Le Tour: End of part

Bradley Wiggins Yellow Jersey
Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France, yellow jersey presentation, July 9th, 2012

one.

While the mainstream media have been obsessing themselves over a gurning, crybaby loser Jock, they’re happy relegating winners to mere mentions, pages back if even that.

Been one hell of a first part of this year’s Tour de France which you could say has had everything. And best of all it’s ended with Bradley Wiggins going into the next stage wearing the yellow jersey with his team-mate Chris Froome sitting in third spot.

The first part was the goal for the last day, so the job as Wiggins has repeatedly stressed is nowhere near finished, the second part shouldn’t be as big a surprise as people seem to be thinking.

It started well for Sky and Wiggins back in prologue time trial in Liège coming in second, 7 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara who would go on to hold yellow for most of the week. But things started to be a bit mixed up for the British team after that. They knew the overall goal was Wiggins in the general classification but they’d also brought along reigning green jersey, and World Champion, Mark Cavendish.

Well Cav doesn’t normally win the first available pure sprint and of course he needs the lead out train, that HTC provided for all those stage victories over the last few years. Stage two put that on it’s head, as he did his own thing with very little support, taking off from André Greipel’s back wheel to beat the German by half a wheel.

It is strange seeing Cavendish battle it out against his erstwhile HTC train members Goss and Renshaw. The guys that used to do so much work to deliver him perfectly to the line.

Either side of that 21st stage victory for Cav, were to more indications of the new wunderkind in Peter Sagan. He added another three stages down the line and now has 6 stage victories in major tours, three each in the only two he’s competed in. If he goes on like that.

There had been some crashes already and Sky had lost Kanstantsin Sivtsov on stage 3, as they seemed to be playing a dangerous game, no protection for their leading man, Wiggins, or even the sideshow, Cavendish. It was highlighted as more crashes marked the race and on stage 4 Cavendish and his lead-out man Bernhard Eisel were taken out in a crash inside the final 3km. Amazingly Sagan was behind that crash and his brilliant bike handling skills kept him in it to win the stage.

The following day Sky seemed to have their act in gear, riding at the front, out of danger and together in a line, whereas before they were all over the peloton and lucky that Wiggins hadn’t been caught up in any of the dangerous pileups that cost him so badly last year. Though the goal was more the protection of Wiggins it all looked set for a delivery of Cav to the finish line. But the train blew up far too early and he was left with too much to do with one team mate and himself and could only finish fifth as Greipel won his second consecutive stage.

In doing so the German showed he could match Sagan’s bike handling skills as he avoided the instigator of the last crash of the day Tyler Farrar. Dodging past the falling rider and his flying bike, while using the American’s back to push himself off.

Going for his hat-trick of stage wins Greipel would spend the next stage picking himself up off the ground and hurting, in a day of big crashes that took out a number of the GC contenders. Greipel though picked himself up to finish second just behind Sagan. Not bad you say but when you hear that he dislocated his shoulder in one of those crashes, popping it back in himself it puts things into perspective. Coming second after that looks pretty damn good now.

It’s another case where you look at footballers rolling about after being barely touched and think to guys riding on with broken limbs, dislocated shoulders and then with Oscar Freire finishing stage 6, after being in that big crash 15 miles out, with three broken ribs which punctured his lung.

He rode 15 miles with that and you’re rolling about after someone brushed you with their hand you big tart.

Wiggins had kept himself out of most of the trouble and was still in second as the top 10 hadn’t changed much after stage 1. And here came the tough stuff. The mountains. La Planche des Belles Filles. Sky rode it perfectly completely destroying the peloton so that with 1km to go there was only five riders left at the front Wiggins, Chris Froome, Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali and Rein Taaramäe. Going up the final part of the climb to the summit finish, Evans tried to break it lead to Wiggins getting out of the saddle for what seemed like the first time all day, Froome had dropped back but found that extra spurt to go over Evans to win the stage. The Australian was still fighting to create a gap between himself and Wiggins, but while he was out of his saddle, Wiggins was back in his and reeled him back in. To take yellow.

Bradley Wiggins
Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France, yellow jersey presentation, July 9th, 2012

The fifth British rider to take the yellow jersey, after Tom Simpson, (1962 for one day), Chris Boardman (1994, three days; 1997, one day; 1998, two days), Sean Yates (1994, one day) and David Millar (2000, three days).

Some seemed surprised by Froome on the climb but hadn’t they watched last years Vuelta? Numerous times he lead Wiggins up a climb to drop back, get a second wind and ether come back to help Wiggins or go on himself. This was nothing new.

The following day through the Jura Mountains Sky, Wiggins and Froome again rode the prefect race as again, as everyone knew he would, Evans tried to attack and again while the Australian was out of the saddle Wiggins kept calm, in his and reeled him back again.

Then the time trial, Wiggins speciality. But also one for Froome and again it was met with surprise but as before it shouldn’t have been, with last year’s Vuelta. In that Tour’s time trial, Froome destroyed the field, Wiggins included, which eventually put him second on the podium. Froome blasted Cancellara’s, a favourite in this discipline, time to see Wiggins knock another half a minute off this best time. In a reversal of last year’s Vuelta where he overcooked himself and posted a disappointing time, for him. Froome moved himself up to third in the GC standings with this ride.

Wiggins is first and with his first ever stage win at Le Tour it makes three victories for Sky, one in each type of stage, sprint, mountain and time trial.

With Evans only managing 6th on the stage Wiggins increased his GC lead to 1 minute 53 seconds. It’s a big gap but there’s still 10 proper stages (plus the formality into Paris on the final day) to come, so much can happen in those days, many of them in the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees but Wiggins is better placed than anyone else at the moment.

Bradly Wiggins
Bradley Wiggins celebrates his yellow jersey, Tour de France, July 9th, 2012

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