Bradley Wiggins Tour de France 2007 stage four

A COURAGEOUS ride by Bradley Wiggins saw him get to within seven kilometres of victory in the Tour de France today, after spending more than 190 kilometres out front on his own.

During his five hours up the road, it was suggested that Wiggins had attacked to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Tom Simpson and to celebrate his wife?s birthday. After finishing last on the stage, 3-42 behind Boonen, Wiggins clarified that neither were true.

"I said I'd have a go in the break this morning," said the 27-year-old Cofidis rider. "They started attacking right at the start and I went with them after about two kilometres. At first there were five or six of us but I pulled a big turn and when I looked round I was on my own. I had a gap of about a hundred metres and CSC were on the front pulling it back.

"I kept on riding thinking someone would come across but no one did. When the gap got to 30 seconds I thought 'Come on then, someone come across now' but I realised I was on my own. I couldn't sit up, you can't sit up in the Tour so I thought 'Sod it, I'll continue and enjoy it.'"

Wiggins' lead reached a maximum of 18 minutes at around the 100 kilometre mark but the peloton increased the pressure steadily to get it back to a manageable margin.

"I enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to try something in the first week and it's good to get something under my belt before the Alps. I got to six to go, which isn't too bad. I got a good show on the telly.

"The final stages were into a headwind. I knew with 15 kilometres to go I had no chance even though I still had two minutes. If it'd be a tailwind there's no way they'd have got me back."

He added that the crowds in the villages along the way were impressive but with great expanses of French countryside "it was like a training ride on my own at times".

Asked by a television station if his wife, Cath, would be watching, he said: "She'll probably have turned it on at some point." Asked what he'd say if they were watching now he said: "Well, I love them and I wish I was there with them now."

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.