Bradley Wiggins' Tour de France dream comes true in Paris
Way back in 1993, when Bradley Wiggins travelled to Paris to see Spaniard Miguel Indurain stand triumphantly on the Champs-Élysées for his third of five Tour de France wins, the Londoner could surely never have thought that 19 years later the spark of inspiration that Indurain's win created that day inside him would one day lead Wiggins – as it did yesterday – to follow his boyhood idol's footsteps on to the Paris podium and in the process become the first Briton to seal overall victory in 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 played in that same iconic Paris location, flanked by Sky team-mate Christopher Froome, and Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who finished 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 switching from 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 is also an amazing example of the Briton's sporting versatility.
Furthermore, in their first wins, Tour greats 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 that made the Kilburn rider's victory feel almost as inevitable as any of Armstrong's or Indurain's. In a sport as unpredictable as road-racing, that is itself 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 Besançon, in the first hour of the final stage from Rambouillet in the Paris suburbs on to the Champs-Élysées, in the town of Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse the Tour de France passed by a monument to Jacques Anquetil, Monsieur Chrono himself and the first ever winner of five Tours.
And if Wiggins' achievement for Great Britain marks the maiden win for his country in the toughest endurance sport on the planet, Sky's domination of the race makes it likely, if not certain, that more are to come in the very near future.
"It sounds clichéd 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, she's now... her son has won the Tour de France."
As for the British fans who were present in Paris to witness Wiggins' victory, he wished them "a safe journey home" before recommending that they did not overdo the celebrations, saying: "Don't get too drunk."
Asked if he had prepared psychologically as intensely as he had trained physically for his victory, his answer was: "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] 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, were perhaps not so surprising, they have also come through from the most unexpected of quarters – drummer Steve White, footballer Joey Barton and even the drummer of the new wave band The Undertones, Billy Doherty.
"The amount of attention is quite incredible, you realise people are actually watching this thing we're doing," Wiggins said. "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 yesterday evening, 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's victorious time trial], 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 now, 12 months on, 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."
Reaction: What they said...
British Cycling President Brian Cookson: "To see a British rider win the Tour de France is a dream come true for me and all at British Cycling."
Sky team-mate and Olympic gold medallist Geraint Thomas: "It's unbelievable really, the way he's ridden all year. He's been so consistent. He's ridden phenomenally. I rode Paris-Nice with him and the Tour de Romandie this year, and you can see he's a changed bike rider.
"It's great for British sport and I think cycling will continue to grow – it's fantastic for cycling."
Triple gold medal-winning cyclist Sir Chris Hoy: "You cannot overstate how hard it is to win the Tour de France.
"There's a reason why no one from Britain has ever done it before. I still have to pinch myself. It's just unbelievable."
French President François Hollande: "He is a complete rider. He is a good climber and a super time trialist. His team-mate (Chris Froome) is also very good, so if Wiggins had not won the Tour he would have been there. It was the British year."
Facts in figures
7: Stages of this year's Tour which were won by a Briton
5,254: Minutes spent in the saddle by Bradley Wiggins over the 20 stages of the Tour
59: Wiggins is the 59th winner of the Tour – and the first from Great Britain
13: Days which Wiggins spent sporting the leaders' yellow jersey
Tour de France: final details
Yellow Jersey: B Wiggins
Polka Dot Jersey: T Voeckler
Green Jersey: P Sagan
White Jersey: T Van Garderen
Stage 19, Bonneval - Chartres, 53.5km (Saturday): 1 B Wiggins (GB) Sky Procycling 1hr 04min 13sec, 2 C Froome (GB) Sky Procycling at 01.16, 3 L L Sanchez Gil (Sp) Rabobank Cycling Team at 01.50, 4 P Velits (Slovak) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 02.02, 5 R Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling at 02.25, 6 P Gretsch (Ger) Argos - Shimano at 02.28, 7 T van Garderen (US) BMC Racing Team at 02.34, 8 V Kiryienka (Bela) Movistar Team at 02.46, 9 R Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne at 02.50, 10 J Roy (Fr) FDJ-Big Mat at 03.05, 11 D Zabriskie (US) Garmin - Sharp at 03:12, 12 M Sprick (Fr) Argos - Shimano at 03:20, 13 R P Molina (Sp) Movistar Team at 03:24, 14 D Oss (It) Liquigas-Cannondale at 03:27, 15 A Roux (Fr) FDJ-Big Mat at 03:34.
Selected: 69 D Millar (GB) Garmin - Sharp at 6min 22sec, 82 M Cavendish (GB) Sky Procycling at 06.58, 100 S Cummings (GB) BMC Racing Team at 07.51 .
Stage 20, Rambouillet - Paris Champs-Elysees, 120km (Yesterday): 1 M Cavendish (GB) Sky Procycling 3hr 08min 07sec, 2 P Sagan (Slovak) Liquigas-Cannondale, 3 M Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team, 4 J J Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, 5 K Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team, 6 G Henderson (NZ) Lotto Belisol Team, 7 B Bozic (Sloven) Astana Pro Team, 8 A Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team, 9 E Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling, 10 J Engoulvent (Fr) Saur - Sojasun e, 11 T Farrar (US) Garmin - Sharp, 12 K De Kort (Neth) Argos - Shimano, 13 L Paolini (It) Katusha Team, 14 Y Gene (Fr) Team Europcar, 15 S Hinault (Fr) AG2R La Mondiale at same time, 16 R P Moreno (Sp) Euskaltel - Euskadi at 04secs, 17 J Brajkovic (Sloven) Astana Pro Team, 18 M Marcato (It) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team, 19 A Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Pro Team, 20 S Dumoulin (Fr) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne at same time.
Selected: 54 B Wiggins (GB) Sky Procycling at 9sec, 58 C Froome (GB) Sky Procycling, 117 D Millar (GB) Garmin - Sharp at 38, 131 S Cummings (GB) BMC Racing Team at 44.
Final classification: 1 B Wiggins (GB) Sky Procycling 87hr 34min 42sec, 2 C Froome (GB) Sky Procycling at 3min 21sec, 3 V Nibali (It) Liquigas-Cannondale at 6.19, 4 J Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team at 10.15, 5 T van Garderen (US) BMC Racing Team at 11.04, 6 H Zubeldia Agirre (Sp) RadioShack-Nissan at 15.43, 7 C Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 15.51, 8 P Rolland (Fr) Team Europcar at 16.31, 9 J Brajkovic (Sloven) Astana Pro Team at 16.38, 10 T Pinot (Fr) FDJ-Big Mat at 17.17, 11 A Kloden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan at 17:54, 12 N Roche (Rep Ire) AG2R La Mondiale at 19:33, 13 C Horner (US) RadioShack-Nissan at 19:55, 14 C A Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at 25:27, 15 D Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team at 27.22, 16 M Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan at 28.30, 17 E M De Esteban (Sp) Euskaltel - Euskadi at 31.46, 18 R A F Da Costa (Portugal) Movistar Team at 37.03, 19 E Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team at 38.16, 20 A V Belmonte (Sp) Movistar Team at 42.26.
Selected: 95 S Cummings (GB) BMC Racing Team 2hr 47min 03sec, 106 D Millar (GB) Garmin - Sharp 2:55:24, 142 M Cavendish (GB) Sky Procycling 3:28:36.