Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) again finished in the front group with all the big overall favourites on Sunday’s Tour de France stage, handling the Col du Tourmalet with relative ease, despite riding under a scorching sun.
‘Twiggo’ as he has now been dubbed for his skinny build after losing seven kilogrammes to help his climbing, is still fifth overall, just 46 seconds behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) of Italy.
Wiggins is just 40 seconds behind overall favourite Alberto Contador (Astana) and only 38 seconds behind Lance Armstrong (Astana).
“There was no real big danger today, I just had to follow the wheels and stay out of trouble. The hardest thing was how hot it was and climbing the Tourmalet in those conditions, it was tough to get bottles up. Other than that it was a pretty easy day. It’s another day over and the Pyrenees are over now, so it’s been a pretty good first week for me,” he said after quickly getting through doping control and heading for a shower before the plane transfer to Limoges for the first rest day.
It was thought that Saxo Bank and Garmin might have tried to push the pace on the Tourmalet to drop Nocentini and force Contador into the yellow jersey, so that the Astana would have to defend the jersey next week. However, Ag2r and Nocentini were always in control on the legendary climb and so nothing happened in the battle for the yellow jersey.
“I don’t think Lance or Contador want to take the yellow jersey at this stage. They’re quite happy for Ag2r-La Mondial to ride through the next week, it takes the pressure of them a bit,” Wiggins explained.
Like Wiggins, Contador and Armstrong are waiting for the final week of the Tour and the testing stages in the Alps. That is where overall victory will be decided.
“I’m just taking it day by day. I keep telling myself that it’s the same for everyone. If it’s hurting for me, it’s bound to be hurting for the other guys too. I just keep reminding myself about that,” Wiggins said wisely, knowing that he has also got the stage 18 time trial to his advantage.
“If I’m still close to the classement by then, it’ll work in my favour. But it’s still quite a way off. I’m just going to take it day by day and not get everyone too excited at this stage.”
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
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