June 19 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, July 19, 2012
An emotional Bradley Wiggins allowed himself to contemplate becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France after enhancing his hold on the yellow jersey on today’s final mountain stage.
Wiggins was second in the Tour’s prologue and has remained in the top two of the general classification since, taking the maillot jaune on stage seven and wearing it for a 10th day on the 143.5-kilometre 17th stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes.
A formidable showing saw Wiggins remain two minutes five seconds ahead of Team Sky colleague and fellow Briton Chris Froome, whose primary role is to support his compatriot, in second and move 18 seconds further ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
With third-placed Nibali, who finished the day 2mins 41secs behind with three days’ racing remaining, falling behind as the Britons rode over the Col du Peyresourde en route to the summit at Peyragudes, Wiggins allowed himself to be distracted by thoughts of Paris on Sunday.
The triple Olympic champion said: “At that point, the first time in this whole Tour since I’ve led this race, I thought ‘maybe I’ve just won the Tour’.
“That moment I went over with Chris, all the fight went out of the window, everything to do with the performance.
“And that’s when it starts getting hard then because you lose concentration. It was an incredible feeling. It really was.”
Wiggins has been in imperious form this season, winning the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine stage races.
With Alberto Contador serving a doping ban and Andy Schleck out injured, plus more than 100km of time-trials, Wiggins was highly fancied to beat defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to victory.
The 32-year-old has also had to cope with questions on doping - a topic often discussed with the Tour leader, due to the race’s history - and conjecture that Froome should be Team Sky’s leader.
Wiggins added: “I feel strange. I don’t know what to do at the moment.
“After everything I’ve done this year you still have to justify... ‘so you might’ve won the Tour but is it ever going to be remembered for these people not being here?’
“No-one’s actually patted me on the back yet, it’s all still in a negative sense.
“I haven’t dropped out of the first two for GC for three weeks’ now.”
Froome, who finished one place ahead of Wiggins in second place in last year’s Vuelta a Espana while his team-mate was recovering from a fractured collarbone sustained at the Tour, has proved his climbing ability.
Once again his presence helped Wiggins consolidate his hold on the maillot jaune, but some believe Froome could have won the Tour himself.
Froome was seen imploring Wiggins to stay with him in the finale to Peyragudes and the Tour leader is pleased he has the 27-year-old on his side.
Wiggins added: “He has been absolutely solid the whole Tour.
“If he was in an opposing team then you would constantly have that battle all the time.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out you’d rather have him in your camp than someone else’s. He’s an incredible climber.”
As Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the 17th stage, Froome finished second and an emotional Wiggins on his wheel in third, the opposition trailing in their wake.
“All the way up the last climb I almost had tears in my eyes,” Wiggins added.
Saturday’s penultimate day is a 53.5km time-trial and is likely to be the final opportunity for time changes, but the discipline is Wiggins’ strongest pursuit and success beckons.
No Briton has finished on the Tour podium before. Wiggins’ fourth-placed finish in 2009 equalled Robert Millar’s 1984 British best in the Tour.
Then he moved to Team Sky, whose stated aim was to win the Tour with a British rider within five years.
They are on the cusp of achieving their goal in three and it appears a revolution has begun, with Froome also aiming for the maillot jaune.
Froome said: “Everyone in the team makes sacrifices for the yellow jersey, that’s cycling. It’s our work.
“I’m 27 and I hope to win the Tour one day. If you had said to me a month before the Tour that with three days to go I would be second I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m very happy.”
Wiggins added: “I’m sure that he will win the Tour one day.
“Yes, maybe he is stronger than me in the mountains, for sure, but I’m not a true climber. I’m still a rider against the clock who can climb.”
While Wiggins allowed his emotions to take over, Dave Brailsford, the man who dreamt of and delivered Team Sky, stayed cautious ahead of tomorrow’s 222.5km 18th stage from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, which could end in a sprint finish.
The Team Sky principal said: “We are very proud of our work as a team.
“Normally, barring accidents, the Tour is won but there are still two stages to come. “Things can still happen and if we start to think about Paris it would be dangerous. “So we will stay alert and treat tomorrow like it was the first day again.”