Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win three Olympic medals at a single Games for 40 years after his series of triumphs at the Athens velodrome.
Not since Mary Rand in Tokyo in 1964 had a British sportsman or woman enjoyed such success.
His efforts - a gold, silver and bronze - caught the public attention back home and eventually led to his OBE in the New Year Honours List.
But Wiggins was modest, saying "after all, it's only bloody sport".
In an earlier interview with BBC Sport, however, he went further into his track histrionics.
He said: "I was going out there and doing it for the millions of people back home. And at the time it's the biggest thing in your life and that's why it consumes you so much."
Born to an Australian cyclist father, who made his living racing in Belgium, Wiggins looked destined for life in the saddle.
And at the age of 12, he decided to follow suit.
Wiggins Jr immediately proved there was natural talent in his wiry frame - he is surprisingly tall for a cyclist at 6ft 3ins - and got off to the best possible start by winning his first race.
BRADLEY WIGGINS FACTFILE
Professional team: Credit Agricole
Former teams: Linda McCartney, Francaise des Jeux
World honours: World pursuit champion - 2003
Olympic honours: Individual pursuit gold - 2004; Team pursuit silver - 2004; Madison bronze - 2004; Team pursuit bronze - 2000
His inspiration for getting into cycling, though, was not his father but Chris Boardman's track gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
High-profile glory was achieved by Wiggins in 1998 when, as an 18-year-old, he won the world junior pursuit crown.
A year later he moved to the professional circuit, combining his track acumen with building a road-racing career.
Third place at the Grenoble Six as a 20-year-old showed some potential, but his cycling growth suffered a bitter blow within his professional team.
Signed to British team Linda McCartney, the squad rapidly fell apart after prolonged in-fighting.
Wiggins was then snapped up by French team Francaise des Jeux, where he continued to shine on the track.
Signs of what was to come in Athens first appeared in Sydney four years earlier where he won bronze in the team pursuit.
Further bronze and silverware followed at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, as well as successive World Championships.
Wiggins (right) took his third track medal with Rob Hayles
But it was not until 2003 Wiggins finally got the best of his rivals when crowned world pursuit champion.
By the time he arrived in Greece in August, he was still little known in households across the country.
That changed the moment he blitzed great rival Bradley McGee off the track in the individual pursuit.
He failed to repeat the feat in the team pursuit where he and his three team-mates were just off the pace of the Australians for silver.
But his name was firmly cemented in the record books with bronze in the somewhat bizarre madison - the event where teams of two riders take time racing on track, changing turns by propelling each other forward by hand.
When Wiggins' partner Rob Hayles crashed out, a medal looked virtually impossible.
But Hayles got back on, and he and Wiggins stormed to an impressive bronze.
Wiggins recalled: "I was told a medal was still possible but this sort of thing only happens to other people. I never thought this could happen to me."
For all the accolades, his latest included, Wiggins has taken it all in his stride.