Sir Bradley Wiggins has smashed the UCI Hour record at a packed Lee Valley VeloPark in London this evening, cheered on by a raucous crowd as he covered 54.526km (33.880 miles) to beat the benchmark set by Alex Dowsett in Manchester last month by more than five laps.
Wiggins took to the track to huge cheers from a capacity crowd that evoked memories of London 2012, where his sole appearance at the Olympic Park in Stratford was to ring the bell to start the Opening Ceremony, less than a week after winning the Tour de France.
A late decision had been made to switch to 58x14 gearing rather than 59x14, and a space-age airlock system was in place at the venue to keep the temperature at a constant 28 degrees Celsius.
Newly clean-shaven, he was wearing the purple and red kit of his Team Wiggins squad, with a gold helmet and shoes befitting his status as not only reigning Olympic and World time trial champion, but also a three time Olympic gold medallist on the track – his outfit teamed with his trademark black socks.
He began rewriting the record books with the very first pedal stroke. After 5km, he was on course to ride 55km during the 60 minutes, and was well ahead of the times set by the existing record holder, Dowsett, who rode 52.937km in Manchester last month.
Wiggins was also consistently inside the split times that the man who Dowsett took the record off, Rohan Dennis, who in setting his own record had ridden quicker in the earlier part of the ride compared to the Movistar rider.
Each landmark – the distance he covered at 15, 20, 25km and so on – was greeted with rapturous applause as Hugh Porter, who said he was honoured to have been chosen by Wiggins to call the record, informed the crowd of his splits and how far he was ahead of Dowsett.
Among those watching was Miguel Indurain – who Wiggins joins as a former Tour de France champion who also held the Hour record, his Pinarello bike on display in the concourse area of the track.
Wiggins couldn’t quite match the 56.375km Best Human Effort Chris Boardman rode in 1996 on his Mike Burrows-designed Lotus bike, using a ‘Superman’ position later banned by the UCI.
But that is besides the point. The man who, bar none, is the top draw in British Cycling – proved last month by the crowds that flocked around his caravan at the Tour de Yorkshire, as well as tickets for this evening selling out in six minutes – smashed the UCI Hour Record record out of sight.
Four times an Olympic champion on the road and track, the first British winner of the Tour de France and the current holder of the World Time Trial title, Wiggins tonight rode what in all probability will be his last big ride in the UK.
No-one who was there - not least his wife Cath, and children Ben and Bella, whose initials are tattooed on the thumbs he stared down at during his ride - will ever forget it.
Reaction to follow.
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.