Bradley Wiggins always feared the 2009 Tour de France stage to Le Grand Bornand would be the most difficult for him and sadly his chances of finishing on the final podium in Paris have taken a huge blow.
Wiggins again performed better than ever before in the mountains but the eight per cent gradient of the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombiere were just a little too steep for him.
The British Garmin-Slipstream rider was unable to go with Andy and Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) when they attacked with Alberto Contador (Astana). He fought all the way, digging deep and hurting, with some excellent help from Garmin team mate Christian Vande Velde, but he finished seventh, 3-07 behind stage winner Frank Schleck.
Wiggins slipped to sixth overall, 4-53 behind Contador. Andy and Frank Schleck are now second and third at 2-26 and 3-25. Lance Armstrong is fourth at 3-55 and his Astana team mate Andreas Kloden is fifth at 4-44.
Wiggins was angry as he crossed the line. He probably wanted to disappear and some how get ride of his anger and disappointment but had been selected for doping control and so was forced to turn around and head back to the finish area.
After giving his sample he rode quickly to the Garmin bus but was in no mood to talk. He later sent a short comment via his Garmin team.
“Today was hard. It was the first multiple mountains I’ve ever contested for GC,” he said.
“The team – especially Christian and Dave Z rode amazingly. I pushed as hard as I possibly could have and now I need to recover, rest and focus on tomorrow.”
Wiggins knows that Thursday’s time trial will now be crucial in the battle for podium places, just like Saturday’s mountain finish at the summit of Mont Ventoux.
Wiggins, Armstrong and Kloden can perhaps gain time on the Schlecks in the time trial but they are promising to take it back by attacking on Ventoux.
Wiggins is 1-28 behind third placed Frank Schleck. He could gain that on the Luxembourgeois rider in the 40.5km time trial but Schleck will surely go on the attack on the climb to Mont Ventoux.
A place on the podium in Paris is not impossible but is now a major uphill challenge, one which will be decided on the slopes of Mont Ventoux.
Stage 17: Schleck brothers overhaul Wiggins as Frank wins the stage
Stage 16: Astarloza snatches Alps stage win as contenders wind up the pace
Stage 15: Contador wins in Verbier as Tour explodes into life
Stage 14: Ivanov wins as Nocentini clings onto yellow
Stage 13: Haussler braves rain for victory in Colmar
Stage 12: Sorensen wins in Vittel as Cavendish goes for green
Stage 11: Cavendish takes fourth win to equal Hoban’s record
Stage 10: Cavendish spoils Bastille Day party to take third stage win
Stage nine: Third French win as contenders content with ceasefire
stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out
Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance
Stage six: Millar’s brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs
Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage
Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second
Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage
Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador
Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint
Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial
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TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
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Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
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Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
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Team presentation by Graham Watson
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