Bradley Wiggins may have just done the best ride ever by a British cyclist.

Fourth place in just his third Tour de France is an achievement equal to Chris Hoy’s at the Olympics last year, what Mark Cavendish has done this year, and arguably better than Robert Millar’s fourth in 1984.

It’s impossible to compare Wiggins’ and Millar’s rides like for like, but it is possible to compare them. First let’s look at the time gaps. Millar was 14-42 minutes down on winner Laurent Fignon in ‘84 and was arguably never in contention. All being well tomorrow, Wiggins will finish this year’s Tour just 6-01 minutes down on Alberto Contador, and has been within a few minutes of the race lead throughout the three weeks.

But going on time alone is, I admit, a bit misleading. The Tour was a totally different beast back then as the racing was far less controlled by the strong teams. Large time gaps could open one day only to be overhauled the next.

Millar did win a stage to Guzet Neige in 1984 and win the polka dot jersey competition, which for many could put his ride that year above Wiggins’.

But if you look at Franco Pellizotti’s King of the Mountains win this year you can see how it’s not always such an achievement. Good; yes. Outstanding; not necessarily.

The key is to look at the quality of the respective fields, and I think this is where Wiggins just edges back in front.

True, 1984 had a very strong top five with four of the biggest names of that generation surrounding Millar in the results, but this year was perhaps the strongest grand tour field assembled in years.

Take a look at who Wiggins was up against. First of all Alberto Contador; undoubtedly the greatest stage race rider alive at the moment. The Spaniard has now won two Tours de France, a Giro d’Italia and a Vuelta a Espana. He is as close to unbeatable as it’s possible to get right now.

Then you have Andy Schleck. The Luxembourg champ is a precociously talented climber who is set to win several grand tours himself.

In third place is Lance Armstrong. A seven time winner of the Tour, patron of the peloton in his day, and still one of the most feared/respected riders around. Watching Wiggins go mano-a-mano with him in the mountains was exhilarating.

Below Wiggins is Frank Schleck and Andreas Klöden. Frank may not have the talent of his brother, but to beat him is no mean feat. Then Klöden. What can you say about Klöden? The German has been named in a high-ranking investigation as someone who used the blood-doping services at Freiburg university.

He has so far brushed it off, but the situation is unlikely to go away so easily. Whatever you think of him, Wiggins still had to beat him.

Elsewhere in the field was Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Oscar Pereiro, Cadel Evans, and a host of other riders who have featured and / or won major races in the last two or three years.

We must also put Wiggins’ ride in to context. The Briton has essentially trained for this in just the last nine months; transforming himself from the best track rider in the world to one of the best road riders in the world. It is an incredible achievement.

Millar was always a grand tour rider. That’s what he did, and it’s undeniable that his Tour de France pedigree is greater than Wiggins’, but for Bradley to finish in fourth at his first (proper) attempt, riding against the people he was is simply incredible and makes you wonder what he could do next year.

Tour de France 1984 result
1. L Fignon
2. B Hinault
3. G LeMond
4. Millar
5. Kelly
6. Arroyo
7. P Simon
8. P Munoz
9. C Criquielion
10. P Anderson

Tour de France 2009 – the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.


Stage 20: Contador’s Tour lead safe; Wiggins retains fourth overall on Ventoux

Stage 19: Five star Cavendish wins Tour stage in to Aubenas

Stage 18: Contador tightens grip on the maillot jaune

Stage 17: Schleck brothers overhaul Wiggins as Frank wins the stage

Stage 16: Astarloza snatches Alps stage win as contenders wind up the pace

Stage 15: Contador wins in Verbier as Tour explodes into life

Stage 14: Ivanov wins as Nocentini clings onto yellow

Stage 13: Haussler braves rain for victory in Colmar

Stage 12: Sorensen wins in Vittel as Cavendish goes for green

Stage 11: Cavendish takes fourth win to equal Hoban’s record

Stage 10: Cavendish spoils Bastille Day party to take third stage win

Stage nine: Third French win as contenders content with ceasefire

stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out

Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance

Stage six: Millar’s brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs

Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage

Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second

Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage

Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador

Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint

Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial

Tour de France 2009 News Index>>
Armstrong admits he suffered in Tour’s final time trial
Wiggins set for Ventoux showdown at the Tour
Radio Shack confirmed as Armstrong’s new backer
Astana to split after Tour
Voigt crashes out of Tour
Armstrong fighting hard for Tour podium place
Wiggins gets closer to Tour podium place
Who’s won what so far in the Tour de France
How the Tour favourite are doing (Rest day 2)
Wiggins climbs to third in Tour overall
Armstrong concedes he can’t win the 2009 Tour
Tom Boonen quits the Tour de France
Stage 15 analysis: Is the Tour now over?
Columbia criticise Garmin for chasing Hincapie
Cavendish reveals he is going for green


Mont Ventoux preview

Garmin-Slipstream’s HQ before the Tour

David Zabriskie’s time trial bike

Mark Cavendish on the Tour’s team time trial

David Brailsford interview

Mark Cavendish on the Tour

Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins’ chances



20 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 19 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 18 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 17 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson

Team presentation by Andy Jones

Team presentation by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2009 – the hub
Tour de France 2009: Who’s riding
Tour de France 2009: Team guide
About the Tour de France

Tour de France 2009: Who will win?
Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules
Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France
Tour de France anti-doping measures explained
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Cycling Weekly’s rider profiles


Follow the Tour on Cycling Weekly’s Twitter feed


  • Mr P

    personally i dont think bradley wiggins is the best ever cyclist england has ever scene because he only came fourth not 1st. overrall i think mark cavendish is better because he has actually won races unlike bradley.

