It’s not every day you wake up to find the exploits of a British road cyclist the lead story across all the breakfast news channels and splashed across the tabloids.
But that was the scenario this morning as Britain revelled in Bradley Wiggins becoming the first-ever British cyclist to win the Tour de France, something that seemed unthinkable a few years ago.
In any other year, Wiggins, his team and fans would have been able to bask in the glory and celebrate his win in the days and weeks to come. But this isn’t any other year, this is an Olympic year – and a London Olympic year at that – so for the mass media at least, it’s provided a unique prelude to the biggest sporting party the UK has ever seen. It would have rained on his parade but for the fact he’s an integral member of the Olympic squad, too.
‘Yellow jersey to gold pedal’ declared The Sun, saying that ‘after turning Paris yellow only gold will do now at London 2012’.
‘Bradley Wiggins will be back on the bike this morning as he plots an astonishing double’, said the Daily Mirror. Even the normally celebrity-obsessed Mail Online led with Wiggins’ historic achievement.
Wiggins himself, in his Guardian column, couldn’t hide his anticipation for the Olympics. “I was already thinking about the Olympics on Saturday. It’s realistic to think I can win that now. An Olympic athlete can’t envisage doing the Tour de France 10 days before the biggest race of their life, a marathon or whatever, but racing is what we do as professional cyclists.
“That’s why I flew out of Paris on Sunday night to a secret location, so I can get on with riding my bike for the next couple of days, in peace and quiet with no motorbikes around me taking photographs and getting in the way. Coming off the back of this, it will kind of add the hundreds and thousands on the cake. You could say the icing is on it. We’ve just got to put the little cherry on top”.
The Wiggins of old may have rued the lack of celebrations, but the new and improved version will relish the fact that with the Olympic road race next Saturday and the time trial the following Wednesday, he’ll get the chance to back up his win with even more success.
His five days of preparation will, in an ideal world, see Mark Cavendish take gold for Great Britain in the road race and see him bag his fourth Olympic gold medal in the time trial.
Is it any wonder then that British tabloid the Daily Star proclaimed on its front page ‘Let Wiggo Light Flame’, in reference to the as-yet-undecided decision on who should light the Olympic flame this Friday. He’s already a decorated Olympian and now, with one of British sport’s greatest-ever achievements on his CV, he’s in with a huge shout. And who’d best against a knighthood by the end of the year?
Never shy of piggy-backing on the success of British sportsman, Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC he was ‘absolutely delighted’ by Wiggins’ win – but even he couldn’t help tie it in to the Olympics.
“[He] has scaled one of the great heights of British sporting achievement,” the PM said. “It’s an immense feat of physical and mental ability and aptitude and I think the whole country wants to say ‘well done, brilliant’, the perfect backdrop and start to the Olympics”.
Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail agreed: “Bradley Wiggins is the first British winner of the Tour de France. Ever. Bradley Wiggins is the greatest British cyclist. Ever. Bradley Wiggins may well be the finest British sportsman. Ever”.
As well as thinking about what effect having a Tour de France winner will have on British success at the Olympics, talk has already turned to how it will impact cycling as a leisure activity in the country and, more importantly, whether or not cycling safety will improve.
“Hurrah for Bradley Wiggins! Now we must make our roads safe for cyclists”, says Jackie Ashley in her Guardian column. “His Tour de France triumph will inspire many of us to take to two wheels. It’s time to take bold action against cars”.