Bradley Wiggins' chances of becoming Britain's first ever Tour de France winner this summer, not to mention taking the Olympic time-trial title, looked stronger than ever yesterday as the Sky rider inflicted a stinging defeat on his rivals both for the Paris podium and the one in London 10 days later.
In a year when the Tour is supposedly going to be decided by a race against the clock, two images yesterday summed up Wiggins' superiority in a demanding 53km Critérium du Dauphiné stage. The first was Wiggins doggedly shadowing the 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans for the last 10km, despite having started two minutes after him.
Evans – on paper the rider most likely to stop Wiggins from winning the Tour – finally finished eighth, 1 min 43 sec down on the Briton. The Australian veteran will have been further disheartened to see Sky's dark horse Tour contender, Chris Froome, also ahead of him in the stage classification in sixth place.
Image No 2 that reflected Wiggins' strength on a wind-buffeted, blustery course, was the sight of Tony Martin, reigning World Time Trial champion and Wiggins' No 1 rival for London, ploughing along with his mouth wide open – clearly suffering merely to stay close. Martin finished 34 sec behind Wiggins but had the consolation of being the only rider to finish within a minute of him.
But Wiggins is – very wisely – refusing to predict runaway success yet.
"You can never rule out Cadel," he insisted. "He wasn't so strong in the Dauphiné and then he was really good at the Tour [last year]. A lot of the work is done now and I think the result reflects that today. It's a nice position to be in certainly, ahead of everyone going into the Tour."