Olympic cycling: Bradley Wiggins & Chris Froome hail Hampton roar

By Matt SlaterBBC sports news reporter at Hampton Court Palace

British cycling stars Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome praised the "phenomenal" support they were given by the people who lined the route of the men's time trial event on Wednesday.

Expectant fans began gathering along the 49km course in south west London hours before the start of the women's time trial at 12:30 BST.

And by the time the leading male riders started their bids for Olympic glory two and a half hours later, the crowd outside Hampton Court Palace was five-deep against the barriers.

"You would have to be deaf not to hear them," said Wiggins, whose victory brought him a British record seventh Olympic medal.

"But the point where I was most aware of it was coming around the roundabout in Kingston - the noise was incredible.

"I'm never, ever going to experience anything like that again in my sporting career. That's it. That experience topped everything off right there. It was phenomenal."

After the medal ceremony, which saw Wiggins receive the fourth Olympic gold of his remarkable career and Froome a richly deserved bronze, the time trial champion got back on his bike to thank "the real fans".

"I wanted to see my wife, but also all the people who had stood by the roadside and shouted through the whole thing," said Wiggins.

"Usually, the great thing about cycling is that anybody can watch it, it's very accessible. But here [at the start and finish] you have to be in the chosen few, it's a bit of a prawn-sandwich fest.

"We all know about Olympic ticketing, so it was nice to go back out and just show some appreciation for all that they did for that hour.

"It's a shame they, the real fans, couldn't see the ceremony, so it was nice to go out and roll up and down."

Kenyan-born Froome was also visibly moved by the encouragement he received out on the course.

"I almost expected today to be like a stage of the Tour de France, where you get lots of people by the side of the road and you don't really take in too much," he said.

"But this was something very different: it's certainly something I will never forget. The roads were lined with people, and they weren't just cheering, they were screaming our names.

"It just leaves me with goose bumps thinking about it. The support was enormous. I don't think I'll ever experience it again."

Both men, who teamed up to such spectacular effect at the Tour de France last month, now intend to soak up the atmosphere at London 2012 before going their separate ways.

Wiggins, who became the first British rider to win the Tour just 10 days ago, wants "a few vodka tonics" before watching his old track cycling team-mates in action, while Froome also wants to see some sport before returning to his Monaco base to prepare for professional cycling's third biggest stage race, the Vuelta, later this month.

For Wiggins, the real challenge will be returning to "the normal life" he craves. He laughed off suggestions that a knighthood is imminent, saying it would be an honour but he would "probably keep it in the drawer".

The 32-year-old also admitted he had no idea how he would deal with the attention that is coming his way.

"You train all year for the physical aspect of cycling but you can't plan for what comes next," he said.

"You're still the same person. External perceptions might change but inside you're the same. You just want to go back to normal. I guess it's why people end up in the Priory or as alcoholics."

He was joking, of course, but things are not going to be normal in Wiggins's world for some time.

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