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Win puts Wiggins among Britain's greats

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Tom Fordyce | 16:56 UK time, Sunday, 22 July 2012

Even though we should really be rather accustomed to seeing Bradley Wiggins in yellow by now, there was still something wonderfully unreal about watching him cruise up the Champs-Elysees on Sunday, bike, helmet and jersey all the same bright jaune, to become Britain's first ever winner of the Tour de France.

These sort of Parisian valedictions are not supposed to feature the British in any other than a supporting role. That a scrawny ginger kid from Kilburn has grown up to win his sport's greatest prize is one of the more remarkable tales British sport has produced.

It might even be the most laudable of all. "I may be a bit biased," admitted Sir Chris Hoy earlier this week, "because Bradley is an old team-mate and a great guy. But if he gets to that finish line it will be as good as anything any British athlete has ever done."

These are mighty claims, and lead to the sort of arguments that slander legends and end friendships. Yet the context, manner and meaning of Wiggins's golden July give Hoy's words a resonance that is hard to ignore.

Bradley Wiggins after winning the Tour de France

Wiggins has worn the leader's yellow jersey for 60 per cent of this year's Tour. Photo: Getty

There are the numbers - 109 years and 99 races gone, and just two fourth places for Britain to celebrate before this weekend; the stats (no Olympic track gold medallist has ever gone on to win Le Tour); and the plain old impossibles: a bloke who resides in Eccleston reigning in Paris; a champion of the track at ease in the mountains, a chaotic war of a race made to look like a procession.

Back in July 2007, when British Cycling's performance director Dave Brailsford first mentioned his dream of a British Tour team, it seemed exactly that: a happy fantasy, a vision at odds with history.

British teams had rarely been more than footnotes to the Grande Boucle, from the day in 1937 when Charlie Holland's broken pump ended his country's debut attempt, to the failure of eight of the ten-strong Hercules team, the UK's first, to complete the loop in 1955, to the dismal collapse of the ANC Halfords team in 1987.

As the Beijing Olympics a year later illustrated, Brailsford could make a mockery of precedent. But when he launched Team Sky on 4 January 2010 with the promise of a British Tour winner in five years, not even he expected a British one-two within three.

Some sporting triumphs owe a large debt to luck - a one-off punch, a penalty shoot-out, a one-eyed official. Wiggins's victory has its roots in nothing more complicated than ceaseless hard work, pinpoint planning and an unwavering commitment to become as good as he could possibly be.

After finishing Sky's debut Tour down in 23rd place, he sat down with coach Shane Sutton and sport scientist Tim Kerrison and worked out how to transform himself into a true Tour contender. In Tenerife's Mount Teide national park, 7,000ft above sea level, the hard yards were climbed, far from family, far from home.

The route of the 2012 Tour certainly suited Wiggins - 100km of time-trialling was always going to play to his strengths. The increasing success of cycling's battles against doping also left him facing a field as fair as any in an age.

But these are not caveats.

Wiggins has been the dominant stage racer of the entire year. During his hat-trick of victories at Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné he wore the leader's jersey for 15 of the 21 racing days. In France he rode in yellow for 2,064km of the 3,497km route. And if his time-trialling has been pivotal, wasn't it also for former winners Lance Armstrong and Miguel Indurain?

If Wiggins owes much to a very un-British level of planning and resource, he also owes a lot to Sky's overseas operators - Christian Knees of Germany, Bernhard Eisel of Austria, Richie Porte and Michael Rogers of Australia and Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen - as well as the unstinting support of his compatriots Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish.

In that he is in shared company with every other Tour winner. What makes his win all the more admirable is the style he has done it in - untroubled on the roads almost throughout, and able to deal with the unique pressures and questions which come the way of a maillot jaune.

Race leaders aren't expected to lead out their sprinters in the final week, let alone do it three times. Neither would all his predecessors have ordered the peloton to wait for the reigning champion, as he did for Cadel Evans, when saboteurs threw tacks on the road to derail the onrushing express train.

For these deeds the French media have dubbed him 'Le Gentleman'; L'Equipe has even hailed "the most famous rouflaquettes (sideburns) since Elvis Presley".

Back in Britain, the impact has been even greater.

Wiggins has not just dominated the back pages of newspapers but, increasingly, the front. This Tour win has secured him alongside Steve Redgrave, Daley Thompson, Chris Hoy, Ian Botham and Bobby Moore in the public sporting consciousness.

His successes should be hard to understand; none of us will ever ride the Tour. But millions of us cycle, when we don't row, or pole vault and throw discus, or run 1500m. We could never dream of cycling as he does, but that's exactly the point: we're aware of the gap, and we're in awe at how vast it is.

It is also an achievement rooted in uniquely British circumstances.

Although born in Ghent to an Australian father, Wiggins is a product of a homegrown cycling culture that long pre-dates Lance-inspired sportives and City-boy bikers: studying Cycling Weekly as a schoolboy, learning his trade at the dilapidated Herne Hill velodrome, making his time-trial debut on the Hayes bypass.

Is this the greatest British sporting achievement ever? The comparisons are near impossible, not least because the Tour and its demands are unlike any other sporting event. That's why we love it.

If you want to try, then you could throw in Roger Bannister's four-minute mile, Redgrave's five consecutive golds, maybe even the most sacred of all, to part of the nation at least: Wembley, 1966.

If that sounds too much, listen to 81-year-old Brian Robinson, Britain's first ever winner of a Tour stage, as he set off for Paris to witness Wiggins's coronation.

"We never dreamed of this in my days," he said. "We were scrubbing along at the back of the bunch."

British riders scrub along no more. The man known to the French as Le Gentleman, and the Dutch as 'The Banana With The Sideburns' has climbed the pinnacle.


Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I don't think you come near to answering the question you posed yourself. I am pleased however that you gave the praise due to the members of TeamSky who are not British. Great though Bradley's performance was, he couldn't have won without such a talented and organised team.

  • Comment number 2.

    @1

    Anything to bring an Englishman eh!

    Great Win by the person who actually rode the bike, its no fluke that people who win this event deserve it.

    99 tdf and a brit won 1. Go Jay Z

  • Comment number 3.

    English man down*

    Give credit where credit is due number one, how can one enjoy life with so much envy and contempt for a whole country and its people.

