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Britain's greatest Olympian may have amassed six gold medals yet he's not worth a punt

A CYCLIST will be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year tomorrow night.

Don't take my word for it. The bookies have rarely been more certain. Yet sadly it will not be Scotland's own Chris Hoy. Being Britain's greatest Olympic competitor and most successful Olympic male cyclist will not rate highly enough. That's a measure of the sports class of 2012.

And the winner is ...?

Bradley Wiggins. Or at least he is the most keenly priced contender in history. Every one of the 20 bookies listed by Oddschecker, the starting price comparison site, make him a near cert, with 3/7 the best available. The same bookie rates Hoy 284/1.

Alas Sir Chris. What more could the Edinburgh rider have done? In the overworked lexicon of sporting superlatives, the modest and charismatic Edinburgh rider and Olympic standard-bearer stands supreme. I do not expect to see a British sportsman to match him in my lifetime. After all, it took 100 years to match the exploits of swimmer Henry Taylor from a different and gentler sporting era.

Hoy is the definitive endorsement of the value of the work ethic; that all things and anything are achievable if you work hard, make sacrifices, and pursue your dreams with tunnel-vision oblivious to seemingly insurmountable problems. In a world where reality TV preaches the microwave philosophy of instant fame and gratification, all of the contenders represent a reality check. And values truly worth aspiring to.

Olympic exploits apart, Sir Chris might still have been on the short list with his 11th track title (keirin) at the Melbourne World Championships which brought his career medal haul to 25.

It's all but forgotten now, but France and Germany had routinely beaten the GB sprint squad for two years prior to that Olympic victory with its two world records (with Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes). Yet most of all Hoy is defined by his electrifying charge when all seemed lost in the keirin.

It seems incredible that the successful defence of two Olympic titles and six gold medals, which overtook Sir Steve Redgrave's British record haul, merits only eighth in the betting, and equally remarkable that one place behind him is Rory McIlroy.

Not since Tony Jacklin won the 1969 Open and US Open in successive years, only to finish second (to Wimbledon singles winner Ann Jones and then boxer Henry Cooper) has a British golfer's performance seemed so undervalued.

We each have our preferred heroes and heroines, our favoured sports, yet few with any vestige of objectivity could surely deny Wiggo whose wizardry in the saddle fufils the Beeb's criteria. The award goes to the person "whose actions have most captured the public's imagination".

Road cycling, and it's track cousin, are not truly pan-global sports like football or athletics, accessible to all. This might influence the choice of some. The drug-tainted image of road cycling might impact on those who might otherwise vote for Wiggins. The selfless riding of compatriot and Tour de France runner-up Chris Froome might sway others who consider Froome might have been champion himself, but for team instructions. Yet they all will surely be outweighed by voters simply captivated by the improbablity of this first British victory – a Cool Runnings-style bobsleigh win.

Wiggins' Tour victory (not least the manner of it) and his Olympic gold are iconic. His insistence that the peloton did not take advantage of the punctures which befell nearest rival Cadel Evans was an act of endearing nobility. Mere mortals, presented with the chance to grasp their personal Holy Grail, would be unable to reject such an opportunity.

Hoy displayed similar grace when excluded from the defence of his Olympic sprint title in favour of Kenny, congratulating his rival and wishing him well. His public statement, that selectors had made the right decision, in contrast to the toys-out-the-pram attitude prevalent in some sports, endeared him to us even more.

Further cycling success, which would be the third in five years following Hoy in 1998 and Mark Cavendish last year, would seal cycling's arrival in the pantheon of major British sport. This is certain to be reaffirmed by UK Sport funding figures to be announced on Tuesday.

It will also nudge cycling nearer the mainstream, focusing attention. Yet proof of its arrival will best be judged by the numbers who can be persuaded to use Glasgow's Sir Chris Hoy velodrome regularly. As with Andy Murray, legacy will be measured by youngsters taking up the sport and staying with it.

Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah (both 15-2), and Andy Murray (171-10) are Wiggins's closest rivals, but might as well be racing him up the Champs Elysees on Hoy's first Raleigh Burner for all the sniff they will have of that silver camera on its ebony plinth. Ellie Simmons (80-1) and David Weir (100-1) are the next closest contenders, with Katherine Grainger and Sarah Storey rank outsiders at 949-1. You don't get odds like this on the turf far less in races for 12 thoroughbreds.

Any of tomorrow's field might have been deemed winner in less vintage years. Murray's US Open win best exemplifies this. Greg Rusedski won in 1997. He went out of the Australian and French opens in the first round that year, and Wimbledon in the quarter-finals. His big "achievement" was losing the US final to Pat Rafter.

Though the bookies do not rate Murray in the first three, with the athletics vote certain to be split around Olympic heptathlon champion Ennis and the five and 10k-winner, Farah, Murray may make the podium. A splintered track and field viewers' vote could even knock Ennis and Farah out of the running. At the risk of invading the Tenner Bet territory of my esteemed colleague James Morgan, Simmons and Weir look value each-way bets.

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