Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins becomes the fifth British rider to pull on the Maillot Jaune
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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins becomes the fifth British rider to pull on the Maillot Jaune

by Ben Atkins at 1:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Belgian-born Londoner the first since Tom Simpson with a chance of holding yellow to Paris

bradley wigginsAfter his Sky team put the peloton to the sword on the short, but very steep climb to la Planche des Belles Filles in today’s seventh stage of the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins became only the fifth rider to pull on the Maillot Jaune of race leader. Unlike most of his predecessors however, the Belgian-born Londoner has a real chance of holding on to cycling’s biggest prize all the way to Paris in two weeks time.

So far this year, Wiggins has taken home yellow jerseys at Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, and the Critérium du Dauphiné - for the second straight year - making him hot favourite for the overall Tour title.

“I’ve dreamt about this all year,” said the 32-year-old to the TV cameras after the race. “As you go through the process, put it into action and do a day like we did today, that is an incredible feeling.

“It hasn't really sunk in yet,” he added. “It is something that I have dreamt of since I was a child, really, sat on the home trainer watching my Tour de France hero Miguel Indurain do it. Now I am here at the top of a mountain in yellow…it is phenomenal.

Tom Simpson became the first Briton to pull on the jersey in 1962, when he finished the race in sixth overall. This was the highest-ever finish by a British rider until Scotsman Robert Millar took fourth in 1984, and Simpson - the 1965 World champion - was touted as a possible winner. It was his relentless pursuit of the prize in 1967 - when illness and dehydration, combined with alcohol and amphetamines - under the unforgiving Provencal sun saw him ride himself to death on Mont Ventoux.

Britain next saw yellow in 1994 when Chris Boardman won the first of three prologues; despite taking the short time trial again, in 1997 and 1998 - and placing highly in a number of major stage races like the Critérium du Dauphiné - the Merseysider was never a realistic Tour champion. Super-domestique Sean Yates was the second British rider to wear yellow in the 1994 race - although neither of them was to don it on the race’s two stages in Britain - but this was more of a reward for many years of long service.

David Millar took yellow after winning the opening time trial of the 2000 race. The Malta-born Scot was thought of as a possible contender for the big prize, but lost a number of his best years to a drugs ban after admitting the use of EPO some time later.

Wiggins finished fourth in the 2009 Tour, which made him the biggest target signing for the new Sky team in 2010. It was this Sky team that was responsible for ridding him of most of his rivals as the final steep kilometres ticked by.

“It was always the plan,” he explained. “It is what we have trained for for a year. I was shouting at Froomey [teammate Chris Froome - ed] with a K and a half to go to just save a little bit, we didn’t need to go any harder. I knew he could win the stage if he kept a little back, it was a fantastic finish for him. My priority was just to watch Cadel [Evans], I knew I was going to take yellow.

“It is just fantastic. To take yellow, the stage, Froomey has got the King of the Mountains – it was an incredible day,” he added.

The 2012 Tour has long-since been predicted to be a battle-royale between defending champion Evans and pretender Wiggins, but this was because of the number of kilometres against the clock in the race. The two rivals began their fight a little earlier than many expected, and have already seen off a number of the race’s climbers before the time trialling has begun.

In the final half-kilometre, having followed Team Sky’s pace for the entire climb, Evans attacked the British riders for the stage win but was ultimately chased down and beaten by Froome.

“I was always expecting him to,” said Wiggins. “That kind of finish is very abnormal in the Tour de France, a twenty percent finish like that. It was just a case of holding enough back to ensure that I stayed with Cadel and took the jersey, because that was the priority all day today.”

The Australian did manage to gap Wiggins in his first acceleration, but the Briton managed to claw him back before the line.

“I thought I’d just stay in the saddle,” he said. “I didn’t want to disrupt the rhythm by getting out of the saddle. I gauged my effort to the line, really. The priority was not to lose any time on Cadel.

“I am chuffed for Froomey,” he added. “He had misfortune last week, but now he has got his stage and he is going to be an integral part of me winning this race.

“Survived a very, very manic first week, and I’m just pleased now we are in yellow.”

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