Tadej Pogacar snatched victory from Alexey Lutsenko on Stage 5 at the UAE Tour.
Bradley Wiggins’ domination of the final time trial should put to rest any questions about whether he is a worthy winner of the Tour de France.
Not only did it prove that he was the right man to be leading Team Sky ahead of countryman Chris Froome, it also capped off a near-perfect season for the confident Brit, including wins at Paris-Niece, the Tour of Romandy, and the Criterium du Dauphine.
When he rides into Paris he will be the first Briton to win cycling’s crown jewel.
The Stage 19 individual time trial course between Bonneval and Chartres became the exclamation point for Wiggins and Team Sky. Wigging’s time of 1:04:13 was 1:16 faster than Sky teammate Chris Froome. This means that barring disaster, Team Sky and Great Britain will achieve a rare quinuella in the Tour general classification.
While Froome looked to have more punch in his legs than Wiggins in the mountains, Wiggins has used the second and third time trials to set up his tour-winning lead. While it may sound crazy to use the term “easy” when referring to a three-week bike race, the win for Wiggins has had a sense of inevitability about it.
No team and no rider could do anything to take Team Sky and Wiggins out of their comfort zone. Sky had perennial control of the peleton’s tempo, and covered attacks from other GC contenders with ease. In fact, Wiggins seems to have been riding comfortably in third or fourth wheel of the Peleton for most of the 2012 Pro Cycling season. This is testament to his incredible form.
The man who was expected to challenge Wiggins in the final week of the Tour was the defending champion Cadel Evans. Instead it has been one of the most disappointing weeks in the Aussie’s illustrious career. He has hinted at illness but his performance in the final time trial suggested mental as well as physical fatigue had set in, stating “I started the day on empty. I actually started the last few days empty.”
Evans started the 19th stage conceding 8:57 to Wiggins, then dropped a further 5:54. He is now seventh in the GC, a staggering 15:51 behind the champion.
Such is the nature of elite sport that questions are already being raised. First, will Evans retain his spot in the time trial for the Olympics? Secondly, at 35, is this his last real tilt at the Tour? The performance of his team mate, 24-year-old American Tejay van Garderen, may put into doubt Evans’ leadership of BMC racing for next year’s Tour. His ‘tour window’ now seems firmly shut.
From the Australian perspective – I believe that the selectors must keep faith with Cadel. Never doubt a champion with a point to prove. The story is very different for the Brits just a week out from their home Olympics. Cavendish will start favourite on the flat road race course, and Wiggins and Froome are surely strong contenders for the time trial.