PARIS — After making history in Paris, Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins is heading home to London in the hopes he can cap off his tremendous run of success with an Olympic gold medal.
The first Briton to win cycling’s showcase event will start the Olympic time trial Aug. 1 as a big favorite for the gold medal, after dominating the event twice during the Tour de France.
The 32-year-old Londoner showed during the Tour that he can beat all comers in the race-against-the-clock, even after 2,175 miles of racing over three weeks in one of the ultimate endurance tests in all of sports.
After donning his winner’s yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees, Wiggins immediately began turning his focus to his Olympic race in just over a week. He even promised to forgo the Tour winner’s traditional glass of champagne.
“Everything turns to the Olympics and I’ll be out on the bike tomorrow and I’ve got an Olympic time trial to try and win,” Wiggins said.
Sacrificing the traditional Tour winner’s party was difficult but necessary, Wiggins said, because the Olympic gold “is a higher priority than anything else.”
“It’s a little weird to leave Paris without a party because it would be nice to spend time with the team and really enjoy it,” Wiggins said.
Mark Cavendish, Wiggins’ teammate on Team Sky, also is aiming to transition quickly from Parisian boulevards to English lanes.
The world champion from Britain’s Isle of Man wants to follow up his dominating sprint victory on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday with a win in the Olympic road race on July 28. If anything, Cavendish is even more heavily favored to win the road race than Wiggins is in the time trial.
Regarded as the fastest man on a bike, the road world champion has not been as successful this year as in previous Tours. He kept his personal ambitions somewhat in check to put Wiggins in yellow during the Tour.
He still won three stages along the way, taking his career total to 23 and putting him in fourth place at only 27 years old. Any other cyclist would consider that a very successful Tour, but Cavendish admitted he felt frustrated at times not being able to nab five or six stage victories as he has during his domination of sprints in recent years.
Cavendish knew before the Tour this year’s race would not be set up for him. He spent the first half of the season training specifically for the road race at the London Olympics, losing 9 pounds to be able to tackle the nine climbs of Box Hill in Surrey on Saturday.
Wiggins enjoyed a perfect Tour from the start and secured the victory with a dominating performance in Saturday’s final time trial to extend his already commanding lead.
And with Cavendish having sacrificed some opportunities for more stage wins along the way by helping his teammate protect the yellow jersey, Wiggins was all too happy to pay him back over the final miles of the race — normally a time when the winner is merely cruising along and already receiving congratulations from other riders.
“It’s hard to take in as it happens,” Wiggins said. “Every lap of the Champs-Elysees was goose-pimple stuff. We had a job to do with Mark today and we were all motivated to do that so it made it go a lot quicker. The concentration was high and for Mark to finish it off like that ... well, it couldn’t get any better.”
Cavendish — widely regarded as the best sprinter in the world — won the final stage of the Tour for the fourth year in a row. After Wiggins pulled back, Edvald Boasson Hagen delivered the perfect lead-out for Cavendish to sprint away from his rivals at the end of the 74.6-mile stage. Cavendish accelerated coming out of the final corner, never looked back and raised four fingers as he crossed the line.
“That was incredible, what a sight,” Cavendish said. “The yellow jersey, Brad Wiggins pulling at the end after Chris Froome had been riding. ... I just gave everything to the line, I wanted it so bad. It’s the cherry on top of an amazing Tour for us.”
Froome, another British rider on Team Sky, finished second overall. The last time two riders from the same nation finished first and second in the Tour was in 1984, when Frenchman Laurent Fignon defeated Bernard Hinault.
Wiggins congratulated his teammates after crossing the line, gave a big hug to his wife and clutched the hands of their children.
The lanky Wiggins blew kisses and bowed to a sea of union jacks.
After a soprano sang the British anthem, Wiggins thanked the crowd with a touch of British humor.
“Cheers, have a safe journey home, don’t get too drunk,” said Wiggins, who wrote in his autobiography about overcoming drinking problems after his early successes in the Velodrome.
Wiggins’ father died four years ago after struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
Cavendish became the first reigning world champion to win on the Champs-Elysees.
“It’s been incredible,” Cavendish said. “We’ve come in with the aim of winning the yellow jersey. We got first and second on GC. We’ve won six stages as a team. It’s a very successful Tour for Team Sky. Maybe there would’ve been more opportunities for sprints, but we won six stages. We’ve raised the profile of British cycling and it’s been an incredible thing to be a part of.”
The seven stage wins was a record haul for British riders in the Tour, beating the previous record of six stage wins — all by Cavendish — in 2009.
This time the victories were divided up between Cavendish (3), Wiggins (2), David Millar (1) and Froome (1).
All four, with Ian Stannard, will compete in Saturday’s road race on the opening day of the Olympics with the aim of propelling Cavendish to another triumph.
“We won seven stages in total, that’s one out of three stages won by a British rider,” Cavendish said. “The guys in the Olympic team have one more job to do, but it’s been an incredible few weeks for us.”