    This for the English cycling world is as good as winning Wimbledon, the world cup or any other top sporting event.

    Credit where it is due all day long.

  • Comment number 4.

    A great achievement for British cycling. This all started with Boardman on the Lotus bike 20 years ago.

    It's just a shame that Sky has to be plastered all over it. It wasn't Sky money that has made this happen, it is national lottery funding and money from the public purse via the BOA that gave the Brits this opportunity.

    As usual Sky hijack British success. How long before we hear the words 'Le Tour. Exclusively on Sky Sports'?

  • Comment number 5.

    It's a great achievement, I am a huge fan of Wiggo and have followed the TdF for many years going back to Indurain in the early 90's, so i know how hard a race this is to win.

    But the idea it's on the same level as achievements like Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile or Manchester United's triple EPL/FA Cup/ECL or even Phil Taylor's years of dominance for example is beyond belief.

    It's not like Wiggo is doing something no-one has done before, only something no-one BRITISH has done before. I would personally put Stephan Roach's triple crown in 87 WAY above Wiggo's achievement.

  • Comment number 6.

    @2 and@3

    Can you actually read? I said Bradley's achievement was great. I then agreed with Tom Fordyce's praise of the whole SkyTeam (including 6 riders not from GB) for their outstanding performance. No-one can win the TdF without a good team behind them.That is a FACT and if you can't accept that don't bother commenting.

  • Comment number 7.

    @Les Harvey, OK so Stephen Roche won the triple crown in 1987. But Wiggins has won 4 of the classics this year, as it said in the article. And we still have the Olympics and World Championships to come. So cut the guy some slack eh? He may only be half-way through an amazing year.

  • Comment number 8.

    "As usual Sky hijack British success. How long before we hear the words 'Le Tour. Exclusively on Sky Sports'?"

    Not going to happen - the European public broadcasters (Eurovision) do a joint bid for the coverage of the Tour and multiple other major cycling events, so Sky would need to outbid not just ITV/BBC but France2 and Sporza and RAI as well - and not just for the Tour, but outbid RAI for the Giro d'Italia, outbid Sporza for the Ronde van Vlaanderen, etc.

  • Comment number 9.

    Bradleys win is fantastic, but being a mountain bike fan Steve Peat winning the Downhill world championship in 2009 was the best for me. Oh and danny Hart 2011 and Gee Atherton in 2008, British cycling has been strong for a while. Oh and Tracy Moseley 2010 world champion and Rachel Atherton 2009 for the ladies.

  • Comment number 10.

    Some perspective is needed here. The fact that GB has never won might mean we aren't very good at it or don'tcare as much. The fact that a rider has won it is nothing exceptional. Someone has to win it every year! Furthermore he had a great team which led him through. Also perspective is needed four the tour itself. Was this an exceptional with many other great riders, or former winners?

  • Comment number 11.

    Consider what Bradley has actually achieved. He is virtually a legend of track cycling and now has put his name onto the most famous road race. I'd say that there is cause for arguing where this stands in the history of British sport.

  • Comment number 12.

    @5 I'm sorry but I couldn't disagree more. Whilst I agree that all the achievements you site are fantastic in their own right they are all in sports that we (the British) are traditionally competitive at. Your Phil Taylor example made me giggle I have to say, that's not to belittle "the power's" achievements just that there are many who wouldn't even class darts as a sport.....it's more a skill really some would say. (I'd love to hear the response if someone asked wiggins whether he feels his achievements in cycling match up to Phil Taylor's darting career!) Anyway, the point is that brad is the first British winner of quite probably the biggest annual sporting event in the world. A win that could really inspire a nation who have traditionally turned their nose up to cycling. What with the potential health and environmental benefits of getting people on their bikes instead of in their cars as well as the very real potential of inspiring new champions. I think it's certainly up there as great achievements go and wouldn't argue with Sir Chris Hoy's assessment that its the best ever.

  • Comment number 13.

    @1 and 6 I think shadow warrior was complaining about your general negative tone too much unnecesary implied critisism for me.

    Just sayin'

    I'm going to grow some sidey's to celebrate.

  • Comment number 14.

    Lest people get carried away, Wiggins is the second cyclist from these Islands to win the Tour and that after a 25 year lapse !! The great Stephen Roche,riding in a much more competitive scenario and devoid of all the cosseting provided by an Ambramov (he of Chelsea notoriety ) style Sky team performed quite brilliantly to earn the supreme acolade. If the two protaganists met in a" neutral " tour situation at their respective peaks I know who my money would be on. In the absence of some truly stellar cyclists, this year's event could best be described as a furlow one and a bit of a yawn !!

  • Comment number 15.

    The best comment was made by the ITV4 Team who said about his speech and interview, "Glad he hasn't had media training."
    The thing about Wiggo and Cav and Frome is that they come across as likeable people and that is why there is so much pleasure in their achievements and they may become sporting heroes.
    An exceptional sportsman will not become a hero without (apologies to Simon Cowell) the X factor. Rooney maybe the better footballer, but he isn't a hero like Beckham. Murray deserves to be much admired, but he is yet to become a sporting hero.
    Heroes go beyond their sport to inspire.

  • Comment number 16.

    Bradley win was great and yes it was also part of a team effort and he played a large part in getting Mark to the front of the sprints particularly in the latter stages.
    As for comparing it with other sports its in the same league as the pinnacle of football in 1966 the Rugby World Cup win against the Australians,Banisters first 4 minute mile etc and other great sporting achievments.I wouldn't single one out as being greater than the other as each made the country proud when they happened

  • Comment number 17.

    I would like to join in congratulating Wiggins, winning the Tour de France is a huge achievement, it is the pinnacle of the sport. His dominance in the time trials was absolute and he again demonstrated his strength and perseverance in the mountains, he is not a pretty climber but he certainly is effective.

    I think Ben is a little caught up in the moment by suggesting this is the biggest British sporting achievement of all time, but it is for sure the biggest by a British cyclist and I hope this will be a springboard for Wiggins and other Brits to contest the GC in all the grand tours in the years to come.

  • Comment number 18.

