Poker-faced but great Brit Bradley Wiggins played all his London 2012 cards right

 

Hampton Court

Of all the lessons learned by Bradley Wiggins in time-trialling over the last 12 months, probably the most important for yesterday's historic triumph was not to dig too deep, too soon. As the Londoner has found from bitter experience, acting on impulse in a contre-la-montre can carry a very high price tag.

In the Tour of Spain last autumn, Wiggins lost a crucial time trial at Salamanca, over a very similar distance to yesterday's, because he had forced the pace so hard so early that he "blew" by the second half. The result was that he slumped to third behind Tony Martin – the 2011 world champion and his biggest rival yesterday – and his Sky team-mate Chris Froome.

Since then, in each of his seven time-trial victories, Wiggins has kept a cooler head and saved a chunk of his energy for the second part of the race. This explains why yesterday he was some 5sec behind Martin's time after 7.5 kilometres, which could have been worrying had that disadvantage then extended any further.

Instead, Wiggins turned the tables with a vengeance. Slowly but steadily opening up the throttle, the Briton was 11sec up on the German by the next intermediate time checkpoint at 18.4 kilometres, or just under halfway. A further 11 kilometres down the line, by the third checkpoint, that advantage had doubled to 22sec and by the finish it was up to 42sec.

If the Wiggins energy control was all but faultless yesterday, so too was his time-trialling technique. Perched slightly forward on the saddle to ensure maximum power transmission, there was no swaying of the shoulders, barely even a twitch of his upper body, an almost feline smoothness to his pedalling style – all signs of a "chrono" specialist in total control.

To judge from the television images, there were no errors whatsoever in his bike handling: he sliced perfectly through the apex of each corner, swooped round the road furniture with ease and picked out the path of least resistance on each straightaway. And if Froome and Martin were both visibly in trouble by the end of the course, with their heads swaying and mouths wide open, and the defending Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara was in need of medical aid, in contrast Wiggins looked to be fully in control.

In fact, in keeping with his boyhood idol Miguel Indurain, nicknamed "The Martian" for his poker face in time trials, there was no air punching or celebration when Wiggins crossed the line. Furthermore, rather than getting out of the saddle to accelerate when the finishing gantries loomed into view – not recommended from a strictly aerodynamic point of view but hard to resist after nearly an hour of racing flat-out – Wiggins stayed seated to ensure he had the best time possible. Only when Cancellara, the last rider, had finished and the victory was definitively his did Wiggins finally begin to let his emotions out of the bag.

The flat, open and well-surfaced roads of yesterday's 44-kilometre course – a distance he excels over – were perfect for Wiggins. The Tour de France's first time trial, in Besançon, was twisty and technical, and so was not ideal for a rider with a track background like his, with years of hammering out huge gears on the velodrome with an excellent natural cadence; on a course as straightforward as yesterday's, Wiggins could exploit those talents to the maximum.

So was a Wiggins gold inevitable? Not at all. Apart from injury, riders with minimal body fat have low defences, and are prey to illness. But perhaps his greatest achievement was simply to maintain his focus for 10 days after the Tour which, lest we forget, is the toughest endurance event in the world.

Wiggins on top: How Brad beat Steve

Gold/Silver/Bronze/Total

1 B. Wiggins 4/1/2/7

2 S. Redgrave 5/0/1/6

3 C. Hoy 4/1/0/5

4 H. Taylor 3/0/2/5

5 J. Beresford 3/2/0/5

6 M. Pinsent 4/0/0/4

7 P. Radmilovic 4/0/0/4

8 B. Ainslie 3/1/0/4

9 R. Doherty 3/0/1/4

10 R. Meade 3/0/0/3

Wiggins' Olympic medal haul

Gold

London 2012: Time trial

Beijing 2008: Team pursuit

Beijing: Individual pursuit

Athens 2004: Individual pursuit

Silver

Athens: Team pursuit

Bronze

Athens 2004: Madison

Sydney 2000: Team pursuit

Wiggins is the first rider to win the Tour de France and an Olympic Gold medal in the same year.

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

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

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower