Now bring on the Olympics! Bradley Wiggins' amazing Tour de France victory set to inspire Team GB to Games glory
- Scores of patriotic fans who had crossed the Channel to be there cheered on Wiggins down the Champs Elysee
- Wiggins celebrated with his wife Catherine and their two children
- David Cameron ad Nick Clegg back calls for Wiggins to be knighted
Team GB was handed a huge boost ahead of the Olympics when an elated Bradley Wiggins glided down the Champs-Elysees and into the history books as he sealed triumph in the Tour de France yesterday.
Crossing the finish line on the sun-dappled cobbles of the Paris boulevard after 2,173 miles of racing over three gruelling weeks, he raised his arms in a victory salute.
The first Briton to win the world’s greatest cycle race since it began in 1903, he then applauded the tens of thousands of spectators there to witness his achievement.
His win is set to act as a fillip to fellow Team GB cyclists, many of who watched his crowning glory at their training camp in Newport, Wales.
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Our hero: Bradley Wiggins wears his national flag with pride as he celebrates winning the Tour de France
A kiss for the victor: Bradley Wiggins is greeted by his wife Catherine after emerging triumphant from the final stage of the Tour de France, while a young fan, right, shows his support for the cyclist
Huge boost: Team GB track cyclists including Sir Chris Hoy, left, Ross Edgar, centre, Geraint Thomas, second right, and Peter Kennaugh, right, watch the finishing stages of the Tour de France during their Training Session at Newport Velodrome
Best of British: A patriotic fan dressed as St George reaches out to congratulate his idol
The champagne moment happened under clear blue skies amid scores of Union Flags waved by patriotic fans who had crossed the Channel to be there.
Thunderous cheers of ‘Allez Wiggo!’ rang out as he pedalled his way to sporting immortality past the Arc de Triomphe, along the Seine and in sight of the Eiffel Tower on a baking hot day when he confirmed his place in the French public’s affection too.
The media there refer to Wiggins as ‘Le Gentleman’ after his sporting response to an attempted race sabotage during an earlier stage.
When a near rival’s tyre was punctured by tin tacks deliberately scattered across the road by vandals, Wiggins signalled for the entire bunch of riders – a peloton in cycling parlance – to slow down. ‘No one wants to benefit from other people’s misfortunes,’ he remarked later.
I'm the winner: Bradley Wiggins celebrates in Paris after his victory in the Tour De France before posing with the prized trophy
Champion: Celebrating his win, Wiggins holds aloft the Union Flag
After sealing victory yesterday, Wiggins, 32, looked close to tears and was embraced by fellow Briton Chris Froome, one of his Team Sky teammates, who came second overall. He then went to find and hug his wife Catherine, 30, and their children Ben, seven, and Isabella, five.
Stepping on to the podium to be presented with the trophy, Wiggins bowed to the British fans before opera singer Lesley Garrett, in a long, flowing Union Flag skirt, belted out God Save The Queen.
Wiggins lightened the mood as he quipped: ‘We’re going to start drawing the raffle numbers now.’
He added: ‘I just want to say thank you to everyone for the support all the way around. It has been a magical couple of weeks for the team and British cycling.
‘Sometimes dreams come true and to my mother over there, her son has now won the Tour de France. Have a safe journey home and don’t get too drunk tonight.’
Champion: Wiggins poses with his winner's trophy on the Champs-Elysees next to runner up Chris Froome (left) and third placed Vincenzo Nibali (right)
Father and son: Wiggins is joined on a celebratory cycle along the Champs-Elysees by his proud son Ben
Team Wiggins: Five-year-old Ben is riding a replica of his dad's racing bike
Wiggins’ mother Linda, 55, raised him on a council estate in Kilburn, North West London, as a single parent.
His alcoholic father Gary Wiggins – an Australian professional cyclist who used to hit Linda – abandoned the family when Bradley was just two.
Steeped in romance, the Tour, which was first held 109 years ago, is a superhuman test of endurance that includes mountain climbs through the Alps and the Pyrenees.
previous best place in the Tour was fourth – achieved by Wiggins in
2009 and Robert Millar in 1984. Only an accident could have stopped
Wiggins’ historic victory yesterday.
After Saturday’s time trial, he went into the last of the Tour’s 20 stages with a 3min 21sec lead over Froome.
The convention is that the other riders do not attack the race leader, who wears the yellow jersey, on the final day as to do so would be considered unsporting after he has earned the coveted position over all the gruelling racing that has gone before.
Bored: Isabella Wiggins, 3, flanked at the finish line by dad Bradley and mum Catherine, looks less than impressed with her father's achievement
Kiss for a winner: Bradley Wiggins kisses his wife Catherine, flanked by their children, before sharing a hug with team-mate Chris Froome, who finished second
Wiggins, followed by team mate Mark Cavendish, among the Tour de France peloton speeding through Paris during Stage 20 of the epic race
Road to victory: Bradley Wiggins, left, on his way to winning the Tour de France with Mark Cavendish the stage winner close behind him
So yesterday was very much about the spectacle – almost a celebration parade for Wiggins as he cycled into Paris from the 20th stage’s starting point in the suburb of Rambouillet before completing eight glorious laps around the city.
expert Mark Cavendish, a third Briton and also a Team Sky member, won
the stage – the fourth consecutive time he has won the final stage.
Wiggins was placed 54th for the stage but his overall time for the entire Tour made him champion, beating 197 other competitors.
Father and son were briefly reunited and reconciled when Bradley was 19. But they drifted apart again and his father died in hospital in 2008 aged 55 after being found badly beaten in a street in the small town of Aberdeen, New South Wales.
Mystery still shrouds the exact circumstances of his death. When they cleaned out his flat, relatives found scrapbooks full of clippings about his son’s cycling career.
On course: Wiggins, pictured right celebrating an earlier stage win, had looked a likely winner from early on in the race
Victory: Britain's Mark Cavendish won the final Paris stage
Tour delight: Wiggins was yesterday crowned Tour de France champion - the first Briton in the race's 109-year history
In his autobiography, In Pursuit of Glory, Wiggins wrote of his father: ‘He may have gone Awol for most of my life but his achievements as a cyclist and almost “legendary” hard-man status on the circuit undoubtedly helped propel me towards a competitive career in the sport. Our shared DNA is at the heart of the story.’
Afterwards, Wiggins, already the proud holder of three Olympic gold medals on an indoor track, said: ‘I’m still buzzing from the Champs-Elysees, it’s so quick around there.’
On whether his place in cycling history had sunk in yet, he said: ‘It will take a while... I’m just trying to soak up every minute of today as it goes along. It’s very surreal at the moment. This sort of thing happens to other people, you never imagine it happens to you.
‘It’s incredible. I bet I’ll look back in years to come and think, “God, that was special”.’
Jubilant British fans – many of whom caught early Eurostar trains yesterday to be there – certainly agreed, roaring in delight.
Engineer Bruce Jones, 52, of Halesowen, West Midlands, said: ‘The last time we came here was 26 years ago. What Bradley’s done is fantastic and the man is such a gentleman.’
David Holmes, 42, who arrived in Paris yesterday morning from North London, said: ‘It’s such a historic day – nobody wanted to miss it. Lots of people were making the journey, many of them having made the decision to travel at the last moment.’
In a grandstand near the finish line yesterday among members of the extended team and their sponsors was Michelle Cound, runner-up Froome’s photographer girlfriend, who excitedly stood on her seat to take pictures.
Earlier in the Tour she had suggested her boyfriend was holding back on purpose so Wiggins could win, but yesterday she was as swept away as the rest, saying: ‘It’s a terrific day and a fantastic achievement for all the team.’
Last night the team attended a private celebration in a Paris hotel before Wiggins, who lives with his wife and children in Chorley, Lancashire, and the other cyclists flew home in a private jet to prepare for the Olympics.
Cycling commentator Phil Liggett said: ‘People at home have got to understand the massive achievement of winning a cycle race over the topography of France over three weeks. It was unthinkable there would be a British winner when I covered my first Tour in 1973.’
Robert Tansey, chairman of Team Sky, said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled. The last few weeks have been tremendous, not just the racing, but the reaction back home.
‘It really is an historic achievement. It’s testament to the team we have done this so quickly. We wanted to generate a lot of excitement and interest in cycling and I certainly think we’ve done that.’