    @14 Stephen Roches achievements were amazing, as were Sean Kelly's at around about the same sort of period. Whilst I really did get behind those lads they were Irish not British so being from "these islands" is a moot point as is their inclusion in the debate.

  • Comment number 19.

    Suggest people who are making comparisons listen to More or Less on BBC iPlayer. Interesting comments about 'exciting' TdF in the past.

  • Comment number 20.

    Trying to compare the achievements of athletes from different sports is incredibly difficult and in the end a bit pointless.

    It's probably best to appreciate a great achievement by Wiggins in the pinnacle of a technical and physically gruelling sport.

  • Comment number 21.

    To essentially move from track cycling to road cycling and achieve huge success in both is probably the bigger achievement here. For similar achievements we could be looking at John Surtees becoming world champion in both motorcycle racing and Formula One, or Rebecca Romero's success in both swimming and cycling Olympics.

  • Comment number 22.

    The Tour is the greatest challenge in sport so for a Brit to win it makes it the greatest British Sporting achievment, yes.

  • Comment number 23.

    Bradley Wiggins acheivments are certainly the greatest by a British cyclist and certainly the best sporting perfromance of the day, unfortunately BBC radio 5 live did not think so though and gave preference to golf commentary over the final stage of the TDF, which surely shows the BBC have not got their priorities right.

    As to compare with other great success over the decades, it is difficult to compare within a single sport never mind one sport over another.

  • Comment number 24.

    Have to say I prefer the term British to English, but the team was multinational and credit has to go to all. The detractors who say it was boring, should look back to Miguel Indurain, all of whose victories were built on an amazing ability to time trial, just like the man who idolised him Bradley Wiggins. However this recent success is not something that has happened overnight, recent started with Boardman, Obree and Miller on the Tours, but it was when the likes of Brailsford arrived and applied a level of intelligence and professionalism into British cycling that things started to move forward. Starting on the track with Hoy, Pendleton, Wiggins, Cavendish and now spreading to the Grand Tours we have seen a steady and significant improvement in the British Cycling team as a whole, to the extent that at track level what we do is studied intently by the opposition. True Team Sky were the first to lose a rider in this years event, but seriously competative teams like Radioshack lost far more as the Tour went on.
    But boy doesn't it make you feel good, seeing guys going out working for one another and really setting the bar at a level that others were unable to match. Some think that with Contador and Andy Schleck back next year this may have been a flash in the pan, but I doubt it, this is the beginning of a new cycle of success and long may it continue. But keep the old nationality business on a low key, just be proud and enjoy it. Winning the Olympics will be just as big a challenge as its a one day event, we need all the guys on form and a fair bit of luck to win that one, but if we're there with 20k to go I can't see the rest of the world holding a candle to Wiggins and co on the run in. As for the Time Trial well Cancellara and Martin are no slouches, so that isn't a given either. Can't say I was mad to see SKY as the main Sponsors of Team GB but I suppose the Murdoch Empire needed one bit of good news this year, pity no one else got in first, but thats business.

  • Comment number 25.

    Great Article, Tom- Now can you explain why one of the greatest british sporting achievements ever is no. 2 sports story on the BBC behind a south african winning a golf tournament???? As you say I think at least the newspaper front pages will get behind it-incredible achievement for wiggins, Cav and british cycling.....

  • Comment number 26.

    24. Blimmer, Wiggins came forth in the tour before Brailsford arrived and at least some of those ahead of him on that tour have question marks against them.

  • Comment number 27.

    What a wonderful achievement by Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, but please do not forget the rest of the Sky team. To see the black and blue shirts at the front of the peleton (excuse my french) was amazing, day after day these guys kept all the other teams in their pen. How many times did the commentators say 'Sky are stopping escapes by keeping up a high pace' and on the mountains to see the three 'domestiques' leading Wiggins and Froome up the inclines really brought a new meaning to teamwork.

    Now comes the fly in the ointment, these 'domestiques' Bossan-Hagen, Rogers and Porte, together with Cavendish, who must be the best paid water carrier in sport, could, if they were in other teams, be the leader. So have Sky got a problem, how to keep these exceptionally talented riders happy, after all Cavendish is world champion, Bossan-Hagen is the Norwegian champion, as well being the1st Sky rider to win a stage. Still if you ride for Sky its a bit like playing for a Man United/Barcelona/Real Madrid at football, where do you go to increase your chances of winning?

    Again many congratulations to Bradley and Chris.

  • Comment number 28.

    @13

    Exactly

    There is always one that tries to undermine what was a fantastic win. Juts like all sports there is a supporting team of trainers, funders, sports scientist ect. While they are considered as supporting factors and they will also get plenty of plaudits and rightly so, its still takes the man on the bike to go out and win an event that requires great determination and effort.

  • Comment number 29.

    Oh my oh my. The BBC is the leading and bench mark news and sport multi media reporting organisation of the world.
    But the idiots who control it and those minions beneath them who work to a non sport addenda
    can not or accept the magnitude of this achievement.
    Stuff your columns per square inch, stuff your none highlights package
    Probably the biggest sporting achievement since 1966.
    1 and 2, come on BBC make this your number 1 news article, never mind your bloody sport.
    Come on BBC come on.

  • Comment number 30.

    Its a huge, huge British success, nothing can take that fact away.

    Wiggins will enter the nations hearts as one of the great sporting hero's, his down to earth character just reinforces that.

    Is he the nations' greatest? I guess that's how you feel about cycling as opposed to other sports , I somehow doubt he is bothered whatever..

  • Comment number 31.

    Dear Dez Wiggins wasn't riding for SKY then it didn't exist as a Team

  • Comment number 32.

    The whining and snivelling of bloggers putting down the Brit success in Le Tour is despicable, as is the BBC's reluctance to grace the success in case it offends the followers of octagenarian sports like golf and cricket; I am a retired teacher living in the 'States. U.S TV has given Le Tour due credit and NBC have been showing ALL DAY the same programme as ITV4 with high enthusiasm for the Brit success.
    Shame on you BBC. There would appear to be a gross lack of knowledge on nationality. My son was born in the USA and the same day I registered his birth at the Brit embassy and he carries a Brit passport. I am sure that is what Wiggo's mum did. Perhaps BBC's Governors and sports editors should ride a bike and realise the quality of Wiggin's success.

