'No room for poetry' as Froome eggs Wiggins on to Tour victory

Jul 20, 2012
Bill Mann

French cycling journo carps about Team Sky's efficiency as Chris Froome sacrifices everything for Bradley Wiggins

Bryn Lennon

BRADLEY WIGGINS admitted for the first time on Thursday that he’s now dreaming of wearing the Yellow Jersey in Paris on Sunday.

That’s when the Tour de France ends and, barring a major misfortune, the 32-year-old Wiggins will cross the finishing line on the Champs Elysees to become the first Briton to win cycling’s Holy Grail.

Having come through a gruelling day in the Pyrenees on Wednesday, yesterday was the last day in the mountains and the last opportunity for Vincenzo Nibali to make up the two minutes that separate him from Wiggins and his Sky teammate Chris Froome.

But Nibali, who’d ridden such a gutsy race on Wednesday in a failed attempt to break Wiggins, was clearly suffering in the saddle on the 144km Stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes. The Sicilian rider eventually lost 18 seconds to the British duo and is now two minutes and 41 seconds behind Wiggins with Froome second overall.

Not that Wiggins looked entirely comfortable on Thursday as he and Froome tried to chase down Alejandro Valverde to claim the Stage 17 win. As they climbed towards the finishing line Wiggins was in trouble and Froome sacrificed his chance to win the stage by staying with his teammate and offering encouragement.

Wiggins later admitted that he’d suffered on the climb. "The moment we crossed the Peyresourde, I allowed myself to drift and that was the first time I thought maybe I've won the Tour today,” explained the Englishman later. "All the way up that last climb my concentration had gone, everything about performance had gone. Chris was egging me on to take more time and I was in another world, really."

It wasn’t the first time in this Tour that the 27-year-old Froome, the superior climber of the pair, has put the needs of Wiggins before his own. Asked if he was getting fed up with waiting for his teammate, Froome replied: "Everyone in the team makes sacrifices for the yellow jersey, that's cycling. It’s our work.”

Froome added that he’s still got many years of cycling ahead of him and “I hope to win the Tour one day”. Wiggins echoed the sentiment, saying of his teammate: "I'm sure that he will win the Tour one day. Yes, maybe he is stronger than me in the mountains, for sure, but I'm not a true climber. I'm still a rider against the clock who can climb."

Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford was also full of praise, not just for Froome but for the whole Sky team who worked together to ensure Wiggins remained on course to become the first Briton to win the Tour in its 109-year-history.

"We set out to consolidate the lead and the yellow jersey and we showed again we are the best team in the race,” said Brailsford. “Unity was really important to us, I'm very proud of that.”

Impressive as the unity is, there’s no doubt the 2012 Tour has been short on drama and excitement as a result. The Sky riders have done a clinical job in defending Wiggins’s Yellow Jersey and shutting out their rivals.

"Anglo-Saxon teams like Sky are more organised, they are more pro," admitted Yves Blanc, editor of Le Cycle magazine, in an interview with the BBC.

"Every member has a clear job to do, serving the leader, and there's no room for poetry... we have lost something of the romance of the Tour. For the French the history of the Tour is about people who attack, who fail, who overcome disaster to win in the fog or the rain. It's not like that anymore.”

Not that Wiggins will care. All that matters to him is getting through the remaining two stages without a hitch so he can cycle into the history books on Sunday.

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I'm not too sure that Froome would really be a genuine challenger were it not for team orders. On the two occasions when he was perceived to have been 'held back' by Wiggins, he had earlier in both stages flagged and left his team leader to take up the slack. He'll get his chance, and to be fair to him has not been contributing to le grand debat about whether he is better than Wiggins or not.