Tomorrow afternoon Team Sky will lead Bradley Wiggins onto the Champs-Elysees on his way to becoming Britain’s first winner of one of the world’s great sporting events after he dominated today's Stage 19 individual time trial. As maillot jaune, Wiggins was the last man out on the 53.5 kilometre course between Bonneval and Chartres, and from the start set about extending his lead over the man in second place on the general classification, his team mate Chris Froome. Never before has a British rider been on the Tour de France podium. Tomorrow, there will one on each of the top two steps.
Froome put in the second fastest time today, ahead of Rabobank's Luis Leon Sanchez, but a towering performance from Wiggins saw him get round the course more than a minute quicker than his team mate. Liquigas-Cannondale's Vincenzo Nibali held on to third place overall, putting in the sixteenth fastest time today, and will complete the podium tomorrow.
There's some unfinished business ahead of Wiggins taking to the podium tomorrow, with the prospect of the maillot jaune helping lead out Mark Cavendish in the rainbow jersey for the sprint to the most famous finish line in cycling. A week today, Wiggins and Froome will help Cavendish go for Olympic gold in London and four days later, the Tour de France winner designate will race in the individual time trial at London. On today's showing, he has every chance of adding a fourth gold medal to the three he has already won on the track.
Sanchez had already posted the quickest time of 1 hour 6 minutes and 3 seconds as Wiggins rolled off the starting ramp in Bonneval at a little after 4.30pm local time today, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Peter Velits second and Richie Porte of Team Sky third.
Immediately, Wiggins was into the aerodynamic tuck that makes him one of the world’s best in the time trial, torso horizontal with the top tube of his Pinarello Graal bike, the frame painted yellow and black.
Head motionless with his gaze fixed ahead and the only movement on his forearms being the rippling caused by their absorption of the vibrations from the road surface, all of the 32-year-old’s power was directed down towards his legs as they powered the cranks on the oval-shaped O-Symetric chainring he uses.
From the first time check, which he went through 12 seconds faster than Froome, who had posted the quickest time there a little under three minutes earlier, it was clear that it wasn’t a question of whether Wiggins would take his second time trial stage of this year’s race, but by how much.
In the end, his margin of victory would be 1 minute 16 seconds from Froome, with Wiggins completing the stage in 1 hour 4 minutes and 13 seconds. That puts him 3 minutes 21 seconds ahead of his team mate on GC, with Nibali 6 minutes 19 seconds behind the man set to be crowned champion.
Last year, BMC Racing’s Cadel Evans had used the individual time trial in Grenoble on the penultimate day of the race to take the maillot jaune from Andy Schleck, who had himself only moved to the top of the overall standings 24 hours earlier in the Alpe d’Huez as Tomas Voeckler’s brave defence of the jersey came to an end. Wiggins himself watched that time trial from home after breaking his collarbone in a crash at the end of the opening week.
Today, Evans was a shadow of that rider who 12 months ago became Australia’s first winner of the Tour. Any thoughts of successfully defending his title came to an end earlier this week as he struggled not just with his rivals but also against illness in the Pyrenees, and today was still clearly suffering the after-effects.
Team mate Tejay Van Garderen, who had started three minutes after Evans this afternoon, passed him with around 20 kilometres still left to ride and in finishing seventh today confirmed himself as winner of the white jersey for best young rider.
Evans’ struggles today led to the only change in the top ten of the GC, with RadioShack-Nissan’s Haimar Zubeldia leapfrogging him into sixth place overall.
The race now heads to Paris with the traditional photocall of the jersey wearers, led by Wiggins, enjoying a glass of Champagne as they head away from the start at Rambouillet, but the work isn’t over yet, with Team Sky looking to sign off the Tour in style with another stage win tomorrow and Cavendish then going for gold in London next Saturday.
Maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky:
"All the years of getting to this point, my family, disappointments, crashing out the Tour last year, watching Cadel in this very position a year ago in Grenoble. I always imagined what that would feel like and now I know.
"The time-trial is what I do best. Perhaps I'm not the best climber in the race, but I've always been a good time-triallist who gets his weight down and climbs well.
"Today was a superb performance. I really wanted to get out there and finish with a bang. Fortunately I managed to do that.
“From the moment you start cycling as a kid, it's about this. You get into it and everyone dreams of winning the Tour or wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour but to cross the line... well, I kind of summed it up in that punch coming across the line.
"The last 10 or 15 kilometres, I was thinking of everything really: from my childhood to this point, the days I got into cycling as a kid: my family – my mother, my wife and children, my grandfather who died two years ago... and it was all for them really. It was an incredible feeling and it was spurring me on to go harder and harder and harder.
"Some people in sport say, ‘You're in the zone.' But I was in it today in a way that I've never been before.
“This is everything. It's a lifestyle. And I've learned to live this lifestyle these last few years at the sacrifice of so many other things in my life, including the people around me who live with me and know me. This is as much because of their sacrifice and it's huge.
“The British flags out there on the roadside... it's bloody humbling. You just think, ‘Why me?' in a way. Just seeing the happiness of everyone out there today was an incredible feeling.
