The 32-year-old Londoner came home safely in the field to triumph by a margin of three minutes 21 seconds over fellow Briton and Sky team-mate Chris Froome, with Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali finishing in third place.

No Briton had even finished on the podium before, with Wiggins’s fourth place finish in 2009 equalling Robert Millar’s finish of 1984 as the previous best British performance.

Mark Cavendish rounded off arguably the greatest day in the history of British cycling by winning the prestigious final leg of the Tour, 120km from  Rambouillet, on the Champs Elysee in Paris.

Defending champion Cadel Evans finished the Tour in seventh place, with Tejay van Garderen winning the white jersey for the best rider aged under 25, the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey going to France’s Thomas Voeckler, and Slovakian Peter Sagan winning the green jersey in the points competition.I’ve had the last 24 hours for everything to really sink in, but today we were on a mission to finish the job off with Cav… job done really,’ Wiggins told ITV1 after his victory.

He was keen to stress the role played by his Team Sky colleagues, and delighted to have succeeded in his stated goal of helping Cavendish win the prestigious final stage of the Tour. ‘We had a job to do and we did it – what a way for [Mark Cavendish] to finish it off,’ he said.

‘I’ve got to get used to this now, it’s going to take a while. I’m just trying to soak in every minute of it; it’s very surreal so far.

‘You imagine this happens to other people but never to you, it’s incredible.

‘I bet I will look back in years to come and say ‘that was special’.’

News of the result was announced to the crowd at The Oval while the England v South Africa Test cricket match was in play, and greeted with huge celebrations.

The result provides the dream build-up for Wiggins and Cavendish’s Olympics, where they will both be regarded as major medal contenders.