  • Comment number 33.

    In 2009, the record for most consecutive wins on the Champs-Elysées was one. The record for the most total was two.

    Today, Mark Cavendish won his fourth consecutive sprint on the Champs.

    It's a truly extraordinary feat; Wiggins will become another one-time winner of the Tour - a fine rider, but there are a couple of dozen others.

    Cav will probably end his career as the greatest Grand Tour stage winner ever. There's an Eddy Merckx record that was supposed to be impregnable. Cav is 27 and more than half-way there.

  • Comment number 34.

    Well done Bradley. Well deserved & hopefully more to come.

  • Comment number 35.

    Am I not right in thinking that an Italian court found Roche guilty of doping? This year's tour may not have had the dramatic breaks and battles of previous, but this was probably because it was the cleanest in years.

  • Comment number 36.

    Wiggo already bookies favourite for SPOTY surely, and thats before our huge Olympics medal haul !!
    Well done Bradley , a true sporting hero.

  • Comment number 37.

    Not sure if this has already been said, but I've been saying on Twitter for ages now, no contest, Brad to light Olympic Bowl.
    Saw Daley Thompson on TV the other day, sort of arguing his case for doing it. NO.
    1. The guy exhibited potiential homophobic attitude at the 1984 games towards a great American athlete.
    2. Disrespectful to our Queen, whistled the national anthem at medal ceremony.
    3. What's he done since.
    4. No, gotta be Brad, and as many have already said; just give hom SPOY trophy now. No one will come close to his achievement between now and December. Yes I am aware the Olympics haven't happened yet.

  • Comment number 38.

    The key to the win is Manager Dvaid Brailsford. This is a team of superstars each with their own ambitions. Brailsford has moulded them into a team all working for each other. That takes fantastic management skills.

    What football manager could boast that ability. Team Sky cam from Division 3 to win the Premier league in just three years what an achievement for the Manager.

  • Comment number 39.

    Great achievement no doubt. Hard to compare but BW has won Gold in 2004/2008 & now this. So consistent since 8 years & at top of his game. Longevity at top of your sport is what defines greatness. Has to be one of the top 5 or so feats in Brit sports. Same for Cav.
    66 was a one off & a team effort. So many others have done it time & again - Daley, Redgrave, Faldo, F1 guys & so many more over the years.
    Who knew these guys could provide the best opening ceremony before olympics.
    Well done all.

  • Comment number 40.

    Fantastic effort from a fantastic team seeing wiggo pull for cav the last few days shows tho who question the team and other members ambitions that he is more than willing to follow orders and assist wherever he can. We shouldn't underestimate how much of this team performance was reliant on each member, froome, Rodgers,Porte, bossen-hagan, wiggo complements the other. Individually the parts aren't as great as they've looked together they are a huge force though.

  • Comment number 41.

    The references that dilute Bradley's achievement by saying he only won it because of his team really do wind me up.... because;

    1. In football, which truely is a team game, when a play like Messi or Ronaldo play a blinder they are a genius... when this happens in cycling Bradley is critisiced.

    2. Cycling is unique, in that it is a team AND an individual sport. YOu cannot win the TDF with out a good team, but if you have the best team it doesnt mean you you will win. Putting Froome to one side, Bradley put minutes into his rivals.

    3. Bradley didnt sneek up on the sport, the intention of SKY has been explicit since 2009. Every other team had the same opportunity, the same time, some even had a bigger budget, to recruit the same rider, have the same equipment etc.... so there is no magic wand or magic dust just sheer determination, focus... and results since February speak for themselves.

    4. In Britain, in my opinion Cycling is not understood, it is hard, i am not going to repeat the drivel from Daley Thomson or Roger Black that one sport is harder than anyother, BUT cycling, and especially the TDF is unique in the demands it places on its champions.... Since 1970 there have been only 20 different winners.

    For the reasons above I believe that Bradley's sporting achievement is the greatest sporting achievement of any British sportsperson, and more importantly Team SKY is the greatest team achievement since Englands win in 1966..

  • Comment number 42.

    Quite simply staggered at those comments knocking Wiggo's achievements. Sure it's difficult to make the comparison between it and other great achievements, but just look at it in it's own context and admire the magnitude of what he has done. A converted track cyclist (albeit a bloody great one) going on to conquer the single greatest road race in the world. Think Coe or Ovett winning their golds in one Olympics and turning up at the next and winning the marathon... and another the next day... and another the day after for 20 or so days in a row...

  • Comment number 43.

    ... and another thing. Absolutely loved to see the Sky team's complete control of the peloton. Strong teams simply couldn't launch their riders off the front, best illustrated by Liquigas and Nibali on the penultimate days in the mountains. No sooner did he make his move than Wiggo chased him down and reeled him in... Utterly demoralising!

  • Comment number 44.

    Without doubt the finest British sporting achievement since Bannister and the 4 min mile for me. I hope he gets the recognition that this outstanding achievement deserves. As for Cavendish, a great a sprinter but he will never win the true test of an all round cyclist ! Finally just for Bradley's mum, an outstanding solo effort !

  • Comment number 45.

    Bradley Wiggins didnt win the Tour de France - Team Sky did, anyone who thinks this is the greatest ever sporting achievement by one British athlete is an absolute fool!

    Well done Bradley it is a very good achievement but quite clearly, the tour de france is not a 100 odd individual cyclists riding against eachother, its a team sport and any rider is only as good as his team and team sky have the resources to put together an incredible team.

    In terms of cycling, I think Chris Hoy's 3 gold medals were a much bigger highlight!

  • Comment number 46.

    Why do we have to select one? Why do we have to specify what is *the* greatest British sporting achievement? Why can't we celebrate them all equally?

    What Wiggins and Cavendish have achieved has been sensational, and deserving of all the praise that they get. They make us proud to be British. But let us not lessen the achievements of others, across different sports, across different eras, to identify what is the greatest. They are all great. They are all British. They are all worthy.

  • Comment number 47.

    Suggest you ask Chris Hoy that, but I think I know the answer ? Track cycling on the flat, compared to riding the Alps and the pyrenees over 3 weeks ?

  • Comment number 48.

