Tour de France: From Kilburn to top of the world

Bradley Wiggins has pushed himself to the forefront of British sporting folklore. But his amazing success has been decades in the making

Click to follow
The Independent Online

1. The bug first bit

He likes to refer to himself as "a kid from Kilburn" and first got the cycling bug watching Chris Boardman at the 1992 Olympics. As a 12-year-old he "was transfixed watching Boardman beat Germany's Jens Lehmann in the four- kilometre individual pursuit."

2. Have bike, will travel

His dedication was obvious from the moment he started training regularly as a teenager, riding across London to races in Crystal Palace park and at Herne Hill velodrome, the latter where his father, Gary, had cut his teeth in the late 1970s. By the age of 15, Wiggins had collected a Grand Slam of titles at the British Junior Track Championships – pursuit, points, scratch and kilo.

3. Cast in bronze

Wiggins's first Olympic medal, bronze in the team pursuit at Sydney, remains a high point: "Many riders have ridden for a decade or more and never won one." It confirmed Wiggins as talented enough for the British track programmes, which created an association with men crucial to his Tour success – Sky Team principal Dave Brailsford and performance director Shane Sutton.

4. Family guy

One of his biggest battles was with alcohol after the 2004 Olympics. By his side and helping him through was his wife, Cath, with whom he has two children, Ben, aged five, and Isabella, aged three. He credits them for keeping him focused and steady. "Everything going forward had to be about them."

5. Golden summer

His first Olympic gold came in the individual pursuit in Athens 2004. His success at distilling four years of hard work into four minutes of racing showed he could perform in pressure situations such as the Tour de France. The higher the expectations, the more he loves it.

6. Go fourth and multiply

During the 2009 Tour of Italy, on a difficult mountain stage, Wiggins found himself almost unintentionally in the front group of overall contenders. Suddenly the penny dropped: he knew that previously he had never fully exploted his ability to climb. In 2009 he finished fourth overall in the Tour de France, equalling Britain's best result. His battle to become Britain's first Tour winner began in earnest.

7. Leader of the pack

Wiggins's first major triumph for his new team, Sky, was the Tour of Italy prologue in May 2010 – a huge success. But it also made his disappointment at only finishing 24th in the Tour de France all the more accute, and spurred him on to much-needed greater efforts in mountain training.

8. Podium finish

After crashing out in the 2011 Tour, a second huge disappointment, Wiggins showed that his 2009 Tour ride was no fluke, with third place in the Tour of Spain. It showed his consistency and proved that his ability to recover each day from huge efforts was sufficent to guarantee him top spots in three-week racing.

9. Climb every mountain

Months of training on the mountains at altitude – his weakest point – in Tenerife came to fruition on this year's Tour when Wiggins took his first-ever Tour lead, at stage seven's summit finish of La Planche des Belles Filles.

10. Paris here I come

Wiggins's victory in the time trial at Besançon reinforced his overall lead and confirmed that he has managed to master the difficult balance between honing his climbing skills and retaining his strength against the clock – vital for winning a major Tour.