Bradley Wiggins and his British team had just won the team pursuit final for the third successive time, and yet again in a world record time. They had beaten their long-time rivals Australia in a pulsating race that was agonisingly close until the final few hundred metres, and he couldn’t have been more relaxed.
“I wanted to go out with this,” said 36-year-old Wiggins, who confirmed he was retiring from professional cycling shortly and the track immediately. “I wanted it to end like this, not some crappy little race in the north of France in the rain.
“It was never about that [becoming Britain’s greatest, most decorated Olympian] for me. The first people I bumped into when I came off the track were Steve Redgrave and Chris Hoy. They’re my heroes in Olympic sport. Just to be in the same breath as those guys is an honour.
“It [the race and victory] was more about personally what it meant to me. I take myself [back] to Sydney in 2000 and what that meant to me as a 20-year-old kid wandering around there, watching Steve win his fifth gold and thinking how incredible it was.
“I’d come away with a bronze medal and thought that’s it. If I have to go to the job centre on Monday morning, I can always say I’ve got Olympic bronze. To be here 16 years on, with five gold medals myself, I never imagined that for one minute. It’s just something to tell the kids about when they’re older.”
“Two years ago, all this press has been building up. I never underestimated it [the challenge] for one minute, I gave up the road, and gave up the big salary and I was just a number again. Eighteen months ago, there were doubts that I could come back and do this. It was gold or nothing for this team. The last 12 months, we have done everything together. Training camps, even cycling on Christmas Day. It was all for this.”
Wiggins will bow out from cycling at the Tour of Britain (September 4-11) and the Ghent Six (November 15-20), where he will team up with Mark Cavendish. For now though, his focus is on celebrating his medal and returning home.
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