    45.At 22:03 22nd Jul 2012, TeniPurist wrote:
    Bradley Wiggins didnt win the Tour de France - Team Sky did

    In terms of cycling, I think Chris Hoy's 3 gold medals were a much bigger highlight!

    ______________________________________

    So nobody has ever won the Tour de France before ?
    You had better tell the French because they have got it all wrong because they make a yellow jersey to present to the leader/winner.

    What medals are you talking about ?
    Wiggins has more Olympic golds than Chris Hoy.

  • Comment number 49.

    The truth is, the Tour de France is such a romantic, beautiful ideal you have to enter that world in which it inhabits to be able to judge it.

    In that sense Bradley Wiggins is the upmost of a worthy winner and I say "Well done Brad, you have done youself and your country proud, and let's look forward to 2013!"

  • Comment number 50.

    Chris hoys wins were great but no more so than wiggins track results in the pursuits for my money, being able to do that on a track mind and then win the tdf that is unique and that's what's we should be celebrating today not comparing that achievements to others.

  • Comment number 51.

    Wiggo's win was stunning: first time I found myself shouting at cycling on TV today (though delighted to say that my first view of the Tour was in 1992 cheering Allez! in the Alps in person)!
    What also interests me about 'Sporting Greats' is the question of a sportsman's personality; this is partly prompted by Brad's engaging media interviews and sense of humour. The comparison made in the blog with Bobby Moore et al. inc. Daley Thompson made me look Daley up, and I came up with this interesting Independent feature article: http://tinyurl.com/cl8uhct. Clearly Daley has an interesting personality, but not perhaps one Bradley might want to be emulating...

  • Comment number 52.

    Firstly thanks for a good article. I hope that sky don't buy the tour of France tv rights as it would rune the tour of France for most people.

    Well done to everyone at team sky, especially wiggo.
    Also don't forgot that David miller won a stage for Britain although this is minor compare to a tour victory.

  • Comment number 53.

    Whether it is the greatest achievement or not doesn't really matter. To those who say it's nothing, Chris Boardman was one of the greatest cyclists ever...and although he wore the 'maillot jaune' 6 times, I think I'm right in saying, that he NEVER completed the tour. One of the fittest men in history, broke down and couldn't make it, 6 times! That's how hard it is. Watch videos of Indurain 'breaking' in the mountains on his last tour; and Andreas Kloden in 2010. Le Tour breaks the hardest men alive.

  • Comment number 54.

    @ 33,Mark Cavendish has won 23 stage wins in the Tour de France,not 27,Eddie Merckx won 34,he's still got a long way to go

  • Comment number 55.

    Am I the first to say it? This is BIGGER than England winning the football world cup. For anyone to win the TdF requires 3 weeks of total sacrifice for the leader and his team. It is as significant as Stehen Roche winning for Ireland. We should also give "Chapeau" to Sean Kelly, surely one of the greatest sprinters to grace Le Tour prior to Cav, who is now, without doubt, the greatest sprinter in TdF history. I think he may yet overtake Mercx as the most successful stage winner.

  • Comment number 56.

    10: ''Some perspective is needed here. The fact that GB has never won might mean we aren't very good at it or don'tcare as much. The fact that a rider has won it is nothing exceptional. Someone has to win it every year! Furthermore he had a great team which led him through. Also perspective is needed four the tour itself. Was this an exceptional with many other great riders, or former winners?''

    Possibly the most hilarious comment I've ever read on BBC. 'Winning isn't exceptional because someone has to do it each year' .... Words fail me!

  • Comment number 57.

    Great achievement, no doubt about that. But to say it is the greatest is ridiculous. Ronnie O'Sullivan's 147 break in 5min20sec is so mind-numbingly difficult it is actually hard to believe it was real. No-one else but he can claim any part in it either. Unless Ronnie equals or betters it himself it is possibly the only sporting record that one can say with any degree of certainty will never be broken. Bradley Wiggins didn't break any record but has achieved something huge, and well done to him!!! However, I think Cavendish should be getting far more praise than he is for his 4th consecutive Paris victory and 23rd stage victory. Also Froome was arguably the better rider and a couple of times in the mountains had to almost stop and wait for Wiggins to catch up. Could've beaten him by a good few minutes I reckon.... and thats after towing him along for however many hundreds of kilometers!

  • Comment number 58.

    I think most people dont like to draw comparison to other sports or moments in history because its a bit futile and it almost feels like you are lessening the achievement itself . I think we have to look at the achievement on its own merits and in relation to our history in cycling , you covered this well short of one clear fact , winning the tour de france stands head and shoulders above any possible achievement in cycling . Brailsford , Sutton and the team now have a track record of great sporting achievement going back over 10 years and thats laudable . The professionalism , the humility , the level headedness of the culture they have fostered can only be admired . For a long time now i could see this with British cycling and was wondering why other sports in the UK where not motivated by this and sought to take a leaf out of British cycling and bring that attitude into their sport ........ Tennis , rugby , football , swimming , athletics could all learn something from British cycling and one simple truth that success breeds success . I think the management of British cycling has been enlightening , its a pity some other sports administrators are less enlightened . We should also all remember this started as small acorns and without a great deal of funding , but small success began to bring in sponsorship support and one of the best PR and marketing decisions SKY ever made .

  • Comment number 59.

    For a Brit to win the TDF is a great achievement. Is it a suprise? NO. It was always going to happen.

    Observerving of all forms of cycling, for many years, witnessing the great Beryl Burton, Hugh Porter onwards to Chris Boardman. There have been surges throughout the years in the sport of cycling and as a nation we have progressed. Probably more than anyone could reasonably accept at times.

    There is that old saying 'success breeds success' and Britain is reaping the rewards of its input into the sport, from several areas, through gold medals at championships and now a TDF win. We have truly become a mega nation when it comes to success in cycling.

    Is it the greatest achievement by a sportsman or woman from these shores? Who knows but it must rank alongside Redgrave, Pinsent, Coe, Holmes, Thompson and many others in their respective sports.

  • Comment number 60.

