Eight medal Wiggins is the greatest Briton
Another unforgettable night for British cycling under an Olympic roof. Two golds, world records, and a man alone, Sir Bradley Wiggins, the most successful British Olympian of all time.
Wiggins, a member of the British team pursuit line-up, alongside Edward Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull, smashed the world record in the heats and put away Australia in the final by lowering it again to 3:50.570. Unforgettable is right.
That made it gold number five for Wiggins and eight medals in all, taking him one ahead of that other knight of the track Sir Chris Hoy, who must content himself with retention of the record for golds, which stands at six.
Wiggins is good but at 36 we have to accept that whatever the future holds it will not embrace competitive cycling four years hence in Tokyo.
The night was a triumph for all involved, but Sir Wiggo was naturally centre stage, lighting up the Olympics in Rio.
The velodrome was again festooned with British tokens, the flag of the union easily outnumbering rival standards to make this once more a very British affair.
The adulation he could do without but it’s too late for that now.
Wiggins never set out to be the sideburns of cycling. The simple pleasure of turning the pedals was always enough. And now here he is, the greatest Olympian in British history.
He said: “It’s hard not to come off the track and spout a load of clichés but really, the last 12 months we have done everything together.
“Training camps at altitude, early starts and late finishes, cycling on Christmas Day. It was all for this and we’ve done it. These three guys here are amazing.
“When you have guys like that it makes your life easier. I was trying not to think about winning but these guys have been bouncing off the ceiling all afternoon. It was fantastic.”
Clancy added: “This is the best gold of them all.
“If truth be told we haven’t won a fat deal between London and now.
“We had some big downs and crossing the line there has made every single pedal rev and every training session worthwhile.
“We’ve been through the mill a bit.
“The medical team have put 1,000 man hours into my back to get me here.”
Wiggins fits comfortably into the anti-hero niche. The spotlight is an irritant to him yet a talent so profound has to find an accommodation with the mainstream whether he likes it or not.
Fame is the price he pays for the eight medals pouched, the first of which came 12 years ago in the individual pursuit at Athens.
The evening session started well with Callum Skinner setting a new Olympic record of 9.703 in qualifying for the men’s sprint, one lap of the track flat out. His standing as fastest man in Rio lasted barely 10 minutes with Olympic champion Jason Kenny (left) lowering the mark to 9.551.
The one negative point for the British squad, however, was the absence of Mark Cavendish from the arena.
Cavendish, whose relationship with Wiggins is said to be increasingly estranged, was officially the reserve member of the pursuit team and as such would have been expected to attend.
In the women’s team sprint final, China edged out Russia for gold and Germany claimed bronze at the expense of Australia.