Many casual sport fans will not know who Bradley Wiggins is. They almost certainly won’t know who Chris Froome is. But over the next two weeks, the former will surely complete one of the greatest sporting triumphs in recent times.
British Tennis fans’ wait for a British champion at Wimbledon pales in comparison to the even longer suffering cycling fans. This is the 99th edition of the Tour de France. There has never been a British winner. No one has even come close. It makes Tim Henman’s perennial semi-finals seem like some sort of miraculous triumph.
Wiggins and Team Sky have changed the landscape of British cycling forever. This Tour will not be a one off. British riders could be dominating the tour for the foreseeable future. In Mark Cavendish, they have the best sprinter. In Wiggins, arguably the best all-round rider and then there is Chris Froome, who, if he didn’t have to support his team leader Wiggins, could surely be challenging for the Tour win himself.
Mondays time trial was nothing short of remarkable. It was seen as a key day in the fight for the yellow jersey as Wiggins looked to put time into his main challenger Evans. Most pundits predicted a 30 second gain for Wiggins, which would put him at a massive advantage going into the high mountains. With another time trial in the penultimate stage, Evans would have to put serious time into Wiggins during the mountain stages.
At the first checkpoint, Wiggins led Evans by over a minute. At the next, he led by 1 minute and 30 seconds. By the time Wiggins finally rolled into the finish, he had obliterated Evans’ time by 1’43 seconds. Extending his overall lead to 1’53.
It was not just the time which was so impressive. Wiggins looked at consummate ease throughout the stage, rarely lifting himself out of the saddle. Evans however, looked like a man fighting with his body. You could see the pained expression on his face, his legs bursting every sinew to keep up with the seemingly machine powered Wiggins.
It wasn’t nearly enough. Towards the end, it was even touch and go as to whether he would lose second place to Chris Froome, who put in an effort which shocked observers and commentators alike. It was a performance many thought he wasn’t capable of, put together with his undoubted ability in the mountains, he will surely by a Tour contender for years to come.
Wiggins is in pole position to take this Tour victory. But it won’t be easy, there is nothing easy about the Tour de France. It is a grueling event which can break even the hardiest of athletes. It’s the reason the sport is so often embroiled in drugs controversy.
If Wiggins does roll into Paris in Yellow it will be a great sporting triumph, no doubt about that. I just hope it gets the coverage it deserves. And I urge you all to watch a truly enthralling sporting event.