PARIS (AP) — It was a rare sight at the Tour de France: The yellow jersey holder charging down the streets of Paris at the head of the peloton, trying to set up a teammate for a sprint victory on the final stage.
Bradley Wiggins turned his victory lap into another exhibition at the Tour de France.
With Wiggins heading for a historic victory at the end of a largely ceremonial ride into the French capital, there was one last job to perform before savoring his achievement of becoming the first British rider to win cycling's biggest race.
As with everything else over the last three weeks, Wiggins did it to perfection — leading the team Sky train for parts of the final kilometers before pulling back to let Mark Cavendish secure yet another sprint victory.
Only then was it time for Wiggins to take it all in — the British flags waving in the heart of Paris, the view of the Champs-Elysees from the top of the podium and "God Save the Queen" being sung in his honor.
"It's been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling," Wiggins said. "Some dreams come true. My mother over there, she's now - her son has won the Tour de France."
There'll be little time to celebrate, though.
The British success comes less than one week before the start of the London Olympics, where Wiggins and Cavendish are the overwhelming favorites for gold in the time trial and the road race.
"Tonight I go home," Wiggins said. "Everything turns to the Olympics and I'll be out on the bike tomorrow and I've got an Olympic time trial to try and win. So that's a higher priority than anything else. It's a little weird to leave Paris without a party because it would be nice to spend time with the team and really enjoy it."
Wiggins enjoyed a perfect Tour from the start and secured the victory with a dominating performance in Saturday's final time trial to extend his already commanding lead. Fellow Briton and Sky teammate Christopher Froome finished second, 3 minutes, 21 seconds behind overall. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy finished third, 6:19 off the pace.
And with Cavendish having sacrificed some opportunities for more stage wins along the way by helping his teammate protect the yellow jersey, Wiggins was all too happy to pay him back over the final kilometers of the race — normally a time when the winner is merely cruising along and already receiving congratulations from other riders.
"It's hard to take in as it happens," Wiggins said. "Every lap of the Champs-Elysees was goose-pimple stuff. We had a job to do with Mark today and we were all motivated to do that so it made it go a lot quicker. The concentration was high and for Mark to finish it off like that... well, it couldn't get any better."
Cavendish — widely regarded as the best sprinter in the world — won the final stage of the Tour for the fourth year in a row. After Wiggins pulled back, Edvald Boasson Hagen delivered the perfect lead-out for Cavendish to sprint away from his rivals at the end of the 120-kilometer stage. Cavendish accelerated coming out of the final corner, never looked back and raised four fingers as he crossed the line.
"That was incredible, what a sight," Cavendish said. "The yellow jersey, Brad Wiggins pulling at the end after Chris Froome had been riding. ... I just gave everything to the line, I wanted it so bad. It's the cherry on top of an amazing Tour for us."
The last time two riders from the same nation finished first and second in the Tour was in 1984, when Frenchman Laurent Fignon defeated Bernard Hinault.
Wiggins congratulated his teammates after crossing the line, gave a big hug to his wife and clutched the hands of their children.
The 32-year-old lanky Londoner blew kisses and bowed to a sea of union jacks.
After a soprano sang the British anthem, Wiggins thanked the crowd with a touch of British humor.
"Cheers, have a safe journey home, don't get too drunk," said Wiggins, who wrote in his autobiography about overcoming drinking problems after his early successes in the Velodrome.
Wiggins' father also died four years ago after struggling with alcohol and drugs addiction.
Cavendish claimed his 23rd Tour stage win and third this year. He also became the first reigning world champion to win on the Champs-Elysees.
"It's been incredible," Cavendish said. "We've come in with the aim of winning the yellow jersey. We got first and second on GC. We've won six stages as a team. It's a very successful Tour for Team Sky. Maybe there would've been more opportunities for sprints, but we won six stages. We've raised the profile of British cycling and it's been an incredible thing to be a part of."
The seven stage wins was a record haul for British riders in the Tour, beating the previous record of six stage wins in 2009 - when all were won by Cavendish.
This time the victories were divided up between Cavendish (3), Wiggins (2), David Millar (1) and Froome (1).
All four, with Ian Stannard, will compete in Saturday's road race on the opening day of the Olympics with the aim of propelling Cavendish to another triumph.
"We won seven stages in total, that's one out of three stages won by a British rider," Cavendish said. "The guys in the Olympic team have one more job to do, but it's been an incredible few weeks for us."
Wiggins and his teammates were at the font of the pack as it arrived on the streets of Paris for eight laps of a four-mile circuit on the Champs-Elysees.
Veteran rider George Hincapie, competing in his 17th consecutive and final Tour, led the peloton onto the prestigious avenue alongside fellow American Chris Horner.
With Sky determined to help Cavendish secure a fourth consecutive win in Paris, Horner and Hincapie were immediately reined in. Several other riders tried to break away but the peloton was not ready to give them any slack as the race passed some of the capital's most iconic monuments such as the Louvre museum, the Eiffel tower and the Place de la Concorde.
The winners of the distinctive jerseys — Wiggins, top young rider Tejay van Garderen in white, best sprinter Peter Sagan in green and Thomas Voeckler in polka-dots for best climber — rode bikes colored to match their shirts.
Under a bright sun and in a festive atmosphere, they lined up in front of the peloton before the start of the stage in Rambouillet and were entertained with a short sheep herding demonstration involving Rambouillet rams dressed in cycling jerseys.
"I was just telling Brad that this little show was not representative of the bunch, because we don't have the feeling to behave like sheep," Voeckler joked.
Van Garderen, Sagan, Wiggins and Voeckler rode in front of the bunch in the neutral zone leading to the official start, throwing their arms around each other's shoulders, laughing and talking in camaraderie after riding more than 2,100 miles in what is considered the pinnacle of endurance sports.
Wiggins and Froome showed no sign of animosity as they chatted for a couple of minutes. Their rivalry has been the talk of the Tour this year after Froome looked like he could have challenged Wiggins' lead in the mountains but was held back by team orders.
In a symbolic passing of the torch, Wiggins then shook hands with defending champion Cadel Evans, who was all smiles despite a disappointing race. Evans was seventh overall, 15:51 behind Wiggins.
Associated Press writers Greg Keller and Jamie Keaten contributed to this report
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