Tour de France: Childhood dream comes true as Bradley Wiggins wins Tour de France
BRADLEY Wiggins woke up yesterday morning in the low-budget Campanile Hotel on the edge of Chartres, knowing that, barring catastrophe, he would be crowned Tour de France champion later in the day.
There was nothing glamorous about the setting, but he was surrounded by reminders of what he was on the brink of accomplishing: the livery of his team’s vehicles, the bus, lorry, vans and cars that filled the car park, had changed from blue to yellow. The Team Sky staff all wore black T-shirts with yellow bands.
As he entered the breakfast room, and picked up a copy of L’Equipe, an image of a British cyclist in yellow, punching the air as he crossed the line at the end of Saturday’s time trial, took up the entire page, with the headline: “A l’heure Anglaise”.
“It’s almost a kind of disbelief that this is happening,” said Wiggins. “It’s little things like seeing the front page of L’Equipe. You don’t realise it’s you on there. It’s strange.”
He recalled that as a 13-year-old boy he had taken the newly opened Eurostar to Paris with his mother to watch the final stage of the 1993 Tour. “I stood on the Champs-Élysées. I remember [Miguel]
Indurain and [Gianni] Bugno in the world champion’s jersey. I never imagined that 19 years later I’d be coming down there in the same position. It sounds clichéd and pathetic, but it’s the childhood stuff of dreams really. And it’s what I’ve dreamed of for 20 years, but never imagined it could become reality.”
Later in the day that scene was reprised with Wiggins in the Indurain role, Mark Cavendish in the rainbow jersey that had been worn by Bugno. This time, however, the two stars were team-mates, and British, and Wiggins was determined to repay Cavendish for the help he has given – and the sacrifice he has made, missing out on stage victories as Team Sky prioritised overall victory – over the past three weeks.
With two kilometres to go, Wiggins was on the front, lining the bunch out behind him, in a bid to set up Cavendish for the win. He swung off to the side, and began to slide back through the peloton, just after the flamme rouge, signifying the final kilometre, to watch Edvald Boasson Hagen take over the pace-setting, before Cavendish jumped 350 metres from the line to win for a fourth consecutive time on the Champs-Élysées.
“We had a job to do with Cav and we did it,” said Wiggins. “What a way for him to finish it off. It’s incredible. I bet I’ll look back in years to come and think, ‘God, that was special’.”
Earlier, he had tried to describe what it might mean. He found it difficult. “The thing that’s struck me the most the last 12 hours or so is just what it means to other people around me – my photographer breaking down in tears in my room; my mechanic in tears; things like that, and you just think f****** hell, it’s not just me who’s gone through this, everyone else around me has lived it, too.”
“That’s quite a nice feeling, that you can have that impact on someone. So I’m almost the last person to soak it up and know what it feels like. And I guess that will happen over time. A lot of it is relief.”
Wiggins’ triumph is the greatest moment in British cycling history, and it owes much, he reflected yesterday, to British Cycling, the national body. “It’s been the mainstay of my whole career,” he said. “Whatever team I’ve been in – Francaise des Jeux, Credit Agricole, Cofidis – whatever jersey I’ve been out there on the road in, I’ve always come back to British Cycling.
“Since I was 18 and in [the then performance director] Peter Keen’s office as a junior world champion and he said to me, ‘I’ve got however many million, we’re going to start this thing called the world class performance plan and we want you to be the first athlete on it. . .’ ” It was the start of lottery funding, with an initial £2.5m, and the beginning of a revolution in cycling in Britain, which had always been an international backwater.
“I’m a product of that system,” said Wiggins. “I’ve been through every success in my career – Olympics, world championships, now the Tour de France – with the same people. Dave [Brailsford] was there when I was 18, walking round the bloody velodrome. They’ve been there the whole time. They’re the backbone to my career.”
Earlier, Brailsford had said that he thought Cadel Evans, the 2011 Tour winner, had struggled to repeat his success because of the attention he got as the first Australian winner. It had been impossible, he said, for him to prepare as assiduously for the 2012 race.
Wiggins could face a similar challenge. In the past, notably after his first Olympic gold medal in 2004, he has struggled to retain his focus and maintain the monastic lifestyle. He drank heavily the winter after that success, and admits he briefly lost sight of why he was cycling.
But he also pointed out that he is 32 now, not 24. “I want to keep going,” he said. “I don’t want this to go tits up. So I need to keep going, to keep the momentum. I’ll have my normal post-season break, then get back to training and start thinking of the goals again in October.
“I’ve got a couple more years and I want to keep this momentum going and think about my goals for next year,” he continued. “But it’s not the time to think about it now. It’s way too early.”
For the moment, his thoughts are on the Olympics. Last night, he, Cavendish and Chris Froome, who yesterday confirmed his second overall placing in Paris, flew to Surrey to prepare for Saturday’s road race and the time trial, a week on Wednesday. While the others will head straight to the Olympic holding camp, Wiggins will be allowed to go home to Lancashire for two days, though he will be out on his bike today. “I’ll just go on my usual loops,” he said. “It’ll be nice to ride along with a bit of peace and quiet, enjoying riding the bike without all these bloody idiots on motorbikes taking photos of you.”
But he will be thinking about the Olympics, especially the time trial. After his performance on Saturday, winning the 53km penultimate stage, he is the favourite for the gold medal. “That performance, how I felt, the numbers I was producing, I was already thinking about the Olympic Games, that it’s realistic to think I can win that now,” he said.
“I’ve made so many improvements in my time trialling this year. A year ago, when I was beaten by Tony [Martin] at the worlds by quite a way, I thought I was probably just going to get a medal at the Olympics. But 12 months on I’ve certainly closed the gap.
“If I’m one hundred per cent honest, it’s gold or nothing in London now. That’s the way I’m treating the next nine days. I can’t sit and say I’ll be happy with a silver, or happy with a bronze.”
A gold medal in London will not top the achievement of winning the Tour, said Wiggins. “It will be a separate thing. Coming off the back of this, it will kind of add the hundreds and thousands on the cake. As it stands, the icing is on it. We’ve just got to put the little cherry on top.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West