Sir Bradley Wiggins expressed relief after ending his barren streak by winning the Tour of Britain.
The 2012 Tour de France and Olympic time-trial champion took a permanent hold on the leader’s gold jersey as the first Team Sky rider to win their home tour as Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won on Whitehall.
After glugging from a magnum of champagne on the podium, Wiggins immediately turned his attentions to Wednesday’s Road World Championships time trial in Florence, Italy.
“The feeling at the moment is more just relief than anything else,” said Wiggins after his first stage race triumph since the 2012 Tour de France. “I said I wanted to win it. It is pressure for the whole week.
“Until you cross the line you just don’t know. It’s all right to think it’s a bit of a ceremony round London, but it certainly isn’t.
“You cross the line, you’re pumped up. It’s relief that you’ve finished and fulfilled it for your team and your team-mates.
“From tomorrow morning my thoughts turn to the World Championships and this will probably be forgotten.
“It’s a bit like the Tour with the Olympics. Win the Tour one day, the next day you’re thinking about the Olympics.”
Wiggins, who took the race lead with victory in Tuesday’s time trial at Knowsley Safari Park and defended it with his Team Sky squad until the end, was nervous until the conclusion in central London.
He feared a crash and a split in the peloton on the last of ten 8.8kilometre laps which would grant Martin Elmiger a chance to steal the title.
In the end IAM Cycling’s Elmiger had to be content with second, 26 seconds behind, while Simon Yates of the Great Britain under-23 team finished third overall, further illustration of his potential after winning the points race world title on the track and two stages of the prestigious Tour de l’Avenir.
Wiggins praised the crowd support throughout the eight-day event, which began in Peebles last Saturday, describing it as “overwhelming at times” as he bounced back from a troubled year which saw him withdraw from the Giro d’Italia and miss the defence of his Tour de France title.
“There was an element of going through the motions in all the races early in the season,” added Wiggins, the second British winner in the 10th edition of the race after Jonathan Tiernan-Locke 12 months ago.
“I came out this week with the commitment that I showed last year. I crashed on day two, was straight up and straight back in the bunch, unfazed by it.
“That was a sign that I was back to where I was last year, more than fitness levels and what numbers say. It’s nice to be able to come to perform to your potential and please everybody. Everyone goes home happy.”
Cavendish triumphed after a near-perfect leadout from Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mate Alessandro Petacchi for his third win of the race and record tenth in all. Ireland’s Sam Bennett (An Post-Chain Reaction) was second, with Elia Viviani (Cannondale) third.
Cavendish, who won the concluding stage of the tour for a third successive year, said: “It’s been incredible, to be able to win the stage again in London.”
Cavendish paid tribute to Petacchi, a one-time rival, now key ally. “His road sense is like something I’ve never seen before,” the Manxman said. “He’s super smooth, super intelligent, super calm. He keeps me calm.
“I haven’t had this since I worked with [Mark] Renshaw and it’s exactly the same with Alessandro. I don’t really have to do anything, I just follow a wheel that’s smooth as silk and go with 200 metres to go.”
World title next target for Olympic time trial champion
Fresh from his Tour of Britain win, Sir Bradley Wiggins will turn his attention to the Road World Championships and a battle with defending champion Tony Martin for the individual title on Wednesday.
Martin’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep team successfully defended their team time-trial title on the opening day in Italy yesterday.
The quartet of Martin, Sylvain Chavanel, Michal Kwiatkowski, Niki Terpstra, Kristof van de Walle and Peter Velits won the men’s team time-trial in one hour four minutes 16.81 seconds, just 0.81secs ahead of Orica-GreenEdge after 56.8 kilometres of racing.
Team Sky, including Tour de France champion Chris Froome and fellow Briton Geraint Thomas, were third, 22.55secs behind.
The team time-trial events are for trade teams, with riders now reverting to national colours for the World Championships in Florence, which conclude next Sunday.
Germany’s Martin will now turn his attention to Wednesday’s individual time-trial, where he will hope to defend his title ahead of 2012 London Olympics champion Wiggins, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara and Taylor Phinney of the United States.
Briton Katie Colclough was part of the Specialized-Lululemon squad which successfully defended its women’s team time-trial title yesterday.
The six-woman team triumphed in 51mins 10.69secs, with the Rabo squad second, 1:11.09 adrift.
The British Wiggle Honda squad, which is backed by Wiggins and included Olympic team pursuit champions Dani King and Joanna Rowsell, was sixth, 2:33 behind.