Bradley Wiggins gave Great Britain its first medal in the 2013 World Championships. Tony Martin (Germany) destroyed everyone for a third time trial title and Wiggins came from behind to swipe silver from Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland).

He explained 24 hours earlier that a worlds’ title would count more than his Olympic gold medals and that it would answer his critics. He was unsure of what a silver medal would mean. He said today, the silver medal “responds to the critics”.

Wiggins said that he was at a low point after abandoning the Giro d’Italia. He said he started from scratch, rode on his own in Lancashire, filled his own bottles and repaired his own tubes. Wiggins explained: “It felt like a complete fall from grace.”

He suffered a similar blow when he broke his collarbone in the early stages of the 2011 Tour de France. He returned, placed third in the Vuelta a España and, again that year, won a silver medal behind Martin in Copenhagen. The following year was magical.

Given Martin’s ride today, the real race was for second place. Cancellara led through the first time check by 15 seconds and the second by 24 seconds. Wiggins kept constant pace in his blue shorts and white top, set off by his black Pinarello with gold letters. He reduced his deficit from Cancellara to 12 seconds at the third check and led at the final check, the finish.

“I didn’t die off or speed up, I just held the same speed, a bit like Carl Lewis used to run the 100-metre,” Wiggins said. “I rode to power, I was consistent all the way through … I was riding 450 watts the whole way, at the end I was touching 500 watts.”

Wiggins crossed the line with 1 hour, 6-22 minutes. Cancellara, black shorts with a red and white top, finished 2.25 seconds later. Martin confirmed his early time checks and flashed through 46 seconds faster than Wiggins.

Martin, when asked, would not say how many watts he was riding, but he clearly impressed Wiggins. “Tony has really good top power, he pushes a really big gear,” Wiggins said. “He’s just like the mould of Chris Boardman, he looks like he was born to do it.” Boardman is the last and only Brit to win the time trial title.

Wiggins, with the silver medal adding to wins in Britain and Poland, ends his season on a high. It is not the same high as a gold medal, what his critics would have expected from an Olympic champion, but it has value. It may become Great Britain’s only medal this week, depending on how the road races go, and it may put Wiggins on the right track for 2014.

“I’ve come a long way since the start in June. Hopefully it’s a good platform for next year,” added Wiggins. “I’ve not been thinking about next year. All the focus has been getting through this and then I’ll think about next year.”

Wiggins left and rode in the car to GB’s headquarters in Pistoia. On Friday, he will meet up with Froome and discuss how they can try to win the road race two days later, on Sunday. Afterwards, the winter starts and Wiggins considers his next move.

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Tony Martin wins time trial title as Wiggins takes silver