Bradley Wiggins on the verge of Tour de France triumph
CYCLING fans are flocking to Paris in anticipation of witnessing sporting history tomorrow – Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France in its 109-year history.
Barring crashes, illness or other disasters, the 32-year-old will triumph in one of the world’s most arduous and most-watched sporting events when the 2,172-mile race climaxes in the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Wiggins has worn the leader’s yellow jersey, or maillot jaune, since the seventh of the Tour’s 20 stages, and has seemed assured of victory since increasing his lead during the mountain stages, which ended in the Pyrenees on Thursday.
Between him and the finish line lies a 33-mile individual time trial (ITT) today between Bonneval and Chartres, followed by the final, 75-mile stage from Rambouillet, south west of Paris, into the French capital.
Wiggins yesterday avoided the latest mishap to befall riders – a large black dog causing several to crash when it crossed the road as they approached.
On Sunday, he was among some 30 riders suffering punctures after tacks were scattered across the route.
At the end of the 18th stage yesterday, a 139-mile northward haul through mid-southern France, Wiggins retained his lead of two minutes five seconds.
He said: “The Tour is not over until Sunday. You have to concentrate, to refocus and stay in the front all day, because the last thing you want at this stage is a little crash or something and there is a lot of them because there are a lot of tired bodies.”
Those heading for Paris include Brian Robinson, 81, who was the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour, in 1958.
He said his reaction to Wiggins’s success could be summed up as “euphoria – a job well done”.
He went on: “It’s fantastic. We never dreamed of this in my early days. We were scrubbing along at the back of the bunch.
“To go right through the bunch, if you like, and to get to the top by a Brit is great. It can’t get any better, can it?”
Speaking at his home in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, where he still rides his bike regularly, Mr Robinson rejected any suggestion modern cyclists have an easier time than those of his generation.
“Riding the bike is riding the bike,” he said. “No matter how good the bike is, you’ve still got to push it.”
Supporters have been telling the BBC Sport website of their plans to fly to Paris this weekend. One, Dan, from Edinburgh, said: “We have bright yellow morph suits, Wiggo masks and mutton chops to cheer on our latest cycling legend.”
Wiggins has also been buoyed along by support from cycling legends such as Scottish Olympic star Sir Chris Hoy, who said: “If he makes it to the finishing line in Paris, it will be one of the greatest achievements by a British sportsman ever. It’s phenomenal.”
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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