Tour de France: Allez-oop – Bradley Wiggins makes sporting history

PUNCHING the air as he crossed the finish line, an ecstatic Bradley Wiggins secured his place in the pantheon of British sporting greats yesterday by winning the Tour de France.

After thousands of miles and a series of gruelling ascents equivalent to scaling Everest three times, the 32-year-old Londoner became the first Briton to triumph in the prestigious race.

He described his victory as “incredible” as he was congratulated by his wife Catherine and his children, Isabelle and Ben,, who sported the words “Allez Wiggo” on his cheeks.

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His win sparked jubilant scenes at the finishing line in Paris’s sun-kissed Champs Elysées, where thousands of British cycling fans had gathered to watch history being made.

The celebrations also acknowledged the second place finish of Wiggins’ teammate Chris Froome, while Mark Cavendish also had cause to rejoice after claiming his fourth consecutive final-stage victory.

The day, however, belonged to Wiggins, who avoided injury or accident on the last leg of the 20 stage, 2,173 mile race to win by a margin of three minutes and 21 seconds.

Amid a flurry of Union flags, an emotional Wiggins waved to fans as he stepped up on to the podium to receive his yellow jersey, while the national anthem was sung by opera singer Lesley Garrett.

After apologising for speaking in English, he told the crowds: “I just wanted to say thank you for all the support all the way around. It’s been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling. Some dreams can come true, and now my old mother over there, her son’s won the Tour de France.

“I’m still buzzing from the Champs Elysées, it’s so quick around there. We had a job to do with Cav and we did it. What a way for him to finish it off.”

Asked how he felt about his newly-secured position in the history of the sport, Wiggins, who crashed out of last year’s race after suffering a broken collarbone, replied: “I’ve got to get used to that now. It will take a while… I’m trying to soak up every minute of today. It’s surreal at the moment. This sort of thing happens to other people, you never imagine it happens to you. It’s incredible. I bet I’ll look back in years to come and think ‘God, that was special’.”

His wife wrote on Twitter: “Right everyone, I am calling it. Operation drink-as-much-champagne-as-you-can. GO.”

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Wiggins has overcome a number of setbacks on his way to yesterday’s win. His late father walked out on the family when he was just two, and the cyclist had his own battles with alcoholism.

Wiggins was congratulated by fans around the world, as well as sporting and political figures back home.

Prime Minister David Cameron hailed his victory as an “immense feat of physical and mental ability” that would put the country in the “right mood” for London 2012. He said: “I’m like everyone in the country – absolutely delighted. [This was] 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.”