It is fair to say Bradley Wiggins became something of a national icon after he ended Britain’s 99-year wait for a Tour de France winner. Indeed, after he won Olympic gold, he bagged a knighthood and the Sports Personality of the Year award to boot (I was so sure he would win I plonked £50 on it happening, I didn’t get too much back).
All in all, a bloody good year for our Brad.
But, whilst the majority of the British public will almost certainly not agree, fellow Brit Chris Froome’s domination of this, the 100th Tour, is far more impressive.
Whilst Wiggins won conservatively, not making any big moves in the mountains safe in the knowledge he could make huge gains in the time trials. Froome has gone out and destroyed all his rivals in a manner not seen for many a year.
The sight of the Yellow Jersey attacking from the front is a rare sight these days. It is much rarer when there is 7km of the fearsome Mont Ventoux still left to climb.
But that is exactly what we saw yesterday as Froome accelerated ferociously away from former winner Alberto Contador. As Froome blasted away from Contador, it looked, for the briefest of moments that the Spaniard might be able to stay with him, but that feeling didn’t last long.
Froome was long gone within a matter of seconds. He didn’t even have to get out of the saddle to blow Contador away. He didn’t even look like the increased speed was an issue.
He quickly made his way up to Nairo Quintana, supposedly the strongest climber on this tour, and whilst the Colombian was able to hang on to Froome for a few kilometres, he was eventually broken by the consistent pace of the Briton.
Froome eventually won the stage by 29 seconds to Quintana and took over a minute-and-a-half from his closest rivals Contador and Mollema. He is now over four minutes clear of second-placed Mollema in the standings and it would take a brave man to bet against him taking even more time in Wednesday’s time trial and the further Alpine mountain stages to come.
Whilst Wiggins’ victory last year was undoubtedly impressive, there was always the lingering suspicion that if Froome had been let off his leash, he could have challenged Wiggins. That suspicion has certainly been strengthened on the evidence of the last two weeks.
Even more impressively, whilst Wiggins had Froome himself by his side almost permanently, offerring his support so that Wiggins had an easier ride, Froome has, at times, been left on his own by Team Sky.
His chief lieutenant Richie Porte was in fine form yesterday, but has looked vulnerable at times and Froome felt so comfortable yesterday that he left his support behind with 7km of gruelling climbing still ahead.
Winning the Tour de France is one of the toughest sporting challenges on the planet, winning it in such dominant fashion is quite remarkable.
Of course, Froome has won nothing yet, but it would take either an horrendous crash or a remarkable loss of form to deny him the honour of winning the 100th edition of this famous race.
So whilst the British public might not recognise the magnitude of Froome’s achievement, the wider cycling fraternity will marvel at the fashion of Froome’s impending victory.Published 16 Jul 2013, 00:24 IST