Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France to become the first British champion of cycling’s most prestigious race.
The 32-year-old Londoner crossed the finishing line on the Champs Elysees in Paris after the final 74.6-mile ride between Rambouillet and the capital. The stage was won by Wiggins’s Team Sky teammate Mark Cavendish.
In a brief speech on the podium, Wiggins told the cheering crowd, “Some dreams can come true, and now my old mother over there, her son’s won the Tour de France.”
Wiggins kept a 3 minute, 21 second lead over teammate Chris Froome and a 6:19 advantage over third-placed Vincenzo Nibali of Italy. Riders traditionally don’t compete for places in the overall classification on the final day.
Wiggins, who has led the race since stage seven of 20, slowed down at the side of the road after crossing the finish line, unclipped one of his shoes from the pedal and embraced Australian teammate Michael Rogers.
A three-time Olympic gold medalist in track cycling, Wiggins won both time trials and defended his advantage in the mountains with the help of teammates.
Froome, a Kenya-born Briton, led him up the most difficult mountain passes in the Alps and Pyrenees, slowing several times to let him catch up.
“He’s been absolutely solid,” Wiggins said on July 19. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work it out: You want him in your team.”
Together, Wiggins and Froome saw off the challenges of competitors, first that of defending champion Cadel Evans of BMC Racing and then Liquigas rider Nibali.
“It was more of a case of everyone else faltering and us just going on our way,” Wiggins said. “That’s the Tour: People fall by the wayside.”
A Briton had never previously finished in the top three places in the 109-year-old race. Wiggins came fourth in 2009 with U.S. team Garmin to match Robert Millar’s 1984 best placing for a rider from Great Britain.
He joined Sky for 2010, when he finished 24th at the Tour, and withdrew from last year’s race because of a broken collarbone.
Froome was close to leaving Team Sky before finishing second at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, ahead of third-placed Wiggins, according to Richard Moore, the author of a book about Team Sky called “Sky’s The Limit.”
That performance lifted his salary to 1.2 million pounds ($1.9 million) according to Moore, who said Froome had rejected a previous offer of 100,000 pounds.
Cavendish told Eurosport television that his fourth straight win on the final day was “the cherry on top of an amazing Tour” for Team Sky. It was his 23rd stage win, moving him ahead of seven-time champion Lance Armstrong and into fourth place in the all-time list.
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan won the green jersey for finishing atop the points classification. Thomas Voeckler of France took top climber’s polka-dot jersey and the U.S.’s Tejay van Garderen got the white jersey as best young rider.