Aug 12, 2012 – Of the many abiding images from the Olympics’ cycling events, Bradley Wiggins sitting proudly on the throne at Hampton Court Palace waiting for gold could not have been more symbolically appropriate.
Barely two weeks after an historic Tour de France triumph, Wiggins’ time trial victory set the wheels in motion for yet another majestic display by British cyclists at the 2012 London Games.
Of the 18 cycling gold from the road races (four), track (10), BMX (two) and mountain bike (two), Britain won a remarkable eight and a total of 12.
But it was in track, where Wiggins won his three previous Olympic titles, that Britain truly bossed the competition. Rule changes limiting each nation to one competitor per event meant the likelihood of all-British finals, like in Beijing, became impossible for Britain’s Lottery cash-fueled squad.
But that was no obstacle, and neither were traditional track rivals like Australia, France and Germany who believed they had closed the gap significantly since Britain’s haul of seven from 10 gold in Beijing.
Track team chief Dave Brailsford suggested the “sense of security” felt by their rival teams’ promising achievements at the intervening world championships may have been their downfall. Australia’s runner-up place in the track medals table, with one gold and just five medals from 10 events, told the whole story.
Brailsford said: “I just think they didn’t expect us to dominate like we have done. That’s probably more of a shock than anything to them.”
While Victoria Pendleton ended her Olympic career by losing her sprint title to Australia’s Anna Meares, her keirin gold was added to gold from the women’s team pursuit and the women’s omnium won by Laura Trott.
From the five men’s events Britain won four gold. Sir Chris Hoy won two from the team sprint and keirin after being replaced by Jason Kenny for the defence of his sprint title. Kenny went on to stun France’s three-time world champion Gregory Bauge to claim sprint gold.
The 36-year-old Scot cried tears of joy as he waved goodbye to the Games with a sixth gold which allowed him to surpass the five won by former rower Sir Steve Redgrave to become Britain’s most successful Olympic champion.
“This is the perfect end to my Olympic career,” said Hoy.
A total of 10 world records were set in the velodrome, and the 3min 51.659sec set by the British team pursuit quartet on their way to victory over Australia was by far one of the most celebrated.>>> Jack Bobridge, of the beaten Australian quartet, was gracious in defeat.
“We have to settle for silver, and we will. But hats off to Great Britain, they were perfect,” said Bobridge.
In the other cycling events Britain fared less well. Shanaze Reade finished sixth in the women’s BMX final won by Colombia’s Mariana Pajon while Liam Phillips was eighth in the men’s race where Latvian Maris Strombergs defended his title.
After France’s lack of track gold left them “puzzled” by Britain’s domination, their blushes were saved by 23-year-old Olympic debutant Julie Bresset who won gold in the women’s mountain bike.
On the final day Czech world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy beat Swiss gold favourite Nino Schurter to the Olympic title.
Wiggins’ time trial gold, meanwhile, took his cycling stock even higher and made amends for sprint king Mark Cavendish’s failure in the men’s road race won by Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan.
Although none was likely needed, it also gave momentum to a track squad which business-like Brailsford is only too happy to see firing on all cylinders once every four years.
He said: “In the last eight years there’s only 10 days that have counted. Five days in Beijing (2008) and six days here (at London 2012).”