Arise, Sir Bradley: PM supports Britain's demands for knighthood as Wiggins eyes £20m windfall
David Cameron and Nick Clegg are both backing a move to give Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins a knighthood.
The champion cyclist’s name will be put forward by the Department of Culture Media and Sport and Mr Cameron was ‘very supportive’, aides said, adding that Wiggins has ‘a very good chance’ of becoming Sir Bradley.
Meanwhile, marketing experts say Wiggins, 32, could earn £20million in the next two years on the back of his historic victory. They say he will be ‘flooded’ with offers.
Well earned: Wiggins takes a healthy swig of champagne as he celebrates on the Champs Elysees
Mr Cameron congratulated Wiggins on his ‘brilliant’ win, saying it was ‘the perfect backdrop’ to give the country a lift ahead of the Olympics.
He said: ‘I am, like everyone in the country, absolutely delighted. Bradley Wiggins has scaled one of the great heights of British sporting achievement.
‘To be the first British person in 109 years to win the Tour de France is an immense feat of physical and mental ability and aptitude. I think the whole country wants to say “well done, brilliant”.’
Wiggins already has three Olympic gold medals on the track, one behind Sir Chris Hoy’s haul, and he is the bookies’ favourites to win the London Games time-trial event on the road.
He was given an OBE in the 2005 New Year’s honours for services to cycling after he won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
A senior No 10 source said: ‘He has a very good chance of getting a knighthood. The Prime Minister is very supportive.’
A source close to the Deputy Prime Minister also backed calls for the knighthood and threw support behind Wiggins to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
He said: ‘Nick is certainly behind it. If he doesn’t win Sports Personality, it will be a scandal.’
Family man: Wiggins shows his wife Catherine, son Ben and daughter Isabella the Tour trophy. Fans had descended on Paris to cheer him on
Sporting honours are decided by the sport subcommittee of the Honours Committee, a panel of experts under the chairmanship of Lord Coe, the former Olympic gold medallist and chairman of the London Games organising committee.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will put Wiggins’s name forward and it will then have to be rubber-stamped by the subcommittee. The final decision will be taken by the Honours Committee, chaired by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood.
A Whitehall source said: ‘There is political backing and there will be strong support from the world of sport. Jeremy will make sure it happens. It’s what everyone wants.’
Fans took to Wiggins’s Facebook page to demand a knighthood.
Bob Collishe said: ‘What a complete pleasure watching the tour this year. Arise Sir Bradley Wiggins is all I can say.’
Celia Williams wrote: ‘You make me proud to be British, Bradley. Should be “Sir Bradley!”’
Others called for Wiggins to be given the honour of lighting the Olympic flame at Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony, ahead of the hotly tipped, five-times Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave and legendary athletes Sir Roger Bannister, Daley Thompson and Dame Kelly Holmes.
Wiggins’s historic victory has also not gone unnoticed by marketing experts, who say he will flooded with offers to be the face of energy drinks, health foods and family lifestyle brands.
Wiggins shakes hands with Thomas Voeckler of France, who is wearing the red polka dot jersey of the Tour's best climber, as Peter Sagan of Slovakia in the best sprinter's green jersey looks on
His victory in France will be a ‘passport to unlimited riches’.
Large firms who advertise in mainland Europe will be particularly keen to sign Wiggins up because of the popularity of cycling there.
PR guru Max Clifford said Wiggins’s background of an absent father with drink problems and a strong public stance against drugs only increased his value to sponsors. He said the French – who have dubbed Wiggins ‘Le Gentleman’ for his sporting behaviour – had already taken him to their hearts.
Mr Clifford said: ‘It’s an amazing achievement and of course it’s a great story, with his dad and all that went before. It’s a real triumph out of real tragedy, and we love those kind of stories.
‘The whole of Europe is at his feet. In the next couple of years we are talking £10million or £20million.’
Rupert Pratt, managing director of sponsorship firm Generate, said British cycling was ‘the most exciting sponsorship opportunity in the UK’.
He said: ‘This sport now has unlimited commercial potential and the Olympics will only further this.’
VIDEO: Wiggins and his wife welcome win in France. Whilst the Herne Hill Velodrome reminisce about how Bradley started out
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