After disappointment at Euro 2012 and Andy Murray’s tears at Wimbledon, something special was brewing across the English Channel where Bradley Wiggins took a massive step towards becoming Britain’s first ever Tour de France winner after taking the race’s first long time-trial. Over the 26 miles between Arc-et-Senans and Besançon, Wiggins finished 35 seconds ahead of his Sky team-mate Christopher Froome. Bradley Wiggins showed he’s the man to beat at the Tour de France, winning the first big time trial and cementing his hold on the yellow jersey he wants to take home in two weeks. The three-time Olympic track champion is trying to become the first British champion of cycling‘s premier event. He dominated Monday’s race against the clock – a discipline he loves – in the 25.8-mile ninth stage between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon.
Most importantly for the short term, Wiggins extended his advantage over the defending Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans, from 10sec to 1min 53sec, meaning that, with another even longer time-trial to come before the finish in Paris – 53.5km between Bonneval and Chartres on the final Saturday – the Australian now has no option but to attack in the mountains and gain several minutes on the Briton. It came after Sky dominated the first mountain top finish of the race on Friday, when Froome won the stage and Wiggins took the overall lead.
For Wiggins and Froome, this a joint performance that will have resonances that last until 10 days after the Tour finishes, when the pair represent Great Britain in the individual time-trial at the London Olympics. Here, the finest time-triallist of recent years, the Swiss Fabian Cancellara, finished nearly a minute behind Wiggins, while the reigning world time-trial champion, Tony Martin of Germany, came 12th, 2min 16sec back, albeit while nursing a broken wrist and in spite of an early puncture.
With this imposing ride, the Team Sky captain captured stage nine, a 41.5-kilometer, individual time trial and put his chief rivals, including Cadel Evans, into serious difficulty as the Tour enters its first rest day. Sporting the banana-yellow skin suit worn by the race leader, Wiggins logged the fastest time – 51 minutes, 24 seconds – on an undulating course that finished in Besançon, the capital of Franche-Compté.
On one of the warmest days so far in this Tour, many riders crossed the finish with white spittle ringing their lips, a sign of dehydration. Unlike usual road stages, time trials require solo efforts, placing additional importance on form, concentration and rhythm. After 10 straight days of racing, the 178-rider pack gets its first rest day Tuesday. The field then faces two hard days in the Alps, including a summit finish Thursday that is likely to shake up the standings.