Alasdair Fotheringham: Wiggins probably can't win the Tour but top-three finish is now realistic

Wiggins won not by crushing his rivals but in chasing down the most dangerous attacks

Six weeks from now, we might look back on yesterday as a crucial moment. Should Bradley Wiggins stand on the Tour de France podium in Paris – becoming the first Briton to finish in the event's top three - it will be remembered that the first signs that the Londoner could hit road cycling's jackpot appeared over these last eight days in France.

Wiggins's victory in the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race yesterday is not his first major success with British team Sky – that was the prologue of the Giro d'Italia last year – but whereas short time trials like those in the Giro have always been Wiggins' speciality, overall victory in the Dauphiné represents an enormous step forward for his Tour aspirations.

The history of past winners is one indication of the race's importance in its own right: Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong. Regardless of what happens, Wiggins now forms part of an illustrious roll of honour. But it's equally significant that the last British rider to win the Dauphiné was Tour contender Robert Millar in 1990, and that the only Englishman to do so was Brian Robinson – Britain's pioneer in the Tour de France – back in 1961.

Wiggins already has gone further than any other Briton apart from Millar by equalling the Scot's fourth place overall from 1984 in the 2009 Tour. But what makes his Dauphiné ride so intriguing is that two years ago, with less than a month before the Tour start, Wiggins was nowhere near in such good shape.

The Alps were precisely where Wiggins fell off the wagon in last year's Tour de France, too. This time round, though, his climbing in the same mountains – perhaps helped by prolonged periods of altitude training rather than flooring himself in the Giro, as he did last year – has vastly improved.

Equally encouraging is the way Wiggins has won the Dauphiné, which has not been by crushing his rivals. Instead, he moved into the overall lead in the midweek time trial, then selected the most dangerous attacks and chased them down. Not particularly pretty as a racing style goes, but effective and – crucially – economical, too.

Like every Tour contender will tell you, the aim is to be peaking in early June in order to hit top condition in July. Wiggins, who has won by using his head as much as his legs, looks to have got that spot on.

Equally, his team, Sky, have showed they are more than up to the task of defending a Tour leadership, protecting him on the flat, guiding him up at least two-thirds of the way up the final climb and – equally importantly – ensuring he regained contact after missing out on a bunch split on stage two.

What is to stop Wiggins taking the Tour's overall lead? Alberto Contador (who confirmed his participation on Saturday) and Andy Schleck, who have taken the top two spots in 2009 and 2010, are the two largest obstacles.

There are plenty of other factors that could trouble him: the Tour is two weeks longer than the Dauphiné, the competition is far fiercer and the huge rise in expectation caused by yesterday's success will renew the pressure on Wiggins, something he has not always responded to well in the past.

The good news, though, is that just like in 2009, thanks to the Dauphiné, Wiggins now has to be considered a candidate for the third place on the podium, should everything go according to plan, which is in turn a big ask. But yesterday's result proved that sometimes, as Wiggins' director at Sky Dave Brailsford likes to say, the planets really can all line up for you.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Franchise Operations Manager - Midlands or North West

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The position will be home based...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent publishing and...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue