As the Tour de France looms ever closer, Bradley Wiggins passed with flying colours his first big mountains test in the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race, easily holding on to his overall lead.
Wiggins himself said beforehand that the race "proper" started yesterday in the first – and admittedly easiest – of a trio of Alpine stages, with an 11km smooth and steady final ascent to the ski station of Les Gets the day's main challenge.
The breakneck speed at which the race's main challengers tackled the climb – tearing round some uphill corners so fast they had to brake – would have floored anyone remotely out of shape. However, Wiggins proved more than a match for it.
Two out of the Londoner's three most dangerous challengers, veteran Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov and Belgium's up-and-coming Jurgen van den Broeck, both delivered several all-out attacks.
However, Wiggins' yellow-clad figure could be seen rapidly and stubbornly shadowing both of his main rivals on each occasion they chanced their arms, and with a kilometre to go, it was clear the leader's jersey would remain on the his shoulders for at least another day.
Today's six classified ascents, with a far steeper 11km summit finish on the "beyond-category" Le Collet d'Allevard climb, will be a more serious test of Wiggins' ability in the mountains. Come what may, though, yesterday the Sky rider was arguably more reminiscent of the Wiggins of 2009 – when he equalled Britain's best ever Tour de France result of fourth overall – than at any previous point in the last 23 months.
Wiggins was rightly satisfied, too, with Team Sky's strong ride through yesterday's high-speed 200km dash across the Alps' northern foothills, as well as their hard work on the final climb.
"Everything was under control, and I had [team-mates] Edvald [Boasson Hagen] and Geraint [Thomas] with me right up until the end," Wiggins said afterwards. "We never let any break that was too big get away and I marked the main guys myself."
Wiggins was cautiously optimistic about his chances, pointing out that, unlike in the sport's dope-riddled past, "there aren't any superhumans out there any more".
He added: "I could see the other guys' faces, they didn't have much more than me, so that's a good sign. I'm just glad to get this stage out of the way, and move on to the next."Reuse content