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Is Sir Bradley Wiggins Britain’s greatest ever cyclist?

After an eighth Olympic medal, a look back at Wiggins' illustrious cycling CV

After watching Sir Bradley Wiggins overtake his record of seven Olympic medals when the British men’s team pursuit quartet won gold at Rio 2016, Sir Chris Hoy proclaimed Wiggins Britain’s greatest ever cyclist.

Britain’s first ever Tour de France winner, a five-time Olympic champion (and eight-time medallist), a world champion on the track and against the clock on the road and the current holder of the UCI Hour Record – it’s difficult to argue with that assessment.

Sir Bradley Wiggins celebrates his fifth Olympic gold medal (pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Chris Froome may have won the Tour de France more often, with three wins in the last four years, while Hoy has more Olympic gold medals, but Wiggins has proved himself a master on both the road and the track.

– Great Britain win Rio 2016 men’s team pursuit in world record time –

So to celebrate the latest addition to one of British cycle sport’s most illustrious CV’s, we’ve relived Wiggins’ greatest achievements, and looked at how he compares to some of Britain’s other greats.

Eight Olympic medals

While British domination on the track has been a regular feature of recent Olympic Games, that was not the case as Wiggins headed to Sydney in 2000 to ride the team pursuit.

In Atlanta four years earlier, Britain’s only cycling medals were achieved on the road – a time trial bronze for Chris Boardman and a road race bronze for Max Sciandri.

Wiggins won individual pursuit gold at Athens in 2004, before defending it four years later (pic: Lwp Kommunikacio, via Flickr Creative Commons)

But Wiggins, Jonny Clay and Rob Hayles had won Commonwealth Games silver two years earlier, and joined with Bryan Steel, Chris Newton and Paul Manning to claim bronze in the team pursuit.

Added to sprinter Jason Queally’s gold medal in the kilo time trial, a team sprint silver, and an individual pursuit bronze for Yvonne McGregor, it helped set the tone for the medal rush to come.

In 2004, the team pursuit quartet went one better – Wiggins, Manning, Hayles and Steve Cummings claiming silver behind Australia in Athens.

Sir Bradley Wiggins time trialled to gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, roared on by a vocal home crowd (pic: Sirotti)
  • Sir Bradley Wiggins’ Olympic career
  • Sydney 2000 – team pursuit bronze
    Athens 2004 – individual pursuit gold, team pursuit silver, Madison bronze
    Beijing 2008 – individual pursuit gold, team pursuit gold
    London 2012 – time trial gold
    Beijing 2016 – team pursuit gold

Wiggins also claimed bronze in the Madison, with Hayles, but Athens was notable instead for Wiggins’ first Olympic gold medal – qualifying fastest before beating Australia’s Brad McGee in the final.

Four years later, Wiggins set a new Olympic record of 4.15.031 on his way to defending that title – beating Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) in the final.

With the race removed from the Olympic programme thereafter, Wiggins’ two victories are the final two gold ever to have been awarded in the individual pursuit at the Olympics.

In Beijing, Britain claimed eight cycling gold medals in all – Wiggins also teaming up with Manning, Ed Clancy and Geraint Thomas to win the team pursuit for the first time, twice setting a new world record in the process.

Wiggins also partnered Mark Cavendish in the Madison, but the world champions – with Wiggins’ exertions earlier in the Games hampering him – missed out on a medal.

Great Britain won the men’s team pursuit in world record time in a thrilling gold medal final at Rio 2016 (pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

While the individual pursuit was removed from the Games, however, Wiggins was still not done – his switch to the road seeing him start the London 2012 time trial among the favourites.

  • Great Britain’s greatest Olympians
  • Sir Chris Hoy – six gold medals, one silver medal (7 in total)
    Sir Bradley Wiggins – five gold medals, one silver medal, two bronze medals (8)
    Jason Kenny – five gold medals, one silver medal (6)
    Sir Steve Redgrave (rowing) – five gold medals, one bronze medal (6)

The Olympics came just one week after his Tour de France victory and, roared on by the British crowd, Wiggins claimed his fourth Olympic gold medal.

Which led to Rio 2016, Wiggins’ fifth Olympic Games, and his dream to sign off a remarkable career with a British record-breaking eighth Olympic medal.

Wiggins, Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull set the tone by qualifying fastest and then smashed their own world record twice – the latter enough to edge out Australia in a thrilling gold medal final.

