CROSSING the Champs-Élysées, Bradley Wiggins not only cemented his place as one of Britain’s greatest sportsmen, but in doing so secured a legacy that should see a new generation growing up on two wheels.
The charismatic 32-year-old made history this week, becoming the first British winner of the gruelling Tour de France in the competition’s 109-year existence, in a blaze of iconic yellow-jerseyed glory.
It was not just Wiggins who set a blaze across the channel with Chris Froome’s second place, another first as the only occasion riders from the same team and country have filled the top two berths in the general classification, while Mark Cavendish’s record-breaking 23rd stage win set his status as the Tour’s greatest ever sprinter.
All three will now travel to London in an attempt to continue Britain’s Olympic track success, built on a blistering display in Beijing four years ago in which the team picked up an incredible 14 medals, eight of which were gold, with Sir Chris Hoy winning three and Wiggins two.
In a year rich for UK sport, it could be about to get even wealthier.
The continued success at the highest level has inspired a boom in participation across the nation in the previous four years with the Office for National Statistics reporting retail spending on bikes had risen 15 per cent the previous year, consumers spending more than £21.13m in bike stores last week alone, according to Visa, while British Cycling has revealed that its membership has swelled to over 50,000 in 2012, a 100 per cent increase since 2008 — the highest level since it formed in 1959.
It is a trend that has not gone unnoticed by Peter Heath of the West Suffolk Wheelers, who has seen participation increasing throughout the period.
“There has definitely been a success effect with our membership growing steadily and increased number in participation,” he said.
“In the last week alone we have had a flurry of people enquiring about joining the club.
“Cycling is certainly booming at the moment all over the country.
“With people spending money in bike shops, the sport is definitely bucking the trend in these times of recession.
“Every news bulletin has been about Wiggins and cycling as a whole in recent weeks, and its continued success has definitely brought the sport back into national consciousness.”