And the winner is…cycling.
Bradley Wiggins’ coronation as BBC Sports Personality of the Year and Dave Brailsford’s victory in the coach of the year category, saw cycling ride away last night with the two most prestigious awards at the nation’s annual outpouring of gratitude to its sports stars.
Team Sky missed out on the team award, which went jointly to Team GB and Paralympics GB. The fact it was accepted on their behalf by Victoria Pendleton, gold medalist in the women’s keirin and a represntative of the most successful of any of the sports competing under the GB banner, in both Games, spoke volumes.
Wiggins’ award makes him the third cyclist in five years to become Sports Personality of the Year, following the success of Sir Chris Hoy in 2008 (a nominee again last night after winning his fifth and sixth gold medals at the London Olympics) and Mark Cavendish last year.
Cavendish’s award did much to propel cycling, to use his own phrase, into the mainstream. Wiggins’ victory cements this position. His triumph over a shortlist composed almost entirely of Olympic and Paralympic champions, perhaps illustrates a greater understanding of the sport among the public at large.
Simply put, victory in the Tour de France is a feat of such incredible endurance that even the man on the street can understand it. Add to that a fourth Olympic gold medal, and Wiggins’ own personality, a dry wit combined with an obvious unwillingness to suffer fools, mixed with a refreshingly down-to-earth perspective amid a culture cursed by the pomposity of instant celebrity, and his victory now seems a fait acompli.
What next for cycling in the United Kingdom? It’s a question we’ll be addressing in depth next month in a series of feature articles. What is clear from last night’s jamboree is that the sport’s profile looks set to remain on an upward trend in 2013.
News that the Tour de France will start in Yorkshire in 2014 has been hungrily consumed by a population still on a high from a wildly successful home Olympics and confident in its ability to host world class sporting events.
The success of this year’s Tour of Britain, as much as the Olympic Games, shows the passion the public feels for cycling; one clearly sufficient to drive thousands to line the streets of England, Scotland, and Wales for the chance to inhale the intoxicating whiff of speed, colour and excitement offered by top class cycling. We’re likely to witness similar scenes as early as next August when the Ride London event, with its ‘100’ sportive and Classic race, rolls out of central London along the route of the Olympic road race.
SPOTY has again wished cycling a very merry Christmas. Every cyclist in Britain will doubtless do their bit to make it a happy new year.