By Lyndon Ferguson in London
The power of yellow. Today, that’s what the streets of south-west London and Surrey came to appreciate. Bradley Wiggins, a yellow jersey, and a host nation desperate for its first gold medal (a pair of British rowers beat Wiggins to that honor by a few hours). These were the ingredients that produced an atmosphere charged with anticipation, excitement and finally, jubilation.
The Olympic men’s road time trial is always a special day in cycling. One chance, once every four years to nail a place in history. The inequality suffered by female athletes in cycling is wrong, unjustifiable, and needs to change. However, most of the crowd standing by the roadside in London had come to see the men do battle. And one man in particular – Bradley Wiggins. The winner of the Tour de France. Nothing in this world brings a crowd to a bike race like the man with the yellow jersey.
We joined the crowd at Hampton Wick, at around the 38km mark of the 44km parcours. A location chosen because of its proximity to the local bike shop, offering big screens and a chance to mingle with other bike geeks, and not one, but two, pubs, offering cold beer and barbecued burgers. People lined the course 4 or 5 deep. Union Jacks flew wherever the eyes looked, but if you listened carefully a global cacophony of languages could be heard.
The crowd erupted every time a rider went by. As the race numbers ticked down an unspoken sense of anticipation filled the air. The first of the big guns to blast into view was Michael Rogers of Australia. Even to the naked eye, in the few short seconds it takes to move past, the triple world champion was on another level to those who had preceded him.
The noise from the crowd up the course suddenly jumped to 11. Chris Froome had arrived. The locals went crazy as the British rider sped through a wall of noise and patriotic support. There was almost a hush as Tony Martin came past. The German was clearly going well and looked the biggest threat to the British pair of Froome and Wiggins. Martin is raw power on a bike, and irresistible force hammering the road and air into submission.
Bradley Wiggins tipped the crowd over the edge. The split times were looking good the Brit, now he just had to finish it off. Not a single person was silent. Most were screaming at a level unsustainable for lungs and vocal cords. Much has been written about Wiggins’ wonderful technique on a bike. All I can add is that he looked serene. Perfect position, upper body unmoved, knees in. Where Martin wields a sledge hammer, Wiggins slices with a rapier.
Only Fabian Cancellara could spoil the British party now. The Swiss legend had not had the best preparation after a crash in the Olympic road race four days ago, but who would dare write-off ‘Spartacus’? He was clearly giving his all, but it was too obvious, too forced. At this late stage he was rocking on the bike, his pedal action ragged.
And so it was that even the great Fabian Cancellara could not deny Bradley Wiggins. The man in yellow. The man with gold. The best bike rider on the planet.