Scottish cyclist and Olympic hero Chris Hoy has tonight won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 9000 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
Before the event, bookies had the Scot trailing swimmer Rebecca Adlington and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. However, a public telephone vote saw Hoy easily outpacing his ‘rivals’.
Hoy is the first cyclist to win the coveted award since Tom Simpson in 1965.
In Beijing, the Edinburgh-born Hoy became the first British athlete to win three golds at a single Olympics.
"To win this in this year in particular, it’s hard to explain what it means because I think British sport has enjoyed one of its best years in my lifetime," he said.
"This is the culmination of 12 years of hard work for me."
Hoy wasn’t the only cyclist to win big on the night. The British Cycling team won the team of the year award – up against the whole Olympic team and Manchester United. British Cycling’s inspirational performance director Dave Brailsford won the coach of the year award. He said he was surprised to win the award because "cycling is a small sport."
Sitting with Brailsford at the awards bash was British Cycling’s outgoing president Peter King and chairman Brian Cookson.
Pictured lots, but not interviewed, was commentator Hugh Roberts, the voice of cycling on the BBC.
The British Cycling team stole the show, all of the riders victory parading through the 9000 members of the audience after shooting down a long, set-dominating ramp, built, it seems, to highlight the cyclists.
Nicole Cooke was interviewed at length, making up for a previous year’s patronising interview by Adrian Chiles ("how often do you fall off your bike?")
Cooke even made a plea for a new team sponsor.
Some would argue it should have been her winning the grand title because she won the tough Olympic road event, in appalling conditions, against spirited opponents, and later followed it up by winning the world championships, too.
Bradley Wiggins was flippant but funny. He said the British cyclists were overwhelming favourites in Beijing and it was merely a box ticking exercise to win so many golds. "It sounds terrible," he said, "but that’s how it is."
Victoria ‘pin-up’ Pendleton was the spokesperson for the British Cycling team, giving the cameras lots of excuses for close-ups of Britain’s most glamourous sporting champion (although many remain surprised she wasn’t on the shortlist of ten alongside her teammates Wiggins, Hoy, Cooke and Rebecca Romero).
At the end of the programme, Chris Hoy was given a long and enthusiastic standing ovation.
"Thanks for clapping so long," he joked. "It gave me a chance to think of something to say."
He then launched into a heart-warming and polished acceptance speech.
It was a night when cycling was in the spotlight like never before. A nation of supposed petrolheads voted for a cyclist ahead of Lewis Hamilton, the youngest ever F1 champion.
Whereas winning multiple golds at the Olympics was almost a given, winning the public vote was never going to be easy. In the end, Chris Hoy – and cycling – romped home, an incredible achievement.
Some of the night’s success has to down to the intelligence of a Cycling Weekly campaign. The magazine called on cyclists to vote for Hoy not the other three cyclists on the SPOTY shortlist. This way there was no risk of splitting the vote, deserving though the others were.
Scottish newspapers were also vociferous in support of Hoy.
Hoy said "cycling has had the most incredible year."