Yellow jersey Wiggins entered the final kilometre of the three-week stage race in on the front of the peloton moments before world champion Cavendish won his fourth successive stage victory on the Champs Elysees.
Arms aloft, Wiggins crossed the line safely in the peloton to secure a historic win in the world's greatest cycling race. The 32-year-old finished the 99th Tour de France three minutes and 21 seconds faster than fellow Briton and Sky team-mate Chris Froome.
Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas completed the podium to become first Italian to finish in the Tour’s top three since Ivan Basso in 2005. Nibali finished the race 6:19 down on a near-flawless Wiggins.
"What a way to finish. We had a job to do and we were on a mission for Cav. I’ve got to start getting used to being the winner of the Tour. Wow," said an elated Wiggins before mounting the final podium.
Under a cloudless blue sky in Paris, Cavendish won the final sprint comfortably ahead of green jersey Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge). It was the 23rd Tour stage victory of Cavendish’s career and his third in this year’s race. The 27-year-old also becomes the first reigning world champion to win on the Champs Elysees.
"That was incredible, with the yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins pulling on the front going into the last kilometre," said Cavendish, who has now won on every occasion he has ridden into Paris. "I went early and gave it everything. It’s the cherry on the top of a wonderful Tour."
Cavendish's third win of the Tour marked the sixth stage victory for Team Sky after Wiggins’s two time trial scalps and a win in the Alps for Froome.
Londoner Wiggins is the first Briton to stand on the top step of the podium in the Tour de France’s 109-year history. In fact, both Wiggins and Froome are the first British men to make a Tour podium – the previous highest finish being fourth-place by Robert Millar in 1984 and Wiggins himself in 2010.
The unprecedented British one-two also represents the first time two riders from the same team have topped the overall standings since 1996 when Dane Bjarne Riis finished first ahead of his German Telekom team-mate Jan Ullrich. The last time two riders from the same nation topped the standings was back in 1984 when Laurent Fignon beat fellow Frenchman Bernard Hinault.
Comprehensive victories in both major time trials – in Besancon and Chartres – as well as solid riding in the mountains alongside Froome were the key for Wiggins, who never placed lower than second place in the GC after completing the opening prologue in Liege seven seconds slower than Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara.
Wiggins took the yellow jersey from the RadioShack-Nissan rider after placing third at La Planche des Belles Filles in stage seven, won by Froome. The last time the maillot jaune switched shoulders just once was during the 1977 Tour, although in 1999 there were also just two wearers of the yellow jersey after Finn Jaan Kirsipuu took the race lead from prologue winner Lance Armstrong for six days before the American seized yellow back to take it all the way to Paris.
Triple Olympic track champion Wiggins arrived at the Tour having already made history after becoming the first man to win Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine stage races in the same season.
Wiggins’s crowning glory has been placed in the same bracket as Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile, England’s World Cup win of 1966 and Fred Perry’s three successive Wimbledon tennis titles.
Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s triple gold medal winner from the Beijing 2008 Olympics, has labelled Wiggins’s win as “the greatest sporting achievement of any British sportsperson ever”. The Sunday Times also suggested that Wiggins was the greatest all-round cyclist of all time, stressing his versatility in switching from track to road cycling.
Slovakian tyro Sagan won the green jersey competition in his debut Tour de France, the triple stage winner becoming the youngest green jersey after Willy Planckaert, who also won at 22 years old in 1966.
French favourite Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) won the race’s king of the mountains competition after taking wins in both the Alps and Pyrenees. 33-year-old Voeckler's victory in the polka dot jersey competition allowed him to mount the podium in Paris for the very first time in his career after missing out last year, when he finished the race in fourth place after wearing the maillot jaune for 10 days.
One of the revelations of the race, Tejay van Garderen, not only finished fifth but also won the white jersey competition as the race’s best young rider. The 23-year-old American started the race as one of defending champion Cadel Evans’s main lieutenants at BMC – but finished two places above Evans after the Australian struggled in the Pyrenees in the final week of the race.
Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), the youngest rider in the race, secured a tenth-place finish in his debut race – as well as victory in stage eight. But Pinot was not the highest placed Frenchman – that accolade went to stage 11 winner Pierre Rolland of Europcar, who finished eighth.
RadioShack-Nissan secured the team classification award – despite a troubled Tour that saw their leading rider, Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, thrown off the race on the second rest day in Pau after testing positive for a diuretic.
Four teams arrived in Paris with a full quote of nine riders – Lotto-Belisol, Liquigas, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff and BMC – while 153 riders completed the race from the 198 who took to the start in Liege.