A Brit to win the Tour, finally
Bradley Wiggins winning the 2012 Tour de France(Image: ASO)
A British rider has never won the Tour de France. Tonight, barring a collision with a baguette cart or a van of gendarmes, Bradley Wiggins will become the first.
The race had killed its most famous British cyclist, Tom Simpson, in 1967. The leader of a weak team, Simpson was high on amphetamines and alcohol when he collapsed and died on the hot moonscape of Mont Ventoux.
But there’s been no such suffering for Wiggins. In a race perfectly suited to his time trialling strengths and as leader of a ridiculously dominant team, he’s hardly broken out into a sweat.
He looked to be blowing a little harder in the latter mountain stages, but that could have been him swearing under his breath at the upstart of a teammate and fellow ‘Brit’ (ie Kenyan/South African) Chris Froome who didn’t make it half obvious that he was capable of taking the race away from his mutton-chopped elder any time he wanted.
Protected and sucked along by the Australian super domestiques Richie Porte and Michael Rogers, the needle-thin duo of ‘Wig the Twig’ and ‘Froome the Broom (stick)’ proceeded to prick at the resolve of poor Cadel. By the time Evans rode over those rogue tacks all hope of winning back-to-back titles had been punctured.
During last night’s time trial Evans looked like he’d had enough – suffering the indignity of being passed by his 23-year-old support rider Tejay Van Garderen.
I’m not sure if the impact of Evans’ defeat is lessened or made worse by the substantial Australian contribution to this first British victory.
There is Porte and Rogers, of course, who worked so effectively to kill off Evans’ teammates. The Sky team is owned by a rather prominent Australian in Rupert Murdoch, its head coach Shane Sutton is an Aussie, and Wiggins’ father Gary was an Australian national track champion.
The methods of Team Sky, reminding many people of the ruthless clinical teams of Lance Armstrong, have not made the victory a hugely popular one among the Continentals. The dominant display, particularly of Froome, also made some people suspicious.
Evans, I’m sure, wasn’t insinuating anything but how many times have we heard this about a rider later found to be doping:
“Froome was incredible – he rode the front the last 3km or something and he was able to follow me and accelerate past me.”
The usually humourless Wiggins, however, was seen smiling and has slowly endeared himself to followers, being labelled “Le Gentleman Wiggins” by the French media after waiting for Evans during the puncture fiasco of Stage 14.
However, he is already being reminded of the absence of Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador and the fact that he had a teammate who was stronger, hence his lamentation: “No one’s actually praised me yet. No one’s actually said: ‘You know what, Brad, good on you mate!’”
Froome will probably lead the team at next year’s Tour, and going on what we’ve seen, will probably win. But Wiggins should rightly celebrate being the first Briton to win this great race.
And shortly we will find out if the name of Lance Armstrong is to be removed from its historical record.
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