Looking back, this Tour de France pretty much ended the day Bradley Wiggins slipped into the yellow jersey way back on Stage 7.
He had sat quietly in 2nd place all week, 7 seconds behind the overall leader Fabian Cancellara who won the prologue, while the sprinters crashed and battled for stage wins. Then on that Saturday, Wiggins and his Team SKY teammates broke the back of the peloton on the first ascent of the Tour and never looked back.
On Sunday, Wiggins will go into the history books as the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, which started in 1903.
Even though defending champion Cadel Evans beat Wiggins to the mountaintop finish on Stage 7, he couldn’t make up the overall deficit and ended the day 10 seconds behind.
More importantly, Evans lost that day to Wiggins teammate Chris Froome, who through the following two weeks continued to usher his captain over mountain passes in the Alps and Pyrenees.
Not taking anything away from Wiggins, but it appeared that it was Froome who finally beat Evans, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), and all the other favorites for the yellow jersey. They couldn’t sustain the relentless pressure he put on them.
As the days and weeks progressed, Froome climbed the standings into 2nd place overall as Wiggins’ lieutenant. On some mountain stages, the only drama in the general classification battle seemed to be whether Froome would attack and make a bid for the yellow jersey himself.
Froome was born in Kenya and grew up in South Africa. He races his bicycle under a British license, though, and he remained completely loyal to teammate Wiggins throughout the race, even when it appeared that he could have left him in the dust a few times.
For such a strong climber, Froome showed strength in the time trials. He finished 15 seconds down in the prologue (11th overall), 35 seconds behind Wiggins in the Stage 9 ITT (2nd place), and 1:16 behind Wiggins in Saturday’s Stage 19 (still good enough for 2nd place).
At 27, Froome has many more years of racing. SKY needs to treat him very well to ensure he remains on the team and doesn’t become a future rival for Wiggins.
Meanwhile, this Tour revealed another strong prospect and perhaps the next great hope for American cycling.
BMC Racing Tejay Van Garderen protected the best young rider’s white jersey for most of the race and will wear it on the ride into Paris on Sunday.
Like Wiggins and Froome, Van Garderen also displayed lots of strength in both the ascents and time trials. On Saturday, Van Garderen finished 7th in the ITT, 2:34 behind Wiggins. He admitted to flagging a bit at the end, saying that a 33-mile time trial is a long way after 19 stages.
Still, that finish was good enough to put him in 5th place overall, a good finish for his second Tour de France. At 23, the native of Tacoma, Washington, has many years ahead of him in the peloton.
Top 10 overall
|1.||GBR WIGGINS Bradley||101||SKY PROCYCLING||84h 26′ 31”|
|2.||GBR FROOME Christopher||105||SKY PROCYCLING||84h 29′ 52”||+ 03′ 21”|
|3.||ITA NIBALI Vincenzo||51||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||84h 32′ 50”||+ 06′ 19”|
|4.||BEL VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen||111||LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM||84h 36′ 46”||+ 10′ 15”|
|5.||USA VAN GARDEREN Tejay||9||BMC RACING TEAM||84h 37′ 35”||+ 11′ 04”|
|6.||ESP ZUBELDIA Haimar||19||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||84h 42′ 14”||+ 15′ 43”|
|7.||AUS EVANS Cadel||1||BMC RACING TEAM||84h 42′ 22”||+ 15′ 51”|
|8.||FRA ROLLAND Pierre||29||TEAM EUROPCAR||84h 43′ 02”||+ 16′ 31”|
|9.||SLO BRAJKOVIC Janez||181||ASTANA PRO TEAM||84h 43′ 09”||+ 16′ 38”|
|10.||FRA PINOT Thibaut||146||FDJ-BIGMAT||84h 43′ 48”||+ 17′ 17”|