Bradley Wiggins took over the Tour de France race leader’s yellow jersey on Saturday on the first mountain stage to La Planche des Belles Filles.
“It’s f**king nice! I always dreamt of it,” Wiggins said post-stage. “I realise the position I’m in now and I have the utmost respect for it. It’s something I’m looking to keep.”
After a dominant ride by his Sky team, including a stage win by Chris Froome, he leads the overall classification by 10 seconds over Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Two weeks remain in the race, including a mountain stage on Sunday to Porrentruy.
Judging by the work of Froome, Richie Porte and Mick Rogers in the mountains, Wiggins looks ready to defend his lead at least until Monday’s time trial.
“The team was great as they have been the whole year,” Wiggins explained. “Froome winning the stage just topped it all off for us.”
Froome took over at 2.1km out. Before, Australian Richie Porte paced the group up the climb and helped shell several top rivals, including Denis Menchov (Katusha).
“I was surprised there was so much damage today. We didn’t really go 100 per cent to get to the summit. Cadel was always going to be the one and that’s still no different.”
If Wiggins makes it through Monday’s time trial still in the lead, he can enjoy a rest and plan the final two weeks of the race. He said that he has no thoughts of letting the jersey go, even if for a few days.
“You can’t get cocky and choose when you take the yellow,” he added. “I feel fortunate just to get through the first week to be here, I’d much rather be yellow than in the hospital.”
Giro d’Italia winner, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) didn’t start today due to injuries sustained in a mega-crash yesterday. A situation Wiggins is familiar with, having to abandon last year’s Tour in the seventh leg.
Wiggins questioned a Belgian journalist about his country’s star, Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol). His chain dropped and he lost time. Denis Menchov (Katusha) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) also lost time, suffering from Sky’s rhythm on the final climb.
It’s a three-horse race, according to Wiggins. He, Evans and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) are the likely challengers to the overall win when the race ends in Paris on July 22.
“The Tour’s coming down to three riders: myself, Evans and Nibali,” he continued.
“Is it a Wiggins Tour? That’s the way it’s been tapped from the start. There was also Nibali and Rein Taaramäe there. But it’s looking that way.”
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