emotional Bradley Wiggins allowed himself to contemplate becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France after enhancing his hold on the yellow jersey on yesterday’s final mountain stage.
Wiggins was second in the Tour’s prologue and has remained in the top two of the general classification since taking the maillot jaune on stage seven and wearing it for a 10th day on the 143.5km 17th stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes. A formidable showing saw Wiggins remain two minutes five seconds ahead of Team Sky colleague and fellow Briton Chris Froome, whose primary role is to support his compatriot, in second and move 18 seconds further ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
With third-placed Nibali, who finished the day 2mins 41secs behind with three days’ racing remaining, falling behind as the Britons rode over the Col du Peyresourde en route to the summit at Peyragudes, Wiggins allowed himself to be distracted by thoughts of Paris on Sunday.
The triple Olympic champion said: “At that point, the first time in this whole Tour since I’ve led this race, I thought ‘maybe I’ve just won the Tour’.
“That moment I went over with Chris, all the fight went out of the window, everything to do with the performance.
“And that’s when it starts getting hard then because you lose concentration. It was an incredible feeling. It really was.”
Wiggins has been in imperious form this season, winning the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine stage races. With Alberto Contador serving a doping ban and Andy Schleck out injured, plus more than 100km of time-trials, Wiggins was highly fancied to beat defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to victory.
The 32-year-old has also had to cope with questions on doping – a topic often discussed with the Tour leader, due to the race’s history – and conjecture that Froome should be Team Sky’s leader.
Wiggins added: “I feel strange. I don’t know what to do at the moment.
“No one’s actually patted me on the back yet, it’s all still in a negative sense. I haven’t dropped out of the first two for GC for three weeks now.”
Once again Froome’s presence helped Wiggins consolidate his hold on the maillot jaune, but some believe Froome could have won the Tour himself.
Froome was seen imploring Wiggins to stay with him in the finale to Peyragudes.
“He has been absolutely solid the whole Tour,” said Wiggins.
“You’d rather have him in your camp than someone else’s, that’s for sure.
“He’s an incredible climber.”