No other British athlete has won more Olympic medals than Wiggins, and his five golds, one silver and two bronze medals puts him second in the all-time British list behind Sir Chris Hoy (though Jason Kenny could overtake him at Rio 2016).

Eight-time world champion

In China, eight is a lucky number and it is certainly lucky for Wiggins too – alongside his eight Olympic medals he has also been crowned world champion eight times.

Seven of those world titles have come on the track, across the individual pursuit, team pursuit and Madison, and one at the UCI Road World Championships.

Sir Bradley Wiggins celebrates world time trial victory on the Ponferrada podium in 2014 (pic: Sirotti)

The first of those arrived in Stuttgart in 2003 – the only British gold medal of the Championships, to add to a team pursuit silver. Wiggins had previously been part of the team pursuit squad that won silver in 2000 and 2001, and bronze in 2002.

He did the double in Palma de Mallorca in 2007, and then went even better on home soil a year later.

Great Britain won nine gold medals in Manchester in 2008, and Wiggins won three of them to raise hopes of a golden Olympic Games in Beijing (hopes which were fulfilled).

  • Sir Bradley Wiggins at the UCI Track World Championships
  • Manchester 2000 – team pursuit silver
    Antwerp 2001 – team pursuit silver
    Ballerup 2002 – team pursuit bronze
    Stuttgart 2003 – individual pursuit gold, team pursuit silver
    Palma de Mallorca 2007 – individual pursuit gold, team pursuit gold
    Manchester 2008 – individual pursuit gold, team pursuit gold, Madison gold
    London 2016 – Madison gold, team pursuit silver

Wiggins, Clancy, Thomas and Manning set a new world record as they won gold in the team pursuit, before he qualified second fastest in the individual pursuit on his way to beating Jenning Huizenga by five seconds in the final.

With two golds already under his belt, Wiggins then paired up with Mark Cavendish in the Madison and won his third gold of the Championships.

After switching to the road, Wiggins was twice runner-up at the UCI Road World Championships in the time trial, in Copenhagen (where he also helped Cavendish to gold in the road race) and Florence.

In Ponferrada in 2014, however, he was unstoppable – his time of 56.25.52 was 26 seconds faster than three-time champion Tony Martin to ensure he would pull on the rainbow skinsuit during his final year at Team Sky.

His final stage win, while riding for Team Sky, came in the rainbow bands when he won the time trial at the Three Days of De Panne.

2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com)
Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Madison, world championships, 2008, pic - JohntheScone, via Flickr Creative Commons
2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Madison (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com)
  • British UCI Road World Championships – gold medal winners
  • Tom Simpson (men’s road race) 1967
    Mark Cavendish (men’s road race) 2011
    Chris Boardman (men’s time trial) 1994
    Sir Bradley Wiggins (men’s time trial) 2014
    Beryl Burton (women’s road race) 1960, 1967
    Mandy Jones (women’s road race) 1982
    Nicole Cooke (women’s road race) 2008
    Lizzie Armitstead (women’s road race) 2015
    Emma Pooley (women’s time trial) 2010

Wiggins did not defend his title the following year and instead, back on the track, was back in the medals in London earlier this year.

Needing to set the tone for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and atone for a lean couple of years at the Track Worlds, the onus was on the host nation to deliver.

A team pursuit silver convinced Wiggins, correctly as it turned out, the Brits would be winning gold at the Olympics, before he once again paired up with Cavendish in the Madison.

Eight years on from their world title and Olympic disappointment, three consecutive sprint wins set the tone and the two held on to claim their second gold medal together – and Great Britain’s 100th ever at the Track Worlds.

The victory also went some way to atoning for Wiggins’ performance in Beijing, as the gold medal arguably helped seal Cavendish’s place at the 2016 Olympics too – albeit with the Madison also no longer on the Olympic programme.

Sir Bradley Wiggins will ride in the rainbow stripes on stage three (pic: Sirotti)
Bradley Wiggins, Revolution Series, Cofidis, Dolan, world champion, track cycling, pic - JohntheScone, via Flickr Creative Commons
Sir Bradley Wiggins, time trial, Three Days of De Panne, world champion, pic - Lwp Kommunikacio, via Flickr Creative Commons

Tour de France champion 2012

Wiggins emerged as a Tour de France contender in 2009, when he complemented a third place finish in the opening stage time trial with some solid performances in the mountains in the latter half of the race.

  • Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France record
  • 2006 – 124th
    2007 – DNF
    2009 – Fourth
    2010 – 24th
    2011 – DNF
    2012 – Winner (two stage wins)

Sixth place in the stage 18 time trial to Annecy and ninth place on Mont Ventoux eventually saw him finish fourth overall – levelling Robert Millar’s best British result.

In 2012, when Lance Armstrong confessed to doping throughout his career and subsequently had his Tour de France results scratched from the record, Wiggins was promoted to third.

Joining Team Sky the following year, poor form cost him in 2010 and in 2011 he crashed out, in the British champion’s jersey, as one of the favourites for the overall victory.

He finished third at the Vuelta a Espana later that year, however, to show what might have been.

Bradley Wiggins toasts his fourth place at the 2009 Tour de France. The result was later upgraded to third, making him Britain’s first ever Tour podium finisher (pic: Andrew Sides, via Flickr Creative Commons)

There were no such issues in 2012, however, where Wiggins went into the race on the back of a string of victories.

Second after the prologue, the Gent-born Brit moved into the overall lead on stage seven atop La Planche des Belles Filles, extended his lead in the time trial to Besancon on stage nine and never looked back.

  • Brits on Tour: British Tour de France jersey winners
  • Robert Millar – King of the Mountains (1984)
    Mark Cavendish – Points classification (2011)
    Sir Bradley Wiggins – Overall winner (2012)
    Chris Froome – Overall winner (2013, 2015, 2016), King of the Mountains (2015)
    Adam Yates – Best young rider (2016)

A public falling out with leading domestique Chris Froome, after the latter attacked on La Toussuire, could not put him off his stride – despite DS Sean Yates later admitting Wiggins threatened to quit the race after the stage.

Wiggins and second-placed Froome extended their advantage over the rest of the riders after the summit finish on Peyragudes on stage 17 and victory was all-but assured when Wiggins stormed to victory in Chartres, in the penultimate stage time trial.

All that was left was for the Team Sky man to lead team-mate Cavendish to victory on the Champs-Elysees the following day before stepping onto the top step of the podium.

Bradley Wiggins roars across the finish line of the 2012 time trial stage in Chartres (pic: Sirotti)

Wiggins never raced the Tour de France again, meaning his last action in the race was to receive the yellow jersey on the podium.

36 pro wins

While Tour de France victory in 2012 and the world time trial in 2014 are Wiggins’ most notable victories on the road, the 36-year-old bagged 36 wins in all since turning pro in 2001.

A three-time national time trial champion (2009, 2010, 2014), and national road race champion in 2011, Wiggins’ major stage race wins include back-to-back Criterium du Dauphine triumphs in 2011 and 2012.

Sir Bradley Wiggins won the 2013 Tour of Britain (pic: Roz Jones)

The latter was part of his annus mirabilis on the road, culminating in Tour de France success and an Olympic time trial gold medal and also including wins at Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie.

Which British cyclists have the most pro wins?

Wiggins went on to become the first Brit ever to win the modern Tour of Britain in 2013, and then emerged victorious stateside in 2014 at the Amgen Tour of California.

Three Grand Tour stage wins – two on his way to Tour de France victory in 2012, after winning the Giro d’Italia prologue in 2010 to briefly wear the pink jersey – also bulk up his palmares.

UCI Hour Record holder

Wiggins’ achievements on the track and against the clock do not just amount to a host of medals – he announced his switch to the boards in some style in 2015 by beating, or rather smashing the UCI Hour Record.

Sir Bradley Wiggins smashed the UCI Hour Record in June 2015 by setting a new mark of 54.526km in front of a sell-out crowd in London (Pic: Jaguar)
  • Successful UCI Hour Record attempts in 2015
  • Rohan Dennis (AUS) – 52.491km (February)
    Alex Dowsett (GBR) – 52.937km (May)
    Sir Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – 54.526km (June)

After the UCI changed the rules of the Hour Record, to allow any eligible track bike to be used, a host of efforts had pushed the mark out – Britain’s Alex Dowsett taking it to 52.937km in Manchester in May 2015.

One month later it was Wiggins’ turn, in the kit of his new eponymous team, with London his choice of velodrome for the attempt.

And he took the record and put it on the shelf – a new mark of 54.526 ensuring he is unlikely to be dethroned for some time.

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