London – Bradley Wiggins' victory in the Tour de France elevates him to the pantheon of British sporting greats and should see the 32-year-old receive a knighthood, Britain's press said on Monday.
In becoming the first ever Briton to win the prestigious race, the Belgian-born Londoner has set the stage for the upcoming Olympic Games and also demonstrated how a top athlete should conduct himself on and off the track, the country's papers noted.
“Wiggo hailed UK's greatest sportsman,” tabloid The Mirror ran across its front page.
Popular tabloid The Sun said “a new British hero” had been immortalised, comparing Wiggins to cricketer Ian Botham, footballer Bobby Moore and Olympic rowing legend Steve Redgrave.
“It's only a shame we have to wait until the New Year's honours list to hear the Queen say, “Arise, Sir Bradley,” it added.
The Daily Mail led with “£20m and a knighthood next for wonderful Wiggins,” echoing calls for the three-time Olympic gold medalist to be honoured by the queen.
Meanwhile, The Daily Star called for Wiggins to light the Olympic flame at Friday's ceremony, although he is due to compete in the men's road race the following day.
Wiggins was crowned Britain's first Tour de France champion on Sunday after helping Sky team-mate Mark Cavendish to secure a fourth consecutive stage win on the world-famous Champs Elysees.
Wiggins, who virtually sealed victory with his second time-trial win of the three-week epic on Saturday, finished the 3,479km race with a 3min 21sec lead over British teammate Chris Froome after the 20th and last stage to Paris.
“There is no easy way to win the Tour de France, and even in this Olympic year it is hard to imagine a British sporting achievement that will even run it close,” the Guardian suggested.
Brendan Gallagher, who helped Wiggins write his autobiographies, highlighted the champion's rounded personality which has endeared him to British supporters.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Gallagher celebrated the achievements of “a man who used to neck 15-20 pints of strong Belgian beer in one sitting and who now goes six months without touching a drop” and “a devoted family man who this year has hardly seen his wife Cath and their two children”.
“This year and particularly this last week in France we have seen the real Brad Wiggins, a very human, sometimes flawed but very decent individual who makes us laugh, think and proud at the same time,” he added.
The Sunday Times, which carried a souvenir cover celebrating the “Promenade des Anglais”, said Wiggins had “proved to be a great champion of British sport. He has also shown himself to be a fine man.”
Thousands of Britons lined the streets of Paris to savour the historic final stage.
“On a hot afternoon in Paris, a very British party took over the world's most famous boulevard,” said the Times' race report.
“The magical reverie of this historic Tour was encapsulated by yesterday's final kilometre, in which Wiggins, wearing the yellow jersey, led Cavendish, in the world champion's jersey, to the corner of the Place de la Concorde, before the Manxman yet again let rip and left his rivals gasping in his wake,” it added. – Sapa-AFP