Sky have no limit as Wiggins triumphs
CYCLING: TOUR DE FRANCEIT IS the measure of sporting greats that they can write their own script, accept that the opposition is aware of it and then live up to expectations. That, pretty much, has been the story of Team Sky’s Tour.
“Everyone knew what we were going to do but there was nothing they could do about it,” said their directeur sportif, Sean Yates, about Bradley Wiggins’ and Mark Cavendish’s victories here but he could have been referring to the entire 22 days since the race left Liege.
Even the weather played the expected part. The sky above Paris could not have been more blue, a perfect match for Team Sky’s thin blue line, which had been swapped for yellow on the team’s support cars for the day.
Dave Brailsford had spoken darkly that morning about the need for Chris Froome to ride on one side of the road and Wiggins on the other so that, if there were a mass pile-up, they would not both be involved. If that was not tongue in cheek, it should have been.
The outcome was as had been scripted, the world champion Cavendish scuttling up the left hand-side of the road to win the stage, Wiggins well back in the depths of the peloton having dropped behind after putting in a fearsome lead-out effort in the final kilometre. It was one of the few times in this Tour when Wiggins looked “on the rivet” as cycling slang has it, elbows bending, shoulders buckling just a little as the power was transmitted to the pedals.
Wiggins crossed the line alongside his team-mate Michael Rogers, the two men beginning the embrace that marked the end of months of shared toil. And as Wiggins became a lone yellow crash hat among a vast sea of cameras up the way, and the “yellow river” podium was dragged out and hastily erected, his team could reflect on what had been achieved and share in the glory, as Christian Knees did, riding slowly back down the Champs to the team bus, weaving from side to side, waving to the crowds as they applauded.
“We had a job to do with Mark today and we were all motivated to do that so it made it go a lot quicker,” said Wiggins. “The concentration was high and for Mark to finish it off like that, well, it couldn’t get any better. Now we’ve come out of our bubble and now we start to realise what it means to all these people who have come over here for the weekend.
“That turn [near the Arc de Triomphe] was just a sea of Brits and the noise was incredible. It was close to what it was like at the Olympics in Athens when I was coming into the home straight. It’s that kind of feeling. It’s phenomenal. You couldn’t fail to hear it. Tonight I go home. Everything turns to the Olympics and I’ll be out on the bike tomorrow and I’ve got an Olympic time trial to try and win. It’s a little weird to leave Paris without a party because it would be nice to spend time with the team and really enjoy it.”
“It’s incredible,” said Richie Porte, Wiggins’s principal mountain watchdog. “People have been going on all year about how he’s peaked too early but the fact is he’s the best athlete out there. People don’t see the six weeks away from our families at altitude training camps, the commitment we’ve shown all year as a group. We always knew Brad had the figures to win the Tour but on Saturday he showed he’s the strongest guy in the race.”