Bradley Wiggins always feared the 2009 Tour de France stage to Le Grand Bornand would be the most difficult for him and sadly his chances of finishing on the final podium in Paris have taken a huge blow.
Wiggins again performed better than ever before in the mountains but the eight per cent gradient of the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombiere were just a little too steep for him.
The British Garmin-Slipstream rider was unable to go with Andy and Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) when they attacked with Alberto Contador (Astana). He fought all the way, digging deep and hurting, with some excellent help from Garmin team mate Christian Vande Velde, but he finished seventh, 3-07 behind stage winner Frank Schleck.
Wiggins slipped to sixth overall, 4-53 behind Contador. Andy and Frank Schleck are now second and third at 2-26 and 3-25. Lance Armstrong is fourth at 3-55 and his Astana team mate Andreas Kloden is fifth at 4-44.
Wiggins was angry as he crossed the line. He probably wanted to disappear and some how get ride of his anger and disappointment but had been selected for doping control and so was forced to turn around and head back to the finish area.
After giving his sample he rode quickly to the Garmin bus but was in no mood to talk. He later sent a short comment via his Garmin team.
“Today was hard. It was the first multiple mountains I’ve ever contested for GC,” he said.
“The team – especially Christian and Dave Z rode amazingly. I pushed as hard as I possibly could have and now I need to recover, rest and focus on tomorrow.”
Wiggins knows that Thursday’s time trial will now be crucial in the battle for podium places, just like Saturday’s mountain finish at the summit of Mont Ventoux.
Wiggins, Armstrong and Kloden can perhaps gain time on the Schlecks in the time trial but they are promising to take it back by attacking on Ventoux.
Wiggins is 1-28 behind third placed Frank Schleck. He could gain that on the Luxembourgeois rider in the 40.5km time trial but Schleck will surely go on the attack on the climb to Mont Ventoux.
A place on the podium in Paris is not impossible but is now a major uphill challenge, one which will be decided on the slopes of Mont Ventoux.
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