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UPDATED: Wiggins announces retirement at age 36

LONDON (AFP) — Bradley Wiggins announced his retirement from professional cycling on Wednesday, bringing the curtain down on a career that saw him become one of Great Britain’s greatest sportsmen.

The 36-year-old became Britain’s first Tour de France winner in 2012 and bows out with eight Olympic medals, including five golds, and eight world titles, across track and road cycling.

“I have been lucky enough to live a dream and fulfill my childhood aspiration of making a living and a career out of the sport I fell in love with at the age of 12,” Wiggins said in a statement on the Facebook page of his Wiggins team.

“I’ve met my idols and ridden with and alongside the best for 20 years. I have worked with the world’s best coaches and managers, who I will always be grateful to for their support.”

Wiggins, nicknamed “Wiggo,” is the only male cyclist to have won world and Olympic gold medals in both the track and road disciplines of cycling.

His other achievements include the world hour record, set in June 2015, and wearing the leader’s jersey in each of the three grand tours. He also jointly holds the world record in the team pursuit.

His finest hour came in 2012, when he followed up Tour de France success by winning time trial gold at the 2012 Olympics in his hometown of London.

“What will stick with me forever is the support and love from the public though thick and thin, all as a result of riding a pushbike for a living,” Wiggins added.

“2012 blew my mind and was a gas. Cycling has given me everything and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wonderful wife Cath and our amazing kids.

“2016 is the end of the road for this chapter, onwards and upwards, ‘feet on the ground, head in the clouds’ kids from Kilburn don’t win Olympic Golds and Tour de Frances’! They do now.”

Bob Howden, the president of British Cycling, said Wiggins has assured his place in history, saying “few sports people have had the impact on life in this country as Sir Bradley Wiggins”.

“He retires as one of British sport’s great champions, not just for the medals and the sheer diversity of races he won but also for the way in which he used his achievements to inspire so many people to become active by getting on their bikes.”

Born in Ghent, Belgium to an Australian cyclist father (Gary) and a British mother (Linda), Wiggins was raised in Kilburn, northwest London and would become an icon of British sport.

His “mod” sideburns and irreverent public pronouncements made him a beloved figure and he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II — making him Sir Bradley — in 2013.

He bowed out at the Ghent Six Day last month, having taken his tally of Olympic gold medals to five with victory in the team pursuit at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

But the final months of his career have been overshadowed by whispers about shady practices during his time with Team Sky, which coincided with the most successful period of his career.

It was revealed in September that he obtained therapeutic use exemptions for the banned substance triamcinolone shortly before the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

He has denied wrongdoing and there is no suggestion he has broken any rules, but UK Anti-Doping is investigating.

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