Bradley Wiggins keeps yellow jersey with time trial victory
Englishman retains lead in Tour de France with emphatic display in solo stage
THE 31-year-old Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins, aiming to be the first British winner of the Tour de France, yesterday sped to victory in the first big time trial in Stage 9, consolidating his grip on the race leader's yellow jersey.
"That was my physical best out there," Wiggins said of the race against the clock - a discipline he loves - in the 41.5-kilometer trial from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon. "It's probably my best time trial ever," he added.
Defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia, seen as Wiggins's greatest threat, placed a disappointing sixth. He called Wiggins and Team Sky team-mate Christopher Froome, who was second, "very, very, very strong riders."
Wiggins finished 35 seconds faster than Froome, with Evans 1:43 behind. Evans remains second overall, trailing Wiggins by 1:53. Froome rose to third, from sixth, and is 2:07 behind his team-mate, reports The Guardian.
It has been an emotional week for the British rider: Wiggins exploded at a press conference earlier this week when asked about Twitter accusations of drug use in cycling, but Team Sky is going from strength to strength in the Tour.
Wiggins insisted the three-week race is far from over, saying a crash or illness could douse his victory hopes. He also noted that Evans has vowed to fight to the finish. "It's never over until the fat lady sings, and she hasn't entered the building yet," he said.
But the stage raises questions about whether Evans - or anyone else - can challenge Wiggins and his team, which has shown strength in both the climbs and time trials that often determine the Tour winner.
"This is the greatest time that I can remember for British cycling," Wiggins said. "I hope that people back home are enjoying it."
If Wiggins goes the rest of the way in yellow, it would mark the first time that only two riders had worn the leader's jersey in a Tour since Lance Armstrong took it from Estonia's Jaan Kirsipuu en route to winning the first of his seven titles in 1999.