Cycling: Brits hit heights and now Sky is the limit

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The Independent Online

Mark Cavendish's record-breaking run of stage victories in the Tour de France and Bradley Wiggins' unexpectedly strong finish in the same race made 2009 the highest of high points for British road cycling. But outside the UK, the season can be summed up in a few words: after a three-year absence, Lance Armstrong was back.

Compared by one journalist to Jesus Christ when Armstrong flew into Adelaide for his first race since 2005, there was more than a touch of religious hysteria in the media's nauseatingly reverential treatment of Armstrong's Second Coming.

Every word of the American's pithy, and profuse, Twitter declarations was given near-Biblical status. When he broke his collarbone in a race, a commonplace accident for bike riders, it quickly gained the status of a major sporting catastrophe.

Amid all the fuss, the fact that the previously unbeatable Armstrong failed to win a race went almost unnoticed. The Texan still took an exceptional third overall in the Tour de France – "not bad for an old fart," he said.

The big news for GB fans was Wiggins' fourth place in the Tour. But for one bad day in the mountains, Wiggins (pictured) could have made the podium, which he will seek this year as leader of Britain's biggest ever professional squad, Team Sky.

Cavendish gave Britain even greater cause to celebrate. His run included a staggering six Tour de France stages. At 24, there is surely more to come.

Three to watch

Bradley Wiggins: In 2009 the Paul Weller lookalike broke into the top five in the Tour de France. Can he better that result in July?

Mark Cavendish: Britain's greatest road-racer battles for the Tour's green jersey.

Lance Armstrong: Set to challenge for his eighth Tour. If he succeeds, he will add the most dramatic chapter to arguably sport's greatest comeback.

Alasdair Fotheringham

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