Le Tour de (France) Wiggo 2012
Well, that is it for another year and what a 3 weeks of cycling that was, not just for Bradley Wiggins, but for British cycling. What has just happened will be a mystery for many British folk walking down the street, but this has to be one of the greatest achievements by a British athlete of all time, so let me explain.
This year’s Tour de France was ridden over a course that was 3,497 km (2,173 miles) in length and involved the riders going through the Jura Alps, The Alps and the Pyrennes. This makes up the largest annual sporting event on the planet.
Even though one man wins, this is not an individual sport. It is a sport that involves a complete team working, where 8 other riders work tirelessly to bring glory to one man, who, if he is good enough will go on to win the Tour. This years winner, Bradley Wiggins has had an amazing team behind him and the riders on the road will put any football squad to shame. When was the last time you saw a World Champion acting as a work horse for his team captain? Well, this has been the case for the last 3 weeks.
World Champion, Mark Cavendish has sacrificed personal glory for the honour of being part of a team of cyclists that want to achieve one thing – putting the first British rider on the top step of the podium of the Tour de France. The other amazing fact is that all the prize money earned by Bradley Wiggin’s team, Team Sky, will be pooled and split between the riders and team at the either the end of the race or the end of the season.
Could you imagine Wayne Rooney giving his win bonuses back for the good of the squad? I think not!!!!
So what do the rider’s in Team Sky do? Well lets start with Mark “Cav” Cavendish, the current World Road Race Champion and the greatest sprinter of all time. He is born to win at all costs, but he has sacrificed this to support Bradley Wiggins in his bid for glory. Cav has only had a few chances to stretch his legs in a traditional sprint, so instead he has acted as a “super domestique” (helper) to ensure that his team leader is fully catered for during the Tour. Cav has been going back to the team car to collect supplies and water bottles for most of the Tour to help the cause.
This is the case for most of the other riders in Team Sky (and all other cycling teams). They are all there to help their team leader no matter what. If the team leader gets a puncture, then 3 or 4 of the team riders will stop instantly to help pace their leader back into the pack (peleton).
When it comes to the mountains, the team leader needs to have riders around him that can help him up the road. Many of the climbs are in excess of 10 miles and in some cases top out at well over 2,000m altitude, so team work is an absolute must to get the leader to the top of the climb in the best position.
In this year’s Tour, this was the job of Michael Rogers, Richie Porte and also Chris Froome. Chris Froome was at Bradley Wiggins’ side for every centimetre of the road in the mountains to ensure that he did not lose time on his closest rivals. In fact, Chris Froome was so good at this, that he got second overall for the entire race!
The other element of the race is the “race of truth” or the individual time trial. This is one man against the clock, with no help from anyone else. This is something that Wiggo excels at and is a natural extension to what he has done on the track, where again he is a world beater. The time trial can be anything from a 7 or 8km opening stage (prologue) or something longer, such as a 53km stage towards the end of the race. In this year’s second individual time trial, which was the penultimate stage, Bradley Wiggins averaged 50km/h (30mph) over the 53km course – an incredible performance.
So, after 20 stages, 3,497 kms and three weeks of racing, the peleton finally come onto the Champs Elysee for the final 40 kms. Most riders in the leaders jersey (Le Maillot Jaune – The Yellow Jersey) sit back and let the sprinters take the glory. Well, this is not the case for Bradley Wiggins. He wants to repay Cav for his hard work over the past weeks and leads him out before the final sprint. Wiggo reaches speeds approaching 40mph, before hading over to his team mate, Edvald Boasson Hagen, before launching Cav for a historic 4th consecutive win on the Champs Elysee. No other rider has done this, and it is also the first time a World Champion has won the sprint on the Champs Elysee at the end of Le Tour.
This win by Cav, completes and amazing Tour for Britain. A British rider has won 7 stages of this years tour….(Mark Cavendish – 3 stages, Bradley Wiggins – 2 stages, Chris Froome – 1 stage and David Millar (Team Garmin) – 1 stage). This again is unprecedented and shows the domintation of British riders in this year’s Tour de France.
So, that is about it now for the Tour 2012. Next stop is the Olympic Road Race on 28th July, when the winner of the Tour de France will have one job to do – ride for, and set up Mark Cavendish for the Gold Medal. If this does not sound right to you, then let me know and I will gladly explain. But I suspect that if you do not understand, then I suspect you are football supporter.
Chapeau to Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and all the other riders and staff at Team Sky. You have done Britain and British Cycling proud!!