“The reason I feel like this is because I have a sense of what I've achieved because I know my cycling and I can't really sum it up in articulate terms. What happened out there is just incredible!"
Dave Brailsford, Team Principal, Team Sky:
"It is a very proud moment. Bar anything silly we can start thinking about winning this race now.
"I would never have said we could do it if I didn't believe that. We had done our homework, we knew what Bradley was capable of and what the British team is capable of. Today is all about Bradley and what a fantastic champion.
"As we know, we are lucky to have Chris and Bradley in the same team. But this was a tour that suited Bradley, he's climbing well and his time trials are off the scale. That shows why we stuck with Bradley.
"It`s a lot easier to manage two good riders than two bad ones."
Thomas Voeckler, Europcar, mountains classification leader:
“The last stage on the Champs-Elysées is never particularly long but it's a great atmosphere. Once we get on the final circuit, it's always very fast but it's a wonderful experience. I'm not really sure how my emotions will be, I'll have to wait until tomorrow and after I've stepped off the podium to really know but I'm certain it will be a great moment.
“I'm impressed by how Wiggins won this race. He raced the Tour like he has done other races all year, like Paris-Nice or the Tour de Romandie and all the others – which he won – he's impressive. He has a team which is very professional and when you see they've earned first and second in the overall, you are obliged to say they deserve the victory… obviously.”
Tejay van Garderen, leading the Best Young rider classification, BMC Racing:
“Man, I didn't know what to expect. I mean, 53 kilometres after three weeks of racing is a long ways. I just wanted to give it my all and see what happened. [John Lelangue] definitely did a good job motivating me and he did a good job just telling me what to expect on the course. He kept me calm when I needed to be kept calm and it was evenly paced and... well, I wouldn't really say that – I think I kind of died out there but John was definitely a good motivator.
“I think Cadel has had a bit of sickness. He's been dealing with some stuff during this Tour but I still think he has another Tour win in him and if he can come back next year and win it, I'll be happy to help him.
“It's going to be incredible [on the Champs-Elysées]. Actually I want to dedicate it to all the people who lost their lives in Colorado with the shooting there because that was devastating news, that's close to my home in Boulder and I want to say that my thoughts are with them and I'll be thinking of them in Paris tomorrow.”
Tour de France Stage 19 result 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 01h 04' 13'' 2 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING + 01' 16'' 3 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 01' 50'' 4 VELITS Peter OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 02' 02'' 5 PORTE Richie SKY PROCYCLING + 02' 25'' 6 GRETSCH Patrick TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO + 02' 28'' 7 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 02' 34'' 8 KIRYIENKA Vasili MOVISTAR TEAM + 02' 46'' 9 TAARAMAE Rein COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE + 02' 50'' 10 ROY Jérémy FDJ-BIGMAT + 03' 05'' 11 ZABRISKIE David GARMIN-SHARP + 03' 12'' 12 SPRICK Matthieu TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO + 03' 20'' 13 PLAZA Ruben MOVISTAR TEAM + 03' 24'' 14 OSS Daniel LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 03' 27'' 15 ROUX Anthony FDJ-BIGMAT + 03' 34'' 16 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 03' 38'' 17 VANDE VELDE Christian GARMIN-SHARP + 03' 40'' 18 GRABSCH Bert OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 03' 43'' 19 KLÖDEN Andréas RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 03' 49'' 20 VOIGT Jens RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 03 ' 49'' Last man home on Stage 19 153 KROON Karsten SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK 01h 15' 23'' General Classification after Stage 19 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 84h 26' 31'' 2 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING + 03' 21'' 3 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 06' 19'' 4 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM + 10' 15'' 5 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 11' 04'' 6 ZUBELDIA Haimar RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 15' 43'' 7 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 15' 51'' 8 ROLLAND Pierre TEAM EUROPCAR + 16' 31'' 9 BRAJKOVIC Janez ASTANA PRO TEAM + 16' 38'' 10 PINOT Thibaut FDJ-BIGMAT + 17' 17'' Points Classification after Stage 19 1 SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 386 pts 2 GREIPEL André LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 264 pts 3 GOSS Matthew Harley ORICA GREENEDGE 238 pts 4 CAVENDISH Mark SKY PROCYCLING 175 pts 5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING 146 pts Mountains Classification after Stage 19 1 VOECKLER Thomas TEAM EUROPCAR 134 pts 2 KESSIAKOFF Fredrik ASTANA PRO TEAM 123 pts 3 SORENSEN Chris Anker SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK 77 pts 4 ROLLAND Pierre TEAM EUROPCAR 63 pts 5 VALVERDE Alejandro MOVISTAR TEAM 51 pts Best Young Rider's Classification after Stage 19 1 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM 84h 37' 35'' 2 PINOT Thibaut FDJ-BIGMAT + 06' 13'' 3 KRUIJSWIJK Steven RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 01h 05' 48'' 4 TAARAMAE Rein COFIDIS + 01h 16' 32'' 5 IZAGUIRRE Gorka EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 01h 20' 40''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.