treatment.
Wiggins himself looked anxious after finishing as though he could not quite believe that with Cancellara the only man still out on the road, the gold medal was his, joining the two he has previously won in the individual pursuit plus one in the team pursuit.
Once Cancellara had come home though, Wiggins began to celebrate – but only after first locating his wife Cath and their children, there to witness his triumph even if they are not yet able to comprehend the scale of what their father, so often missing through training or racing, has achieved.
The first time check today, taken at 7.3 kilometres, saw Martin go through five seconds quicker than Wiggins, with Cancellara less than a second behind the eventual winner.
Taylor Phinney of the USA posted the fourth quickest time, the same as the position he would finish in, with Froome leapfrogging the American by the second time check, as well as Cancellara as his challenge began to fade. With more than half of the 44 kilometres still to ride, the podium positions had already been settled.
While it was a memorable day for Wiggins, Froome and British fans, who packed the roadside to cheer the pair all along the route, it was an utterly forgettable one for one man who must have harboured dreams of taking a medal as he waited to roll off the starting ramp at Hampton Court Palace, Luis Leon Sanchez.
The Spaniard’s chain broke the moment he began his first pedal stroke, catching the occupants of his team car unawares, and any chance of mounting a challenge today evaporated as he waited for a replacement bike. His misery would be added to later as he needed a rear wheel change, apparently as a result of a puncture.
Today's win by Wiggins caps a heady few weeks for cycling in Britain, and there could well be more to come as Olympic action switches to the velodrome tomorrow, where Sir Chris Hoy could join him on seven medals, and Sir Steve Redgrave on five golds, as he goes in the team sprint. The Scot is also racing in the keirin and could therefore be out on his own ahead of both Wiggins and Redgrave by this time next week.
“I cannot put it into words, I wouldn't do it justice – it’s really incredible to win an Olympic gold in your home city,” Wiggins said afterwards.
“When you win in the velodrome there are three or four thousand people cheering. Here, around the streets of London, the noise is just amazing. I don't think anything will top that. It's just been phenomenal."
Reflecting on his moment on the podium, he added: "I was trying to savour it. I have no memories of my other Olympics. I was either too young or it was over too quick. There is not much better than this setting, with that castle [Hampton Court Palace], it's so British, isn't it? The sun came out, it was just fantastic.
“It had to be gold today or nothing. What's the point of seven medals if they're not the right colour? Mainly it's about the four golds. Now I have to go to Rio and go for five.
“Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Chris Hoy is an absolute honour and to be up there with those guys as a British Olympian, it’s very special.”
Olympic men's time trial 1 WIGGINS Bradley Great Britain 50:39.5 2 MARTIN Tony Germany 51:21.5 3 FROOME Chris Great Britain 51:47.9 4 PHINNEY Taylor USA 52:38.1 5 PINOTTI Marco Italy 52:49.3 6 ROGERS Michael Australia 52:51.4 7 CANCELLARA Fabian Switzerland 52:53.7 8 GRABSCH Bert Germany 53:18.0 9 CASTROVIEJO Jonathan Spain 53:29.4 10 BRAJKOVIC Janez Slovenia 54:09.7 11 WESTRA Lieuwe Netherlands 54:19.6 12 KIRYIENKA Vasil Belarus 54:30.3 13 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald Norway 54:30.9 14 BAK Lars Denmark 54:33.2 15 FUGLSANG Jakob Denmark 54:34.5 16 LARSSON Gustav Sweden 54:35.3 17 GILBERT Philippe Belgium 54:40.0 18 OLIVEIRA Nelson Portugal 54:41.6 19 BAUER Jack New Zealand 54:54.2 20 MENCHOV Denis Russia 54:59.3
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.