Cycling: Brailsford hails 'historic' GB duo


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The Independent Online

After 24 years with no podium finishes for a British rider in one of cycling's Grand Tours (France, Italy and Spain), Team Sky yesterday netted two in one fell swoop with second and third overall in the Tour of Spain for Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins.

Their joint achievement ends a drought on top-three Grand Tour placings stretching back to Robert Millar's second place in the 1987 Tour of Italy, and the time difference of just 13 seconds between Froome and yesterday's winner, Juan Jose Cobo, is the smallest ever between a British rider and that still elusive victory for Great Britain in a major Tour.

Madrid would represent a major milestone in British cycling history for those reasons alone, but given that prior to Sunday British riders had finished on a major Tour podium only three times, the landmark becomes even more significant.

Team Sky's management were justifiably proud that two of their riders, Wiggins and Froome, had broken through such a long-lasting glass ceiling on Grand Tour podium finishes – which simultaneously, for the first time ever, saw two British riders finish in the top three of a major Tour.

And after Wiggins' uneven performance in the 2010 Tour de France and abandonment this July with a broken collarbone, yesterday's result was ample confirmation that the Londoner has bounced back with a vengeance – and his fourth place in the 2009 Tour is by no means his limit in three-week stage racing. "It's an historic moment," Sky's team director Dave Brailsford said.

"Grand Tours like the Vuelta [Tour of Spain] are one of the biggest things in sport and doing well in them is what we set out to do in cycling."

Brailsford paid tribute to Froome, who has emerged from relative obscurity over the past few weeks. The Kenyan-born rider has just one minor win to his name. "For Chris, this is a breakthrough performance," Brailsford said. "He's learned to measure his efforts, stay consistent and that's built his confidence: once a rider has that self-belief, it always changes everything."

Brailsford also hailed Wiggins. "For Bradley, people used to consider him as a world-class time triallist who could hang on in the mountains, then this summer when he won the Dauphiné [a vital warm-up race for the Tour de France] he proved he was a world-class time triallist who could actually climb all right.

"He's proven here, in the Tour of Spain, that he can climb with the best on far steeper climbs and make them suffer.

"It's a massive step forward, a massive confirmation of his talent."

* HTC-Highroad rider Mark Cavendish won the opening stage of the Tour of Britain yesterday in a rainsoaked bunch sprint in Dumfries.