Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky won the penultimate stage time-trial of the 2012 Tour de France in emphatic fashion and is now all but certain to claim the overall classification when the race ends in Paris tomorrow.
Wiggins punched the air as he flew past the Union Flags flanking the finishing straight after setting a searing pace along the 53.5km course from Bonneval to Chartres.
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Barring catastrophe, he will now become the first ever Brit to win the yellow jersey in Paris after the largely ceremonial sprint stage on the Champs Elysées tomorrow.
And, on an historic and remarkable day for British cycling, his team-mate and compatriot Chris Froome consolidated a British one-two with second place in the stage.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished a commendable 14th to conserve his third place on the podium while Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) was able to defend his fourth overall from a rapid Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing).
But the day belonged to Wiggins, Froome and Team Sky, who recorded a fifth stage win of the Tour and a second one-two.
Changing of the guard
An exposed course buffeted by a headwind for most of the day meant there would be no plain sailing in today’s penultimate stage.
Argos-Shimano’s Patrick Gretsch set a surprise early benchmark and went on to finish fifth overall, however it was Spanish champion Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) who finished strongly to take the lead for the majority of the day.
A year ago Cadel Evans (BMC) was racing to take over the race lead from Andy Schleck in the 2011 Tour, but his 2012 final time-trial could not have been more different. Starting off in sixth overall, he was caught by his team-mate and white jersey wearer Tejay Van Garderen within 33km and went on to slip to seventh overall.
Roared on by BMC boss John Lelangue’s voice through a megaphone on the team car, Van Garderen secured fifth overall; evidence indeed that the guard at the Swiss team had well and truly been changed.
Richie Porte (Sky), his work for Wiggins all but complete, showed how much he had been saving during the first time trial with fifth on the stage today. Yet as it was on stage nine nearly two week’s ago, it was Froome and Wiggins who dominated the race against the clock.
Froome’s time 32 seconds quicker than Sanchez was fantastic, but Wiggins was quite simply sublime. He finished over a minute clear of Froome at a speed of bang on 50kmph to take the Tour de France in style.
The final time gaps at the end of the stage, with just two riders within ten minutes of Wiggins, showed that it wasn’t just a victory. It was a domination.
Tour de France 2012, stage 19: Bonneval – Chartres, 53.5km (ITT)
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 1hr 4-13
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-16
3. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank at 1-50
4. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 2-02
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky at 2-25
6. Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Argos-Shimano at 2-28
7. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 2-34
8. Vasil Kiriyenka (Blr) Movistar at 2-46
9. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 2-50
10. Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 3-05
16. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 3-38
26. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 4-22
41. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 5-31
42. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Radioshack-Nissan at 5-32
48. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana at 5-38
52. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 5-56
64. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 6-14
69. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp at 6-22
82. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky at 6-58
100. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 7-51
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 3-21
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 6-19
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 10-15
5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 11-04
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Radioshack-Nissan at 15-43
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 15-51
8. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Europcar at 16-31
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana at 16-38
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 17-17
12. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 19-33
Luis Leon Sanchez
Bradley Wiggins stretched his overall lead
Tour de France 2012: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Tour de France 2012: Latest news
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Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage 18: Cavendish wins Tour stage 18 with irresistible sprint
Stage 17: Wiggins step closer to Paris as Valverde wins stage
Stage 16: Voeckler the Pyrenean king as he wins in Bagneres de Luchon
Stage 15: Fedrigo wins, day off for peloton
Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank’s Tour
Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage
Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last
Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back
Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour
Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT
Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2012: TV schedule
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