The Team Sky rider clocked 19 minutes 54.20 seconds over stage three on a rain-lashed 16-kilometre course that started and ended in Knowsley Safari Park. It was enough to propel him into the gold jersey, 33 seconds ahead of fellow Briton Ian Stannard in the overall standings after his Team Sky colleague finished runner-up in 20mins 26sec.
Wiggins will now aim to defend his lead over the next five days of racing after enduring a difficult season, which included a failed bid at the Giro d'Italia. He is shaping up well now, though, for a tilt at the World Championships in Florence later this month.
"Admittedly it's not been a great season up to now," admitted the Olympic champion, "for one reason or another. But I've been training right through July and I couldn't tell you how many times I've gone round this course. It was nice to do a performance like that after the last two days. To win these races . . . I'm not a great climber so I had to get as much out of that time trial as possible. I had to take every second I could really."
Wiggins escaped lightly from a high-speed crash in the Lake District on Monday and was pleased with the way he attacked the course in treacherous conditions. "It was obviously [down to] commitment on the roundabouts," he said. "I wanted to take those roundabouts as fast as I could. Crashing yesterday, not flinching and getting back in there; it's not like me. I normally take my bat home."
Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Sky general manager, was impressed by Wiggins' application and believes the 33-year-old has positioned himself well for the remainder of the race. "That was pretty much ideal," he said. "It is always difficult when you have challenging conditions and miserable weather. But Brad has been concentrating well and he came to this race with serious intent. He has applied himself fantastically. It was a short time-trial here but the time was a good one.
"It bodes well for the next few days. There is a lot of hard work to do but we're in a good place and that's where we wanted to be. There's a lot of racing to come and we're not counting our chickens but Brad doesn't need to go on the attack now. He has a buffer and it is all about managing that."
New Zealander Jack Bauer was third in the time-trial, finishing 42 seconds short of Wiggins' mark and Mark Cavendish produced a creditable 21mins 20sec in one of his less favoured stages but there was slight disappointment for Movistar's Alex Dowsett. The three-time British time-trial champion beat Wiggins at the Giro d'Italia and came in with high hopes here, only to fall well short with a time of 20mins 50sec.
Overnight leader Gerald Ciolek of MTN Qhubeka fell off the pace after clocking 21min 45sec.