Bradley Wiggins took over the Tour de France race leader’s yellow jersey on Saturday on the first mountain stage to La Planche des Belles Filles.
“It’s f**king nice! I always dreamt of it,” Wiggins said post-stage. “I realise the position I’m in now and I have the utmost respect for it. It’s something I’m looking to keep.”
After a dominant ride by his Sky team, including a stage win by Chris Froome, he leads the overall classification by 10 seconds over Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Two weeks remain in the race, including a mountain stage on Sunday to Porrentruy.
Judging by the work of Froome, Richie Porte and Mick Rogers in the mountains, Wiggins looks ready to defend his lead at least until Monday’s time trial.
“The team was great as they have been the whole year,” Wiggins explained. “Froome winning the stage just topped it all off for us.”
Froome took over at 2.1km out. Before, Australian Richie Porte paced the group up the climb and helped shell several top rivals, including Denis Menchov (Katusha).
“I was surprised there was so much damage today. We didn’t really go 100 per cent to get to the summit. Cadel was always going to be the one and that’s still no different.”
If Wiggins makes it through Monday’s time trial still in the lead, he can enjoy a rest and plan the final two weeks of the race. He said that he has no thoughts of letting the jersey go, even if for a few days.
“You can’t get cocky and choose when you take the yellow,” he added. “I feel fortunate just to get through the first week to be here, I’d much rather be yellow than in the hospital.”
Giro d’Italia winner, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) didn’t start today due to injuries sustained in a mega-crash yesterday. A situation Wiggins is familiar with, having to abandon last year’s Tour in the seventh leg.
Wiggins questioned a Belgian journalist about his country’s star, Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol). His chain dropped and he lost time. Denis Menchov (Katusha) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) also lost time, suffering from Sky’s rhythm on the final climb.
It’s a three-horse race, according to Wiggins. He, Evans and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) are the likely challengers to the overall win when the race ends in Paris on July 22.
“The Tour’s coming down to three riders: myself, Evans and Nibali,” he continued.
“Is it a Wiggins Tour? That’s the way it’s been tapped from the start. There was also Nibali and Rein Taaramäe there. But it’s looking that way.”
Tour de France 2012: Latest news
Dislocated shoulder hinders Greipel sprint
Hesjedal may be out of Tour after Garmin suffer in crash
Stage seven video preview
The Feed Zone: Tour news round-up (July 5)
Celebrating the Tour’s lead-out men
Liquigas’s yellow and green jersey aim at Tour
Brailsford: Sky on the front for Cav and Wiggins
Fourth Tour crash for Farrar
Greipel on a roll at the Tour
Cavendish and Eisel expected to continue after stage four crash
Injury report: Tour stage four
Garmin-Sharp adjust Tour de France plans after injury problems
Sky down to eight after Siutsou crash
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour’s time trials
CW’s Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Andy Jones
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce
Tour de France 2012: Related links
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Brief history of the Tour de France
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever