Mark Cavendish became only the third cyclist to win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award when he pipped golfer Darren Clarke and athlete Mo Farah to the main prize in Salford.
The Isle of Man rider achieved the two huge goals he set for himself in 2011, becoming the first Briton to win the green jersey in the Tour de France and then clinching gold in the road race at the World Championships.
Cavendish, who joins Tommy Simpson and Sir Chris Hoy as cycling’s winners of the award, said: “I’m speechless. A few of my team-mates here will say that’s a rare thing. Without those guys this wouldn’t even be close to possible.”
Cavendish has established himself as one of the best sprinters in the history of cycling and this year took his tally of Tour de France stage wins to 20.
Veteran Clarke was a surprise winner of the Open Championship this summer, five years after his wife Heather died of breast cancer.
Farah starred at the athletics World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, becoming the first British athlete to win the 5,000 metres title and also taking silver in the 10,000m.
Golfer Lauren Taylor was named Young Sports Personality of the Year.
The 17-year-old became the youngest winner of the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush in its 112-year history in June, before competing alongside the professionals in the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie.
In a year when the absence of any sportswomen on the shortlist for the main award has made headlines, the final three for the young sports personality award were all female, with Taylor beating swimmer Eleanor Simmonds and cyclist Lucy Garner.
The Helen Rollason Award for outstanding achievement went to former Grand National winner Bob Champion, who triumphed at Aintree on Aldaniti in 1981, two years after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 31 and given only months to live.
He retired from riding in 1982, and a year later helped to establish The Bob Champion Cancer Trust, which has raised more than £12m to help fight the disease.
The Coach of the Year award went to England cricket team director Andy Flower, who guided England to a first Ashes win in Australia in more than 20 years last winter, and to the top of the Test world rankings with a comprehensive series victory over India.
The Zimbabwean, who beat Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland to the award, said: “I’m very proud to be part of the England cricket team.”
England’s cricket achievements were also honoured with the Team of the Year award, which was collected by captain Andrew Strauss, also a nominee for the individual award.
Meanwhile, tennis world number one Novak Djokovic won the Overseas Sports Personality of the Year gong, following a year in which he went 41 matches unbeaten and won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
The Unsung Hero Award was presented to husband and wife team Janice Eaglesham and Ian Mirfin, who founded and continue to run The Red Star Athletics Club in Glasgow for people with disabilities.
Five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave received the lifetime achievement award.
Already established as the most outstanding rower of all time after his victory in Atlanta in 1996, Redgrave announced the following year he would carry on competing through to the Games in Sydney in 2000, where he won a fifth consecutive gold.
Since retiring from competitive sport, his Steve Redgrave Fund has raised more than £6m for charity, and he played a key role in helping London win the bid to host the Olympics in 2012.