Tour de France: 'Froome Service' puts Wiggins triumph on platter
Bradley Wiggins, with tears in his eyes and a massive selfless assist from Chris Froome on the final three kilometres climbing into Peyragudes, closed out the Tour de France in the most dramatic style yesterday on the top of a misty Pyrenean mountain.
Barring an act of God, poisoning or a serious crash, the three-time Olympic gold medallist will become the first Briton to stand atop the podium in Paris on Sunday.
Wiggins' victory, when it is confirmed after tomorrow's time-trail, will come at the end of a 15-month rampage that has seen him win virtually every big race he has entered.
The denouement did not come without a little drama yesterday. Wiggins and Froome, protected and then projected into the final short climb by their colleagues, raced ahead of Vincenzo Nibali -- the only rider who has stood up to the three-week battering Team Sky have administered -- at the bottom of the final climb up to the Peyragudes ski resort and soft-pedalled momentarily for a chat.
Wiggins was keen for Froome to go for the stage win but soon after, by his own admission, started to wander mentally as the tears came and he realised the enormity of what beckoned. With Nibali faltering, he had effectively won the Tour de France.
The tireless, remorseless Froome -- a machine in the mountains -- drove on looking to put more time into Nibali and win the stage, but realising that Wiggins was drifting mentally, slowed to wave him through and shout encouragement.
After a definite wobble, Wiggins recovered and the pair then time-trialled together strongly to the line, finishing 19 seconds behind stage winner Alejandro Valverde.
It was a poignant, loaded moment, but what is for sure is that when Wiggins puts his €450,000 prize money into the Sky Team pot for distribution on Sunday night and hugs his colleagues before departing for the Olympics, he should write a little personal note of thanks to his companion for his 'Froome Service'.
Emotions were running high on the mountain and afterwards as a drained Wiggins was immediately confronted with various drugs questions, from Frank Schleck to the missing Alberto Contador.
"After everything I've done this year you still have to justify... 'so you might've won the Tour but is it ever going to be remembered for these people not being here, this, that and the other'," snapped a weary Wiggins. "For me in a positive sense, no-one's actually praised me yet, nobody's said you've been there since Tour of Algarve in February, winning races all year.
"I haven't dropped out of the first two for GC for three weeks now. No-one's actually said: 'You know what, Brad, good on you mate.'" (© Daily Telegraph, London)