    This is a massive achievement for bradley and his team and for british cycling it should catapult their status into the stratosphere and now atrract the funding the sport deserves they have consistently had world and olympic champions in a variety of disciplines.

    i do feel the uci is cheating us and the athletes by restricting the numbers who can enter each class after all why cant cycling an cyclists have their phelps or spitz.

    aggree with posts about wiggo for sports personality an the cyclists for best team awesome that last time trial stage he rode but the guy has a bag full of olympic medals and set records getting them a real brit success story.

    i think the footballists should pop down to the velodrome and gets some tips on what it takes to win instead of the total losers they were at th euros, shocking talentless displays an feeble excuses and negative front page stories, the cyclists say they will do well and have done so on a regular basis.

    now where's me lycra !

  • Comment number 61.

    It has to be said:

    Lesley Garrett - what the hell was going on there!

    I think Brdad himself would have done a better rendition!

  • Comment number 62.

    I'd also put a word in for Channel4 who first started scheduling Le Tour on British TV. I think that helped raise the profile of Cycling in this country.

    And yes, it did seem a bit odd having to hunt around the BBC sport page in the last few days for what should have been the headline story. Tom Fordyce also seems to think it merited that. Could this be pettiness on behalf of some BBC high-up because you-know-who was the sponsor of the winners?

  • Comment number 63.

    How can it be one of Britain's greatest sports stories if it is not leading the BBC Sport website?

  • Comment number 64.

    Brads win wil go down in history like when Dennis Taylor won the world chamionship. Other people have won it more times but Brad is unique, he wears his heart on his sleeve and this will go down as one of the most memorable moments in sporting history and become part of British sporting folklore. Brad's total destruction of the field in the final Time Trial shows he didn't win this because of team Sky. He won it as he was the most awesome athelete in the tour.

  • Comment number 65.

    Those people that nae been watching the tour for years never thought we'd see the dayand know how hard it is to accomplish.
    An absolute fantastic achievement from someone that has won through ears of blood, sweat, and tears.
    Sadly as victory draws near it has attracted more people just long enough from their latest episode 'celebrity big x voice' for them to sniffily dismiss it as nothing.

    For a British person to have won is amazing enough, but it to be someone so honest, down to earth, stylish, funny, and such a gentleman is the rarest of rare.

    A true, true legend.

  • Comment number 66.

    Not sure if everyone knows this but last Saturday 14th July Cavendish received the prize of best ever sprinter in the Tour de France. It was awarded by L'Equipe. not a national soap powder or sausage manufacturer, but the biggest sports newspaper in Europe and long time sponsor of the Tour. Some accolade that. Bring it on.

  • Comment number 67.

    This is a landmark achievement and Wiggins is, along with 'Team Sky', getting all the plaudits. Some people are questionign the lack of appetite from the British public and for me personally I can say that cycling, running, rowing etc etc do not inspire as much as other sports.

    I can ride a bike, I can swim, I can row, I can run. Now I can't do any of these things to a professional athletes level but I can do them. I don't feel very inspired by someone who can do those things for much longer than me or quicker than me. It is a stunning achievement and I am not taking anything away from it, I am simply offering a slant off what may be a fairly typical British spectator. When I watch a football game, or a tennis game, or a darts game (as someone mentioned) I see things that I know I cannot do, not now not ever. That inspires and interests me. For me having the skill to complete a 9-dart finish, for example, is far more striking than cycling for 20 days.

    I've met people whilst travelling who were cycling around New Zealand, or Australia, or the world(!) in some cases. Wiggins cyclong a long way very quickly, his endurance is absolutely exceptional... but unfortunately not inspiring. Skill out does longevity for me every time.

  • Comment number 68.

    Fantastic result for Wiggins, Cavendish, British Cycling and the guys at Team Sky. Job done - now lets take the Olympics!

    @48 - no he hasn't 4-3 to Hoy

  • Comment number 69.

    Two things about the iTV4 commentary.

    1. They seemed to forget Armstrong also has 22 wins. He never got mentioned when they talked about it but the other guy did.

    2. The commentator knew nothing about Norway. He said they must all be here celebrating when they are more likely cememorating last years massacre this weekend rather than the final stage of an over bike race.

  • Comment number 70.

    It's hyperbole to rank this up with the likes of Botham 81 or Moore 66.

    However, I love a bit of hyperbole so let's carry on for a while!

  • Comment number 71.

    I am agree with #67 in many ways but on the other hand, these (especially running) are natural human abilities (rather than skills) and are therefore often non-elitist at least in theory.

  • Comment number 72.

    Sir Bradley Wiggins for the sportsman of the year. I kind of feel sorry for the British Olympic athletes, they know that no matter how many gold medals they win, it is on the card for Bradley. However, I think all sportsman think Bradley deserves it.

  • Comment number 73.

    I have NEVER watched the TDF in my life but I have to say I've been glued! what a sportsman! might as well not bother having a SPOTY shortlist this year!

  • Comment number 74.

    This is a fantastic article. Although it squirms into the realms of hyperbole to compare Bradley Wiggins' achievement with other great British sporting triumphs, it summarises the gravity of this win very well. Incidentally, I wouldn't bother trying to compare it, since it is by its very nature incomparable.

    Personally, I'm not into cycling and only started watching Le Tour because my housemate is addicted. As I began to understand it though, (amidst some debates about at which point racing and etiquette conflict) I realised what an incredible event it is. It's brutal, in every sense of the word, and writing now I struggle to think of a sporting competition that shows a better display of teamwork and selflessness. My first experience with Le Tour has inspired me to buy a bike and put a bit of my own effort into being, as I'm sure it has with thousands of people across Britain - something which Team Sky can be eternally proud of.

  • Comment number 75.

    Competing against the world's best cyclists over roughly 2000 miles, some of which is truly mountainous has got to put this race at the very top of endurance sports.
    Finishing the race a matter of minutes ahead of the runner up, also a Brit is staggering.
    Speaking as a partly fledged MAMIL I have to say these sportsmen have not caused a mid life crisis, more a mid life renaissance.

  • Comment number 76.

    @67
    So you don't think it requires skill (and nerve) to navigate a time trial bike round tight bends at 30mph without losing rhythm or momentum? Or to descend a 20k mountain pass at high speed?

    Winning the tour is not just about physical strength and endurance, it's also about long periods of extreme concentration and mental alertness – in short, it requires a portfolio of different skills and abilities to win the tour.

  • Comment number 77.

