Tour of Britain: Sir Bradley Wiggins pays tribute to team-mates after surviving tough day

 

If he didn't appreciate the value of teamwork already, then a day spent repelling numerous attacks in the Brecon Beacons was enough to ram it home. Sir Bradley Wiggins paid tribute to his Team Sky colleagues last night after he retained his lead in the Tour of Britain today on a gruelling stage five that pushed the 2012 Tour de France winner to his limits.

When rising star Nairo Quintana and Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin had led by more than a minute with less than 20 kilometres to go, it seemed as though Wiggins' exertions in Tuesday's time trial may have been in vain.

But the joint efforts of Sky's Spanish workhorse David Lopez and second-placed compatriot Tim Stannard gradually pulled them back during the run-in to the finish in Caerphilly, reducing the gap to just nine seconds with 10km remaining and eventually achieved parity 2.5km from home.

From then on it was left to the sprinters to battle it out, with Ireland's Sam Bennett outclassing Michal Golas and Martin Elmiger to cross the finish line first.

"I knew the route today because I rode it last week and I knew it was going to be the queen stage of the race," said Wiggins, who maintained his 37-second lead over Stannard.

"I keep saying it but you're nothing without your team and the boys rode all day once again to control the race. In the end I used David Lopez and Ian for as long as possible, right to the last kilometre, and they left me with nothing to do but sit there until the end."

Wiggins added: "I don't have the accelerations on the climbs that Dan [Martin] and Nairo Quintana have, but I just time trial because I know how to pace my effort and it works – I won the Tour de France like that."

Having endured a frustrating year where he withdrew from the Giro D'Italia with illness and was then denied the opportunity to defend his Tour de France title, Wiggins remains on course to become only the second home winner of the Tour of Britain since it was reincarnated in 2004 after Jonathan Tiernan-Locke last year.

Now with the World Championships to come in Florence next week, the four-time Olympic gold medallist claimed he is closing in on his peak condition."It's been a long road to get back to the level I'm at now, but I've worked hard for a good 20 weeks to be in this condition and this is what it's all about," he said.

"We'll take it as another day tomorrow and we won't be underestimating anyone. We lost Alex Dowsett from the general classification battle today, so that's another one down, and we'll keep plugging away as we aim to stay in control of this jersey."

Stannard remains second in the standings and leads Switzerland's Elmiger by six seconds going into today's 137.5km (85 miles) stage through Devon that culminates at Haytor on Dartmoor.

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