London - Bradley Wiggins, the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, has added the UCI (International Cycling Union) Hour Record to his impressive list of achievements after he defied unfavourable conditions to cover 54.526km in London on Sunday
The 35-year-old Wiggins, who lifted his bike above his head in an act of celebration at the end of the hour at the Lee Valley VeloPark, easily beat the old world record of 52.937km set by compatriot Alex Dowsett in May.
Wiggins had spoken of eclipsing 55km and setting a mark that could stand for decades but extremely high air pressure in London could have cost him as much as one kilometre according to experts.
"I'm just glad it's done," said Wiggins afterwards. "That's the closest I'll ever come to knowing what it's like to have a baby. It was just torture.
"I was constantly looking at the clock, counting down the minutes. I'm relieved it's done now, it's been such a long build-up since the Paris-Roubaix (race in April) and we've been through a lot as a team.
"My wife and children know more about air pressure now than anyone!
"When you're out there, you never think it's going to come to an end but it's done now."
Unperturbed by the readings on the barometer, Wiggins made an electrifying start but quickly calmed his effort, cheered on by a sell-out crowd of 5 500 at the 2012 Olympic cycling venue.
Within 10 laps of the 250-metre track, Wiggins was seven seconds up on his world record pace, building his advantage to 73 seconds by the halfway stage, at which point he had established an average speed of over 54.6km/h.
The reigning Olympic time-trial champion maintained that pace with metronomic consistency until the final 12 minutes when the effort finally began to take its toll and his average speed dipped fractionally.
By the 52-minute mark, Wiggins looked visibly troubled and strayed above his race line for the first time but, with five minutes remaining, the Londoner sailed through the 200-lap mark and an already raucous crowd erupted in celebration.
Finally, Wiggins went through 212 laps, beating Dowsett's existing world record with one minute 42 seconds remaining, He then added a further six laps to set the new mark.
"I've always compared myself to the greats," said Wiggins who had invited former Tour de France winner, hour record-holder and his childhood hero, Miguel Indurain, to the event.
"I'm just glad to be in the company of those guys - Miguel, (Tony) Rominger, Chris (Boardman), just to get up there and do that, put yourself on the line, takes a lot of courage.
"It just tops off my career. If it was the only thing I did in my career, perhaps it might have gone a bit unnoticed. But to do everything and come here as an old man is fantastic," added the four-time Olympic gold-medallist who, in 2012, became the first British winner of the Tour de France.
"I think more than any other ride I've done, this one was a bit more emotional," said Wiggins, who had previously indicated that next year's Olympics in Rio is likely to mark his farewell to competitive cycling.
"A lot of friends are staying in the same hotel as me and they were all getting wasted yesterday, all nursing hangovers this morning at breakfast.
"I had to get my hair cut and shave and went to the hairdressers this morning and the bloke said 'What are you up to today?!' I said, 'Oh, not much really.'"
The clean-shaven Wiggins, resplendent in golden shoes and helmet, may be celebrating one of the more astonishing performances in the 122-year history of the UCI Hour Record but his coach, Heiko Salzwedel, feared conditions at the indoor track may have cost him an unassailable mark.
"We had incredibly high air pressure here," said Salzwedel. "It was very sticky here, it makes a hell of a difference. Everybody was waiting for the sun to come out, we were waiting for the rain! Put it this way, he pushed the bar very far but not far enough."