  • Steve Rumble

    Hey, careful what you say mr. Clean! Even if many of us have similar suspicions – there’s something distinctive in the riding style of people who’s bodies have been ‘assisted’ don’t you think? And the VO2 discussion is very interesting. Proof is another thing, of course.

  • Simon Daw

    I agree with Nigel’s comments. Wiggins has certainly shown himself to be a truly outstanding rider, and one of only a handful of Britons who have been in contention for one of the major tours. Coming on top of his track achievements, this has to place him as one of the greats.

    However, and it’s a very big however, I don’t feel that his ride can be described as superior to that of Millar in 84. It could be argued that it pretty much equals it, but that’s as far as it can go. I’m not sure what Simon Richardson means when he implies that the quality of the field has been superior this year compared to 1984 – did he actually think before he made that comment? I think Contador’s undoubted supremacy actually reflects the fact that there is now much less depth that there was 25 years ago – as does the fact that Armstrong was able to stay pretty much in contention at 37 and after a four year lay-off.

    None of this should detract from Wiggins’ ride, though – he’s been outstanding, and for me has made what would otherwise have been a slightly lame Tour come alive.

  • Guy

    …and his performance in this year’s Tour de France signifies his full potential has yet to be explored,a fact that Armstrong et al are only too aware of.

  • Matthew

    How can Wiggins be ‘lucky’ to finish 4th! That’s nonsense if ever I heard it.

    He had Saxo and Astana ganging up on him in that whole last week and held his own.

  • Mr Clean

    I’m not sure I agree with your comparisons to Robert Millar – different era and all that. Plus both great rides. And I’m not entirely sure it’s that important anyway.

    What is notable is that Bradley is very probably the first placed clean rider in this years race. So you could argue that he is fact the victor!

  • David Dubost

    @jason. You’re right. It’s wrong to compare Bradley’s achievments with those of Chris Hoy. Great as they are, 4th in the Tour de France is better, and more difficult to achieve, than any number of Olympic Track medals. IMHO, that is…

  • Guy

    Bradley Wiggins best ever british rider?

    I think that is a given now without any shadow of doubt.

  • Bill

    No way can Wiggins be considered on Robert Millar’s level. As Cav has shown, winning a jersey is very hard. Millar has KOM and MT stage win 84. Millar also has impressive GC finishes, jerseys, days spent in leaders jersey at Giro and Vuelta 2nd in both and stages in both on famous summits. But then again, Cycling Weekly has Jeremy Hunt down as a more prolific winning Brit than Robert Millar in the all time league of Brit winners you hold on this website…funny how you now think the TDF is a measure of greatness. Simon Richardson has posted a dodgy piece there

  • Nigel

    While I’m a Wiggo fan, I’m not completely convinced that this 4th place is “better” than Millar’s 4th plus polka dot jersey and a stage victory – and the competition was hardly weak: Fignon, Hinault, Lemond, Kelly, Anderson!

    Deserves no better than 7th on merit, Jason? Not quite sure where the objective evidence comes from to support that view – he did what he needed to/could to limit mistakes/losses and get the best result and put in good performances in the mountains and the TTs. If the 3 who didn’t manage to get past him in G.C. couldn’t do it, that’s not his fault!!

  • Steve Rumble

    Jason, you could also say that Wiggins was unlucky not to have better support from his team in the mountains (apart from Vandevelde) unlike Armstrong and Contador! I would suggest that his achievement in gaining fourth was down to talent, tactics and willpower – not so much luck. I think he has to win a bit more on the road before he can be considered the greatest. Cavendish has already demonstrated that he is the fastest finishing Brit of all time, in my opinion.
    What a great tour!

  • Jason

    I think it is nonsense to even be talking about Wiggins doing the best ever ride by a Brit. For sure, he did better than OK – but to pass it off as the best ride by a Brit, and say that it is the equal of Chris Hoy’s achievements at the Olympics, it the patent nonsense of someone getting swept up by the heat of the moment.

    On balance, Wiggins is lucky to be finishing fourth. On merit alone, he really doesn’t deserve better than seventh.

  • Jonathan Mitchell

    Bradley is a star. If anyone doubts this, just look at his Olympic performances. This year he has exceeded his own and out expectations. Next year, we will all be looking for him to be right in there. Then we will find out justhow good he really is. Meanwhile I am awed by his judgement. Both today and three days ago he hung on for just long enough to make sure his position was secure. Monstrous will and effort. Chapeau! doesn’t get anywhere near close enough. Top man. One day the press and media will wake up to the fact that we have two world class cyclists. Cav has been brilliant too in his way and the interview he gave the other day when he apologised to Thor was very gracious.

  • Monty Wilson

    Brad is certainly up there with the greatest british riders, phenominal transfer from the track to the road!

  • Bernard Victor

    When you add on Bradley”s achievements on the track, he must be a contender for the best British racing cyclist ever.