Magical memories of 2012 - Cycling: 'Bradley Wiggins' achievement was greatest we have ever seen from a Briton'

22 July: Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France

When someone like Sir Chris Hoy – himself a top candidate for providing British cycling's highpoint of 2012 – describes Bradley Wiggins' Tour de France win "as a one-off sporting achievement, the greatest thing we have ever seen from a British competitor" the implications of what Wiggins did this summer become clear.

Prior to Wiggins pulling on the Tour's final yellow jersey in Paris – and Chris Froome finishing an almost equally remarkable second – no Briton had ever finished in the race's top three, let alone won it. True, we had had more than two weeks of Wiggins wearing yellow as Tour leader to begin to get used to that possibility, and Wiggins had started the race – after an outstanding run of earlier success in the season – as favourite. But the scale of his breakthrough following more than a century where fourth had been Britain's best overall result was far bigger than anticipated.

There was not just Wiggins in yellow and Froome celebrating by his side in Paris. Britain's seven Tour stage wins was a record for the country and Mark Cavendish – whose last-ditch charge to victory in Brive-La-Gaillarde 48 hours before Paris, aided greatly by Wiggins in the final kilometre, produced one of the most stunning wins of his career – now has 23 Tour stage wins, making him the race's greatest ever sprinter. All this from Cavendish, lest we forget, whilst clad in the world champion's rainbow jersey (supposedly a curse on the rider who wears it, but not in Cav's case) and in a team which was focused almost exclusively on winning the yellow jersey for Wiggins.

For Wiggins, morphing physically from gold medallist track star in Beijing and Athens to dominating road cycling's most arduous event is an equally remarkable achievement. So too, is his bouncing back from a broken collarbone in the 2011 Tour de France and a dismal ride in 2010. Personally then, for Wiggins, Britain's first Tour de France victory represents both a huge comeback and a change of career path that can also act as inspiration for other racers – particularly given Wiggins' radical anti-doping stance.

Inside Britain, the impact on cycling of the country's first Tour win will last for years, if not decades. Given British Cycling membership has trebled since 2000 to over 60,000, it's clear cycling was already on the up before July. But this year its popularity has surged to unprecedented heights: more than 200,000 people have started riding a bike at least once a week in 2012. And there are countless anecdotes about youngsters joining cycling clubs for the first time – and doing so sporting Wiggins mutton chops, making it fairly clear who had inspired them.

Surging media interest shows cycling is no longer a minority sport – that a certain red-top newspaper made Wiggins' crash in training this autumn one its front page stories felt, oddly enough, that another big corner had been turned for cycling's profile.

And if London's Tour start in 2007 and Cavendish's success from 2008 onwards blazed the trail in terms of increasing recent British interest in the sport's blue-riband event, Wiggins' Tour win has broadened cycling's appeal to totally unprecedented levels.

And now the 2014 Tour will start in Yorkshire. Whatever next?

Further reading:

Olympics: ‘Mo, Jess and Greg gave us a night no one could forget’ 4 August: That night in the Olympic Stadium - James Lawton

Football: ‘When Chelsea saw off Barcelona, the joy was in watching the spoilers have their day’ 24 April: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (agg 2-3); Champions League semi-final second leg - Sam Wallace

Athletics: ‘The roar for Ennis made the hair stand up on the back of my neck’ 3 August: Opening day of track and field at the Olympics - Simon Turnbull

Rugby Union: ‘It was eerie seeing England sticking it to the silver fern’ 1 December: Manu Tuilagi waltzes to the try line as England smash New Zealand- Chris Hewett

Football: ‘We’ll never encounter anything quite like it again’ 13 May: Manchester City win the title in thrilling style - Ian Herbert

Football: ‘After losing the title in the cruellest way, Ferguson stood firm’ 13 May: United are denied the title in heart-breaking style Martin Hardy

Olympics: ‘Nobody personified it more than Hoy, the ultimate sportsman’ 27 July: Hoy leads out Team GB at the Games opening ceremony - Robin Scott-Elliot

Football: ‘An hour later Theo Walcott was a hero – given a standing ovation’ 26 February: Theo Walcott turns the jeers to cheers to steer Arsenal to derby victory - Glenn Moore

Golf: ‘This was it. The moment that would decide the Ryder Cup. A 10-footer for glory ... Get in!’ 30 September: Europe claim Ryder Cup in thrilling fashion - Kevin Garside

Boxing: ‘The fight was terrific from the first bell. It had urgency, nastiness' 14 July: David Haye v Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora - Steve Bunce

Tennis: ‘After Murray won he staggered in a daze, then held his head in his hands’ 11 September: Andy Murray ends Britain’s wait for a major - Paul Newman

Football: ‘That night Spain played thrilling, bold, beautiful football’  1 July: Beautiful Spain smash Italy in the Euro 2012 final - Jack Pitt-Brooke

Formula One: ‘Kimi’s Lotus win was F1’s most romantic result’  4 November: Kimi Raikkonen zooms to victory in Abu Dhabi - David Tremayne

Racing: ‘Frankel enlarged life’s comfort zone for us all’ 22 August: Juddmonte International Stakes; Frankel finally goes the full distance - Chris McGrath

Cricket: ‘A sweep for three and Cook had broken a 73-year-old landmark’  6 December: Alastair Cook breaks England century record - Stephen Brenkley

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue