Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins four letter tirade over drugs slurs as Thibaut Pinot wins stage eight
BRADLEY Wiggins marked his first day in the yellow jersey by defending it like a tiger and earning a round of applause from the world’s press for an expletive-laden tirade against a reporter trying to link his recent fine run of form with a whispering campaign that he must be taking drugs.
Wiggins, who again tracked Cadel Evans during a tough day to preserve the lead he first claimed on Saturday, had charmed French television for nearly half an hour before attending the leaders’ press conference when an American journalist asked him how he reacted to people who doubted his achievements and compared him to Lance Armstrong when he rode with the US Postal and Discovery teams.
The three-time Olympic champion, his generation’s most outspoken proponent of clean riding, exploded at the implication. “I say they’re just f------ w------. I cannot be doing with people like that. It justifies their own bone-idleness because they can’t ever imagine applying themselves to do anything in their lives.
“It’s easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that sort of s---, rather than get off their arses in their own lives and apply themselves and work hard at something and achieve something. And that’s ultimately it. C----.”
Wiggins always knew such a question would come up at some stage. Former Tour winner Stephen Roche is among many who have warned him that the continental press and others would try to derail him at some stage during this year’s race. It was just a matter of where and when, with the smart money being on the occasion of his first day in yellow.
The Team Sky leader decided to confront the question full-on and his emotional reply earned loud applause from the majority of press present who had waited for a decade or more for a top rider to address the drugs question so candidly. Jonathan Vaughters, team manager of rivals Garmin-Sharp tweeted immediately: “Respect to Brad Wiggins.”
His Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, who won Saturday’s stage, the first serious climb of the Tour, with Wiggins finishing just behind him to claim the yellow jersey, offered his full support. He tweeted: “Critics need to wake up and realise that cycling has evolved. Dedication and sacrifice = results. End of story!”
Team-mate Mark Cavendish added: “Good on @bradwiggins for an honest answer, aimed at people who know nothing better than to be sceptical.”
The whispering campaign seems to have started online and among some sections of the French and Spanish media earlier this year when Team Sky fielded full-strength squads at both Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandy, which were both won by Wiggins, although hardly by outrageous margins.
Wiggins’s 'sudden’ improvement in form was commented on, despite the fact he finished fourth in the Tour de France three years ago and won the Critérium du Dauphiné last year in impressive style. He also finished third in the Vuelta a España last year while riding with metal pins holding his collarbone together after a crash in the Tour de France. The Spanish press, as well as the French, are fascinated by his two-week training camps in Tenerife on Mount Teide and precisely what he does there.
Sky, at one of their bi-annual meetings, briefed the Tour de France organisers ASO about his precise training regime in Tenerife with his personal coach, Tim Kerrison, making a PowerPoint presentation.
Meanwhile in Sunday’s stage, while young Frenchman Thibaut Pinot stole away for an audacious breakaway win, the main action centred on the big guns in a small chasing group.
Liquigas team leader Vincenzo Nibali, who has been rubbishing Wiggins’s descending ability in L'Equipe, set off down the steep descent of the Col de la Croix but much to his chagrin was unable to pull out any advantage on the Sky rider. Frustrated and perhaps a little chastened, Nibali then sat up to rejoin the yellow jersey group as they chased down Fredrik Kessiakoff, who led for a long spell, although they never really threatened to get on terms with Pinot, at 22 the youngest rider in the race.
Jurgen van den Broeck then attacked and, as he was caught with just under a mile to go, defending champion Evans put the hammer down and threatened to catch Wiggins napping. A gap momentarily opened before Wiggins engaged top gear and closed it, following him limpet-like all the way to the line. Even when Evans veered to the left to seek a better line, Wiggins went with him oblivious to what the other riders were doing.
“It was a tough old day, but every day in the Tour is hard and that’s another box ticked,” Wiggins said. “Vincenzo is a superb descender and we knew he would try and put us under pressure coming off that last climb but we responded. Now comes the time-trial, another day on the Tour I will race as hard as possible.”
Wiggins should actually be in his element today on a rolling 25.7-mile course from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon with no categorised climbs but rather more ups and downs than perhaps the simple route profile indicates.
Evans will also expect to go well but Wiggins has a chance of increasing his lead while Froome, seventh yesterday, continues to go like a train and could even move from sixth overall into a podium position.