Cycling is no stranger to hype. Bradley Wiggins was almost one of the most noteworthy victims of it.
For years, the sport’s biggest stage has played host to the sport’s largest artificial creations — the expectations that a laundry list of stars would emerge in the Tour de France for only a tenth of the promise to come good.
Wiggins’ expectations explosion came in 2009 when the former track sprinter began his metamorphosis, shedding a couple dozen kilograms and suddenly finding climbing legs no one imagined he had by finishing fourth in the Tour, tying Robert Millar for the highest ever finish for a Briton.
It started, though, to look like those few grand days were a flash in the pan. The inaugural Sky team he jumped to after spending 2009 with Garmin faltered in the mountains, leading to a 24th-place finish in 2010. A year later, he was among the many riders caught up in the early-stage carnage and withdrew.
It appeared as though Wiggins might never put things together. Three weeks later, it’s hard to believe that was ever the thought.
Wiggins dominated the Tour, physically and logistically, en route to winning the race’s 99th edition today in Paris, a result that left little question.
With 20 races and over 200 riders, it’s hardly the only highlight. So as has become tradition (can you call it tradition in year three?) here are my 21 points for 21 stages.
Wiggo the magnificent. It was Bradley Wiggins’ race from start to finish. Billed as a time trialist’s Tour for the two lengthy races against the clock, Wiggins came through, winning both with ease, including the domination in the penultimate stage Saturday that provided the exclamation point. He wore the Yellow Jersey since Day 8, taking over from Fabian Cancellara, to whom Wiggins finished second in the prologue by seven seconds. It’s the first time since Jaan Kirsipuu and Lance Armstrong in 1999 that the Yellow Jersey had only two wearers. But more impressive was the way in which Wiggins carried himself up the mountains. His Sky team controlled the peloton in a manner we haven’t seen since Armstrong’s Discovery Channel and USPS teams. When there were attacks, the champion of Paris-Nice, the Criterium du Dauphine and the Tour de Romandie always seemed able to respond and never gave the impression he was about to crack. He finished three minutes ahead of teammate Chris Froome and over six minutes before third-place Vincenzo Nibali, absolutely massive time gaps. It was Wiggins who made sure that during Stage 14’s tack attack the group waited for Cadel Evans after repeated punctures. He also provided enough sound bites, from the clean “boring” Tour to the thank you for the media, to cut an entertaining figure. To say it was Wiggins’ Tour is no exaggeration. To say that Wiggins’ accomplishment is the greatest ever by a British athlete, well that’s for others to decide. Read More…