    @67
    I'm sorry, a fat bloke, heavily sweating throwing his pub arrows to a 9 dart finish more impressive than winning the tour de france, have you taken leave of your senses?

    I'm not a fan of either sport* but that comparison is just ridiculous. From your measures, when you watch an F1 race, you must sit there and think, "Pfft, it's not that different from me running down the shops in my Nissan Micra, now, back to the Winter Gardens."

    *darts isnt a sport

  • Comment number 78.

    Brad's been amazing, and getting Olympic gold will be the icing on the cake. The best comparison I could make is if Muzza had won Wimbledon. But he didn't.

    As for SPOTY, well, it's a bit bold making that prediction a week BEFORE the Olympic games begin! Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Rebecca Adlington and many more have yet to have their say. I think we can rule out another cyclist muscling in, though, not even the likes of Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Jason Kenny or Mark Cavendish will get a look-in. And Andy Murray still has one more chance to break his duch before nominations are announced.

    I think I'm trying to say this is shaping up to be the best summer of British sport since the reign of Queen Victoria.

  • Comment number 79.

    Wiggo was the Engine of an astounding vehicle that was Team Sky , phenomenal achivement by him and all involved.

    BBC sports personality has to be a 'shoe in' for him at the end of the year already, no matter what happens at the Olympics.

    And at least it will go to someone who has actually got a personality this time.

  • Comment number 80.

    45.At 22:03 22nd Jul 2012, TeniPurist wrote:

    In terms of cycling, I think Chris Hoy's 3 gold medals were a much bigger highlight!

    __________________________________________________________

    Ha! Brilliant
    Clearly Wiggins has failed miserably on the Olympic stage....oh hold on

  • Comment number 81.

    73.At 09:15 23rd Jul 2012, swindonbluearmy wrote:
    I have NEVER watched the TDF in my life but I have to say I've been glued!
    ___________________________________

    I have usually watched the last couple of stages in years gone by , but I am with you , this year I watched it all with great interest.

    This tour inspired me and left me in awe of the incredible fitness of these guys during the stages , and then they have to do it all again the next day !

    How is it footballers complain about getting tired when they to play 90 mins twice a week ?

  • Comment number 82.

    All credit to wiggins but it really needs to be put into perspective. The 2 best cyclists (Contador and Scleck) didnt compete, He had the best team by far, little opposition and he was embarressed by his teammate twice in not the most mountain based tour. Also all this "goldern era business" the chap is 32 (Contador is 29, Scleck 27).

    For any doubtors check out the stages in La Vuelta this year 6 mountain top finishes (none of this we do the Tourmalet 100km away from the finish) including some of the most testing climbs ever designed. That will defo separate the men from the boys.

  • Comment number 83.

    This was a fantastic performance by Bradley, he didnt just win the event he has set a bench mark for future tours.
    I hope this inspires Team GB to produce outstanding performances. Any GB team captains over the next few weeks should use Bradleys achievement as a example to follow. Hard, hard work and total focus, and never rest on your laurels, Well done that man.

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    Greatest sport achievement of the past 100 years by a Brit, as a ex-pat living in Europe for the past 36 years and having become a follower of the Tour, the mental and physical strength to complete this spectacular event is immense never mind winning it, so hats of to Wiggo and never mind all the moaning about Sky.

  • Comment number 86.

    Well done Bradley. Only the second Australian to ever win the Tour de France!

  • Comment number 87.

    @82
    Contador didn't compete because he is serving a ban for doping – which hardly makes him a candidate for best cyclist.

    A Schleck didn't compete because he was injured, but even before his injury had been stuck to the road all season.

    There were also 110 km of Time Trials in this years tour, where Wiggo would have taken huge chunks of time off Schleck, who just can't TT, and quite a bit off AC too. Schleck had a great chance to win last year when the route suited his abilities better, but was blown away by Evans in the final TT.

    Personally, I think Wiggins would still have won even if Contador and Schleck had both been riding, but he can only beat the opposition he's faced with, which he did with some ease – so why not just celebrate his achievement instead of trying to undermine it?

  • Comment number 88.

    24. Blimmer, some good points but I am fascinated already to think what it will be like next year with (possibly) Contador, Schlek, possibly Froome with another team and Nibali et al all a little stronger and more rounded. Having 3 other climbing specialists in competing teams will make it a HUGE challenge for Wiggins to retain the jersey. Will be interesting to see what the course is like for next year!
    67, granted most of us can ‘do’ these sports, I would argue that there is massive skill in completing / winning Grand Tours. Being able to endure is only one aspect (and a given for the top guys) – being able to strategise and out-think opponents at the same time as heading off down a mountain at 70+kph is pretty skilful.

    Chapeau to all the Brits in the Tour this year, but also all those that have gone before.

  • Comment number 89.

    I'm a teacher and we had some spare time on Friday (last day of term). I allowed my kids (8yrs) to watch the TDF on the smartboard. I didn't think they'd be interested and I was ready for them getting bored. Approximately 30 minutes later I was still answering questions that involved seeking information about distances, energy used up, nationalities, France, languages, pride in country etc.... The kids loved it. Sadly our statistic mad education system doesn't measure what they learned on Friday.

  • Comment number 90.

    Very, very pleased to finally see an bloke from our shores mount the podium in Lé Grand Boucle. This is something i did not honestly expect before the tour started, but it would appear that everyone was performing at a credulous level, and not the outrageous wattages of yesteryear on the climbs. It was a level playing field on the hills, so to speak, and the best, most prepared team deservedly took the plaudits. Rogers, Froome and Porte were absolutely immense in making up for the loss of Sivstov (sp?).
    a number of people seem to be thinking that because Froome was doing a lot of pacing that he was stronger than BW, but i am not sure. he would be a huge threat if on another team, but his TT would have let him down a little. He is definitely going to get better and in 3 years could have already won a Tour or two.

    Just an aside regarding Tour etiquette: Wiggins was not the first leader to temporarily neutralise the race after misfortune struck a GC opponent, and he certainly will not be the last. A very famous recent example would have been Armstrong slowing things down to see whether Ulrich would get back on the road after he decided to take a swim in a stream during a decent.
    it is poor form to make such a big deal about something that is not that uncommon in the tour. Most of the riders are gentlemen afterall!!!

