By Neil Robinson
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's most decorated cyclist Bradley Wiggins announced his retirement on Wednesday after a stellar career during which he won most of the sport's biggest prizes.
The wise-cracking Londoner with a Mod haircut played a major part in growing cycling's popularity in his homeland, becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France in 2012 and collecting a British record eight Olympic medals, including gold in the time trial at the 2012 London Games.
"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," the 36-year-old Wiggins said on Twitter.
The final months of his career have been dogged by a row over therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) and a medical package delivered to Team Sky officials ahead of the 2011 Tour de France, but Wiggins did not mention those issues.
"I've met my idols and ridden with and alongside the best for 20 years," he said.
"I have worked with the world’s best coaches and managers who I will always be grateful to for their support.
"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," added Wiggins who won five Olympic gold medals.
"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."
The son of an Australian cyclist, Wiggins was born in the Belgian city of Ghent but raised in London from the age of two.
His great strength was to prove equally adept at road and track cycling, switching between the disciplines in pursuit of ever more glory.
In all he won 10 medals at track world championships and enjoyed sustained Olympic success over 16 years. In Sydney 2000 he won silver in the team pursuit and he collected more medals in each Games before claiming his fifth and final gold at Rio in 2016.
It will be for winning the Tour de France, however, that Wiggins will be especially remembered in more ways than one. His triumph in cycling's most prestigious race moved the sport from the back pages of British newspapers to the front, where Wiggins often stayed for the remainder of his career.
Earlier this year his medical records were made public after a cyber attack. These showed that he had been granted multiple TUEs exemptions as an asthma sufferer, prompting questions about Wiggins's openness on the subject.
British media reported that a mystery package had been delivered to Wiggins, which his boss at Sky Dave Brailsford later told Parliament had contained a decongestant.
Wiggins consistently denied any wrongdoing but the episode provided a sour postscript to an astonishing career in which the boy from Kilburn took the high road and never looked back.
(Editing by John Stonestreet and Ed Osmond)