Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) moved up to third place overall in the Tour de France on Sunday with another inspired ride on the climb to the finish at Verbier in Switzerland.
Alberto Contador (Astana) took control of the yellow jersey by winning the stage but Wiggins was clearly one of the strongest on the climb and out performed riders of the calibre of Carlos Sastre (Cervelo), Cadel Evans (Silence) and even Lance Armstrong (Astana).
Wiggins dropped Lance Armstrong in the final kilometres and dragged a little group of riders to the finish. His face showed the pain he was feeling in his legs but he finished fifth on the stage, 1-06 behind Contador and only 23 seconds behind Schleck. Armstrong finished 29 behind him.
Third spot for Wiggins
Wiggins is now third overall, 1-46 behind Contador and only nine seconds behind Armstrong.
Robert Millar is the best ever British rider in the Tour de France, finishing fourth in 1984, but Wiggins could beat that the way he is riding at the moment.
Wiggins has worked incredibly hard to become a Tour contender but is firmly keeping his feet on the ground even though he is so high in the overall classification.
"Fantastic, it's really fantastic, I don't know what to say, I just do what I do and it worked," Wiggins said at the finish," Wiggins said, briefly letting slip his emotions, before returning to his usual mental game plan.
"I'm in great shape, I just keep thinking that. I kept that in my mind. But I keep going day by day, I keep saying, day by day, I never think too far ahead. I've trained for this mentally and physically.
“But there's still a long way to Paris, so I'm no getting too excited. I'm going to take it day by day.
“I've trained hard for this mentally and physically but I'm not going to think too far ahead.”
Millar sets up Wiggins on final climb
David Millar played a key role in setting up Wiggin's aggressive ride. He dragged the bunch to the bottom of the climb, with Wiggins and Vande Velde tucked on his wheel. That gave them a perfect positioning for when the race exploded and meant they did not have to fight for position. Vande Velde faded and finished 2-41 back but Wiggins used it to produce the ride of his life.
“It's just so inspiring having Brad and Christian going so well,” Millar said.
“Having Brad doing what he's doing is just a joy working for him. I'm having fun and we're all having fun.”
And so is everyone who is enjoying watching Wiggins prove he can be a genuine Tour de France contender.
Garmin boss backs Wiggins' plan to take things as they come
Garmin team manager Jonathan Vaughters was in Verbier to see Wiggins come in, and was naturally full of support for his rider.
“He has never done this before," said Vaughters. "He is going to have to learn how to regulate his body. Hopefully we can get him in this position to the time trial [on Thursday].”
Vaughters agreed with Wiggins' day-by-day strategy: "Whatever we do we're going day by day. How can you think three days ahead when you got two days before ? That's how you crack, that's how you cock things up, so day by day. It's a long way to go, let's not get too excited."
Vaughters said Wiggins could benefit from Christian Vande Velde's support: "Christian will be willing to help, for sure. Christian has a lot of experience and can be a big asset to Brad."
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 LINKS
Tour de France 2009 - the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.
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
LATEST TOUR NEWS
Tour de France 2009 News Index>>
Stage 14 analysis: Is the Tour now over?
Columbia criticise Garmin for chasing Hincapie
Cavendish reveals he is going for green
Tour comment: The suspense is killing us
Analysis: Why Cavendish is one of the modern greats
Radio ban over-turned for Friday's Tour stage
Arvesen out of Tour with fractured collarbone
Tour analysis: Why the go slow did cycling no favours on Bastille Day
Cavendish's odd stage 10 finish celebration explained
No radios today, but experiment could be a one-off
Tour audio: Mark Cavendish after stage 10
Contador brushes aside talk of Armstrong conflict
Cavendish odds-on favourite for Bastille Day victory
The Tour de France Comment: Monday, July 13
How the favourites are doing (first rest day)
Wiggins stays with leaders at Tour
Armstrong: 'If Contador wins, I'll be second'
Wiggins 'on cloud nine' at Tour de France
Armstrong says Contador attack wasn't in the plan
Cavendish survives the first Tour mountain stage with ease
Wiggins, the Tour de France overall contender, has arrived
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
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
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
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