  • Comment number 91.

    Although I got immense pleasure out of the marvellous performance both by Wiggins and the team, there have been over the years team events where I found myself yelling at the TV to encourage our boys or girls over the line so to speak. Daley beating the 3 pronged german decathlon attack, Cris Akabusi fighting his way past the american world champion Antonio Pettigrew to win the 4 x400, JW kicking the last minute drop goal to bring victory over the australian team and the saffer ref, Solksjaers goal to beat Bayern in 1999, Linford blasting to victory in the olympics, Sally Gunnell destroying the field and the world record...... Yes Brad and Chris and the others were phonomenal but the raw excitement is not quite there in an event where you can finish 200m behind the winner and still get the same time.

  • Comment number 92.

    What a fantastic result for BRITISH cycling. Hopefully the first of many in the Tour. Froome should be up there with a great chance to win it. Geraint Thomas will be back after the Olympics and may well commit to road racing. Cavendish will have a great shout to win the most stages. Bring on some success in the Olympics and this could be a very good year for Britons.

    What with all the home nations being crap at football, maybe its time we had a British side permanently. We may actually win something like our cyclists.

  • Comment number 93.

    .....and he did it with immense style, both in leading Cavendish in, and in his riding style, low, straight, streamlined and sustained

  • Comment number 94.

    @ 76 I did not say that the Tour de France is bereft of skill nor did I say Wiggins achievements were to be undermined - he has shown grit, determination, a will to win and years of dedication - no mean feat. My point was about inspiration and about a possibly tepid response to his achievement. As I said I am not inspired by someone who rides a bike very fast for 20 days. I am not saying that what he did is nothing short of exceptional, I think he should be lauded for this achievement - I was simply saying I don't find it very inspiring (hence why I cannot personally agree with this being talked about as the greatest achievement by a British Sports person).

    @ 77 Reductio ad absurdum does not make your argument any more valid. I did not compare the Tour de France with going for a casual bike ride, I simply pointed out that because I can ride a bike (as can many other Britons) I do not feel inspired by Wiggins success and, as such, cannot agree with this achievement being talked about as the greatest in British sport. For the record I watch an F1 race and I admire the skills of the drivers in maintaining control whilst pushing the car to the limits... but again I could not say I am inspired when I watch it. I don't think Hamilton's or Mansell's World Championships are worthy of inclusion into a 'Britains Greatest Sporting Moment' discussion and I feel the same way about Wiggins Tour de France triumph.

    You can mock darts, i'm not a big fan so I can't say I feel outraged by your comment. It's true the players are not in great shape physically, but to suggest that there is no skill involved at all is, to be honest, completely wrong. This is only my personal opinion but seeing someone at the top of the game (i.e. Phil Taylor, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Roger Federer, Lionel Messi) in sports that require much more imagination and skill is far more inspiring too me.

    My final point is spectators: us the fans surely matter in terms of talking about sporting achievement and there are not many people who wish to watch cyclists for 20 days. There is an element of tedium to stuff like the Tour de France so, whilst Wiggins achievement is outstanding, I don't think it is deserving of a 'Britains Greatest Sporting Achievement' moniker. I don't think there would of been too many people whooping for joy, or jumping up and down in there seats, or going through the full spectrum of delight and elation and release that accompanies truly great sporting achievement (cue the few people who did to comment about how wrong I am). I can't get emotional about a 20 day bike race so, for me, I don't see how this sporting moment can rank as the greatest.

    This is only my opinion but I suspect that it is one that a good share of the population can relate to. I don't expect people to agree with me on this comments page because this is for cycling so, I would suspect, the majority of people leaving comments here are cycling affictionado's and for them this is the greatest moment in there particular sport/hobby of interest.

  • Comment number 95.

    Not a keen follower of cycling but as a casual observer I have to say that the Tour de France always seems to be tainted by drugs cheats. It's a great credit to Wiggins and past winners, like Armstrong, that they are able to be quicker than the cheats who take drugs; and surely that means that this is one of the biggest British achievements.

    Just a note that the ITV commentators sounded generally a bit clueless. When did Britain win the World Cup in 66?

  • Comment number 96.

    I've always loved the Tour since it was first shown on Channel 4 in the early eighties and the epic battles between Fignon and Hinault.

    Now we have a British winner- who would have fathomed it!

    I hope a lot more people get it now and British Cycling goes from strength to strength. Heres to more British winners.

  • Comment number 97.

    Well done, great achievement. But lets be brutally honest, this sport is admired by few (% wise)and is not the same as winning Wimbledon or Euro or WC... if you think it is then celebrate it as that. But IF either of the aforementioned was won by GB / ENG the country would be in a standstill for a week. This is not in the same league. Even tennis is not the same league as the footy.

    Great start to the week of possibly the greatest even to come to these shores in a long time....Come on TEAM GB - make us proud

  • Comment number 98.

    @repo Post 48

    Eh, wrong. Hoy has 4 golds and Wiggins has 3.

    Brillian achievement by Wiggins - at the end of the day the tour is decided in the time trials and Wiggins was by far the best at this. With the back up from Team Sky all he had to do was ensure he won the time trials and then stick with the peleton in the rest of the stages. Listen to me, 'all he had to do', LOL. Obviously a fair bit of effort required there.

    A great Team Sky effort. Surely Brailsford is up for a knighthod along with Wiggins.

    As for SPOTY - He'll struggle to win in an Olympic year if Ennis gets gold. The blanket coverage on tv will ensure that. ITV4 just doesn't have the viewership and the Olympic build up will overshadow his achievement, sadly.

    At least we pretty much know this is a 'clean' win which is great for the sport.

  • Comment number 99.

    All of you who are belittling Wiggins achievement should ask how many track riders have won the Tour de France? An equivalent achievement in Atheletics would be Michael Johnson moving up from success in the 400metres to the marathon and defeating Gebreselassie! Think about it.

  • Comment number 100.

    86. At 10:21 23rd Jul 2012, JimDavis wrote:
    Well done Bradley. Only the second Australian to ever win the Tour de France!

    As much a victory for Britain as it is for Australia. Although I guess British cycling is headed by no other than Shane Sutton :-D cheeky, I know.

 

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