A knighthood, Britain’s first Tour de France winner — and now his country’s most decorated Olympian.
Cyclist Bradley Wiggins won an eighth Olympic medal Friday as he and his teammates set a new world record to edge out Australia in a pulsating men’s pursuit final.
Behind for much of the race and still trailing with 500 of the 4,000 meters remaining, the 36-year-old Wiggins led Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull in a storming comeback that culminated in victory by just 0.743 seconds.
“I wanted to go out with this,” Wiggins told reporters after his final Olympic race.
It was a fifth career gold medal for Wiggins, who claimed bronze in the same event 16 years ago at his first Games in Sydney.
This success also vindicated his decision to return to track cycling after winning the Tour de France and Olympic time trial in 2012.
“I wanted it to end like this,” he said. “Not some crappy little race in northern France — Paris-Tours — climbing off in the feed zone. It’s brilliant.”
The triumph ensured Britain took men’s team pursuit gold for the third Games in succession, with Clancy having been part of all three teams.
“It was a pretty spectacular race, but when you’re in the middle of it, you’re just focused on what you have to do,” Wiggins added. “You’re not really aware of what’s going on.
“It wasn’t until two laps to go that I even knew where the Aussies were. Now it’s done, and it’s more relief than anything. I was just saying to myself, ‘Thank God that’s over.’ I don’t have to live with this anymore. It’s gone now.
“Two years ago, all this press has been building up. I never underestimated it for one minute — I gave up the road, and gave up the big salary, and I was just a number again.”
Wiggins’ achievement somewhat overshadowed that of Clancy, who won his third successive team pursuit gold.
“This is the best gold medal of them all,” the 31-year-old said.
“We’ve had some big downs and crossing the line,” added Clancy, whose team suffered defeat to New Zealand in the final of the 2015 world championships and Australia last year. “It made every single pedal rev and every training session worthwhile.”
Burke was alongside Clancy when the British quartet won the London 2012 event.
“I really wanted to defend the title,” he said. “It all came together for us. This is the best team we’ve ever had.”
Britain’s form in the velodrome is ominous for its rivals. A gold medal Thursday in the men’s team sprint was followed Friday by Callum Skinner and reigning champion Jason Kenny both setting Olympic records in the individual event.
Meanwhile, the Chinese pairing of Jinjie Gong and Tianshi Zhong dominated the women’s team sprint, beating Russia in the final. Gong had won silver in the same event at London 2012.