Tour De France 2012 - Stage 19
Briton will wear yellow jersey to Paris
Bradley Wiggins was in a class of his own as he claimed his second time trial victory in this year’s race and with it cleared the final hurdle on his way to becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France. Fastest at all of the intermediate check points, Wiggins completed the 53.5km course between Bonneval and Chartres in 1:04:13, putting him 1:16 ahead of his Sky teammate Chris Froome, who consolidated his position in second place overall.
Third place on the day went to Rabobank’s Luis León Sánchez, who held the lead for a substantial part of the afternoon but ended up 1:50 down on Wiggins. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) produced another competitive performance to cement his grip on the third spot on the podium. But there was a significant change further down the top 10 as defending champion Cadel Evans finished outside the top 50 on the day to drop to seventh place overall behind Haimar Zubeldia.
As has been the case so often during this race, the day was all about Team Sky and, of course, Wiggins. “This is what I wanted to do, to go out with a bang,” said the Briton, who is set to be crowned Tour de France champion in Paris tomorrow afternoon. “The Tour isn’t over until now, but this is what I do best. I came out here in March with Sean to look at the course and I knew it would suit me.”
Wiggins has looked stronger than all of his rivals during the Tour’s final week and said that he knew from his first pedal stroke as he warmed up that he was going to perform well.
“I knew I was on it when I went down the start ramp. In the last 15-20k I knew what my advantage was and I was thinking about my wife and kids, my mum, all of the people who’ve helped me get to where I am… I know it sounds cheesy but I was thinking about the fact that I’ve spent my whole life working to get to this point – this is the defining moment. It’s all been summed up today.”
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford, whose daily mantra has been “We’re taking it one day at a time”, acknowledged: “We can start thinking about winning this race barring accidents.”
Brailsford was fulsome in his praise for his team leader and the rest of the Sky team. “I think Brad showed today why he is the leader of this team. He smashed the best time and Froomey did the same as well. It’s good to have two guys who can top the world in a sport that, quite honestly, we weren’t all that good at not so long ago. For Brad as a British rider to win this race in a British team with a British sponsor is a fantastic achievement,” said Brailsford.
He added: “People laughed when I said that our aim was to win the Tour within five years with a clean British rider. But I wouldn’t underestimate the effect that our Olympic experience has had. But this is a different sport on a very different playing field. But today is all about Bradley Wiggins and his incredible achievement.”
Gretsch and Sánchez set early pace
Argos-Shimano’s Patrick Gretsch set the fastest time for the 53.5km course among the early starters. Almost two hours passed before Luis León Sánchez clipped 38 seconds off Gretsch’s mark, the Spaniard crossing the line in 1:06:03.
The Rabobank rider remained in pole position for another two-and-a-half hours. During that period Peter Velits came closest to Sánchez’s time, finishing 12 seconds down just as Froome and Wiggins were making their final preparations before taking to the start ramp.
There were huge cheers when Wiggins set off down the ramp. Up ahead of Wiggins, Froome and Nibali, best young rider Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) set the fastest time at the first check point, but that mark lasted just a matter of minutes. Froome went through 23 seconds quicker, then Wiggins followed another 12 seconds faster.
By the second check, Van Garderen’s fast start appeared to be taking a toll as he went through fourth fastest. However, by that point the young American had his team leader Evans in his sights and seemed to get a lift as he blasted by the defending champion. Froome also looked to be slipping slightly as he came through just four seconds faster than Sánchez. Wiggins, though, was unstoppable. Now 54 seconds up on Froome, he had his second stage win in his sights.
Wiggins fastest from first to last
Froome picked up his pace again coming into the final quarter of the test. He went through the third time check 22 seconds up on Sánchez. However, Wiggins was still pulling away. Now 1:15 up on his team-mate, he looked as smooth and faultless as ever.
At the line, Froome was not far off catching his three-minute man, Nibali, as he bettered Sánchez’s mark by 34 seconds. But Froome’s lead lasted little more than 90 seconds.
Wiggins powered relentlessly on towards the line, only sitting up out of his tuck in the very final metres to punch the air and celebrate his victory. It had been a superbly judged ride rounding off a fantastic performance over the whole three weeks. Chapeau, Brad!