Bradley Wiggins wrote another chapter in his memorable career as he "annihiliated" the iconic UCI hour record at London's Olympic velodrome in front of an ecstatic sell-out crowd.
The first Briton to win the Tour de France travelled 54.526km over the course of 60 minutes, adding more than 1,500m to the previous best of 52.937km, set by Essex's Alex Dowsett in Manchester last month.
"Wiggins has surely cemented his status as the finest cyclist this country has produced," writes Tom Cary in the Daily Telegraph. "He is certainly the most versatile. And the most popular. The 6,000 tickets available for this spectacle sold out in less than ten minutes and the atmosphere inside the velodrome was sensational from the first lap to the last."
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At one stage the crowd attempted a Mexican wave, notes The Independent, but they could not keep pace with Wiggins as he tore around the track and it soon fizzled out. But the fans were not daunted and the "cacophony reached a peak in the final ten minutes, when Wiggins's pace began to slip and, for the first time, he looked uncomfortable", says the paper.
But he held on to set a new benchmark. And good thing too, says Matt Dickinson in The Times. "No attempt on The Hour... had been attempted with so much marketing or bravado. When you take to the start gate with helmet and shoes painted gold, you cannot afford to fail."
Wiggins had been hoping to top 55km, but was thwarted in part by the weather, explains Dickinson, noting that the high pressure counted against him. "It may sound odd to think that an indoor race can be affected so significantly, but the baking sunshine that was so pleasant for strollers in the Olympic Park was the worst possible thing for Wiggins who wanted thunderstorms and air that he could slice through more easily."
Not only was the weather less than ideal, Wiggins also chose to take on the challenge at sea-level, notes Matt Slater on the BBC. "One thing is for certain, he did it in less than ideal conditions... which means Wiggins leaves this stage with his audience wanting more," he says.
However, Wiggins, who even shaved off his beard to become more aerodynamic, declared himself satisfied with the distance and revealed just how much it had taken out of him.
"I'm just glad it's done," he said. "That's the closest I'll ever come to knowing what it's like to have a baby. It was just torture."
Bearing a top embroidered with the number 54526, Wiggins hinted that he did not think his record would last for ever. "I would love to see Fabian [Cancellara] and Tony [Martin] have a go," he said. "They maybe don't have the track pedigree. And I wouldn't discount Alex [Dowsett]. But I can't have any regrets. I could not have got any more out of myself."
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