Cycling: Whiskered Briton Wiggins rides to new heights

Wed Aug 1, 2012 12:15pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

LONDON (Reuters) - A big engine. A self-confessed Mod. Straightforward. Sometimes offhand. An Impersonator. Obsessive. Meet Tour de France and Olympic time trial champion Bradley Wiggins.

Four years ago, Wiggins halted his highly successful Olympic track cycling career - which included three golds, a silver and two bronze - to set his sights on being the first Briton to win the world's greatest stage race.

But his love of the Games meant he could not give up on them completely, and he stayed in road events, on Wednesday taking gold in the men's individual time trial to become Briton's most decorated Olympian little more than a week after winning the Tour.

"From his years on the track, he kept his sang-froid, the mastery of events. When he decides something, nothing can deter him from his goal," Francis van Londersele, who managed Wiggins at road team Cofidis from 2006-07, told Reuters.

In 2008, he joined the High Road team, where he was just a member of the lead-out train for sprinter Mark Cavendish, the world champion who was recently reduced to being a water bottle carrier for Wiggins on the Tour.

Favorite Cavendish missed on out on medal in Saturday's London road race, in contrast to Wiggins' time trial triumph on Wednesday, where he won his seventh Olympic medal - the most for any Briton.

"His first tests showed he had a huge engine," said Valerio Piva, Wiggin's then sports director.

Taking his fate into his own hands, Wiggins left the High Road team to join the American outfit Garmin.   Continued...

Britain's Bradley Wiggins competes in the men's cycling individual time trial at the London 2012 Olympic Games August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch