Considering his status as one of Britain’s greatest ever Olympians, Bradley Wiggins - one of the few cyclists ever to achieve success in both track and road cycling – had a relatively low profile outside his sport prior to 2012.
Before the Games the cyclist held the record for the most Olympic medals held by a British athlete – six, an equal number to Sir Steve Redgrave, including three golds.
But stellar performances in the Tour de France that year and weeks later in London were to change his life, topping a remarkable turnaround in what has been a turbulent career.
Born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1980. Wiggins – son of a professional cyclist – moved to London with his mother when his parents separated and took up cycling.
It was at the capital’s Herne Hill Velodrome – a venue built for the 1948 Olympic Games – that the young rider honed his track cycling technique. Wiggins specialised in the madison and pursuit disciplines, becoming Junior World Champion at the age of 18.
Olympic cycling champion Chris Boardman, later to become Wiggins’ mentor, proved an early inspiration thanks to his Team GB gold in the individual pursuit at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Wiggins himself claimed his first taste of Olympic glory at Sydney in 2000, where he won bronze aged 20 in the team pursuit.
The following year he turned professional, riding for the Française des Jeux and Credit Agricole teams. But it was at Athens in 2004 where Wiggins laid claim to the mantle of successor to Boardman, with a tally of three medals – gold in the pursuit, silver in the team pursuit and bronze in the Madison.
After the Games, Wiggins struggled to maintain his focus for a while before returning to road cycling.
Later he switched disciplines again, returning to the track at the 2008 Games in Beijing, where he became the first rider to successfully defend a pursuit title at an Olympic Games. Days later he was a member of the Olympic pursuit team that won gold with a world record of 3:53:314, beating Denmark by 6.7secs.
Over the following three years Wiggins came close to Tour de France glory as leader of Team Sky but success eluded him – not least thanks to a a broken collarbone in the 2011 race.
However, 2012 was to be his year. A sensational first British win in the Tour – saw him achieve the rare feat of making him an instant cleebritz with both the British and French public, who took readily to their new hero, “Wiggo”.
And as British sports fans warmed to his laconic manner and sharp wit, he wrote himself into the history books in London weeks later as the first man to win the Tour de France and Olympic gold in the same year, thanks to an imperious victory in the Individual Time Trial.
Following his win, Wiggins acknowledged the personal and professional battles that have marked his career, saying: “It’s been an amazing six weeks. This was the plan. I’ve answered all the questions in the last six weeks.”
Although fellow cyclist Chris Hoy was shortly to eclipse Wiggins as the most decorated British Olympian of all time, Wiggins’ seven-medal Olympic haul, including four golds, was widely acknowledged as inspiring a generation of young cyclists.