HAMPTON COURT, England — Cyclist Bradley Wiggins won the gold medal in the time trial at the London Games on Wednesday, sealing his place in British Olympic history.
The Tour de France champion powered his way to victory on the 44-kilometer course south of London to win his seventh Olympic medal, taking over the British record he shared with rowing great Steve Redgrave.
“It was gold or nothing, really," Wiggins said. “That’s how I felt. What’s the point of all these medals if they’re not gold ones?"
Wiggins covered the course in 50 minutes, 39.54 seconds, beating silver medalist Tony Martin of Germany by 42 seconds. Tour runner-up Christopher Froome of Britain won the bronze, capping off a phenomenal summer for British road cycling.
Wiggins, who became the first British rider to win the Tour last month, won his fourth Olympic gold medal after winning three titles in Athens and Beijing — in individual and team pursuit.
After breaking his collarbone during last year’s Tour, the Londoner came back stronger than ever and has been nearly unbeatable this season, especially in long time trials, where he is undefeated in 2012.
“We couldn’t ask for much more," Froome said.
The 32-year-old Wiggins was second to last of the 37 riders to roll down the ramp but was already second at the first time check, after 7.3 kilometers, trailing Tony Martin by 5 seconds.
The flat nature of the course, taking the riders on narrow roads in Surrey, perfectly suited Wiggins, who carried his former pursuit specialist skills into his favorite discipline when he quit track cycling after the Beijing Games.
“I’ve said all year, this is the plan, this is what we’ve been training to do," Wiggins said. “I’ve heard the question all year, ‘Is it possible?’ I think I’ve answered all those questions the last six weeks."
Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, the Beijing gold medalist, said Wiggins was simply “on another level."
Riding in the middle of a sea of British fans dressed in red, blue and white — some of them even sporting Wiggins’ signature sideburns — Wiggins stayed cool and kept going as he gradually picked up the pace to post the best time at the second check point, at the 18.4-kilometer mark, 11 seconds ahead of Martin.
Wiggins showed no sign of fatigue from Saturday’s road race and clocked the best time at the third intermediate before passing time trial specialist Luis Leon Sanchez of Spain.
Sanchez, a four-time national champion in the time trial, had a problem with his bike chain on the starting ramp and had to change his bike after only 10 meters.
Sanchez’s fortunes did not improve, and the Spaniard had to change his bike again after another mechanical problem. American Taylor Phinney overtook him a few kilometers later.
Wiggins became the first rider to win the Tour and the Olympic time trial in the same year, extending his already impressive run this season at Hampton Court Palace, a former royal residence on the banks on the River Thames.
A few minutes after Wiggins crossed the finish line there, Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the cyclist in a message posted to Twitter. Wiggins “is a true British hero. First the Tour (de France) and now Olympic Gold."
Earlier Wednesday, Kristin Armstrong of the United States won the women’s time trial, contested over a slightly shorter version of the same course. Judith Arndt of Germany won silver and Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia won her second bronze of the games.