Leading article: Wiggins sets the perfect tone for London 2012

Share
Related Topics

Bradley Wiggins' stylish triumph in the Tour de France brought the perfect prelude to the London Olympics. Here was a victory that no one with a stake in London 2012 – not Lord Coe, not David Cameron, not even Boris Johnson or Tony Blair – could have scripted in their wildest dreams. For a Briton, and a London native, to win the world's premier cycle race for the first time is a crowning personal achievement for Wiggins, but cannot but be hailed as a national success, too. That it was a British one-two, with Chris Froome second, and Mark Cavendish winning the final stage, only made the victory sweeter.

There will be those who see in Wiggins' trophy proof that Britain has gained the upper hand in a new chapter of the old cross-Channel rivalry. There was more than an element of national one-upmanship when Britain beat France to host this year's Olympics, and Union flags were much in evidence, with enthusiastic wavers, all the way to the finish yesterday.

Healthy national pride, though, which Britain too often lacks, is quite different from jingoism, and it was the former that was mostly on show in France – as we hope it will be in the coming weeks in London. And it would be to traduce the spirit in which this race was won to reduce it to a contest for national superiority. The French were generous to a fault – as they have been, by and large, to previous foreign champions. And the Tour has evolved into a uniquely challenging and characterful global event that showcases France, rather than French cycling prowess. Unless perhaps you are French, there is nothing wrong with that.

Nostalgics may criticise Team Sky for their highly technical approach to the race, but common decency shone through, too. Wiggins' response to tacks on the road – a rare act of sabotage on the Tour – showed due respect for the sport's honour code and was much appreciated by the French. That he also speaks their language was another plus that his monoglot compatriots would do well to note.

While unambiguously a personal triumph for Bradley Wiggins and his commitment, yesterday's result was no less of a triumph for British cycling, which has gone from being a peripheral professional sport to a national flagship within not much more than a decade. How this happened is well documented, and reflects a combination of vision, money, science and, no less, dedicated individuals. One result was the clutch of British cycling medals in Beijing, and the high hopes that accompany Team GB cyclists to London.

It cannot be denied that cycling is a sport – though hardly the only one – where technology makes a difference. And one result of success on the track is that Britain is now known not just for its cyclists, but for world-beating design and professional back-up. This success lights a path for other sports to follow.

As technology-led Formula 1 shows, however, there is no substitute for the human factor. Whoever wins the Tour de France must be master of all aspects of the sport. And it is the image of Wiggins, in the yellow jersey, all eagerness and focus behind his handle-bars, that will remain in the memory and inevitably set a tone for the British contingent when the Olympics open this week. Nor for the Olympics alone. British cycling was already experiencing a surge in popularity – in part a product of success in Beijing, but also of today's quest to be fit and environmentally friendly. Wiggins' victory in Paris sets a whole new standard for British cycling, but it comes with an uplifting personal story and the Tour's sense of romance that cannot but inspire generations to come.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected