Cycling: Wiggins shows Tour pedigree with Nice win

 

Col d'Eze

British cycling's seemingly unstoppable rise over the last decade saw it pass another major landmark yesterday when Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to claim a victory in the Paris-Nice stage race in 45 years.

The precise time and place was 2.40pm local time on the summit of the Col d'Eze climb, 501 metres above a glittering Mediterranean sea, when Wiggins' yellow-clad figure flashed across the finishing line of a 9.8 kilometre uphill time trial, his victory finally guaranteed.

The leader since last Monday by a fraught six seconds, Wiggins final winning margin was almost equally small. Dutchman Lieuwe Westra, his most tenacious rival, finished two seconds slower than Wiggins on the stage, and eight seconds down overall. Such a tiny margin is the fourth smallest in Paris-Nice's 70-year history, and as such it does not do justice to how Wiggins has, despite such a slight advantage, maintained the upper hand with ruthless determination for the last week. In fact, ever since he finished a close second in the rainsoaked opening time trial last Sunday, the Briton has been the strongest and most consistent favourite.

If time trials have always been a speciality for the 31-year-old Londoner, Wiggins attentiveness when getting in the right side of a long-distance ambush by 21 riders on the Monday earned him the leader's jersey – just the fifth Briton to have that honour and the first since David Millar in 2007.

However, it was Wiggins' continuing improvement at climbing, traditionally his weakest suit, on the agonisingly steep two-mile slopes of Mende on stage five, that meant that, with one decisive time trial left, his lead became much more than a symbolic honour.

This time, for the first time in 45 years, a British win in Paris-Nice, one of cycling's top five stage races, was on the cards – and three days later, Wiggins became the first GB winner since his cycling hero, Tom Simpson, outwitted his Peugeot team-mate, a certain Eddy Merckx, to claim the victory in 1967.

"Pardon my French, but it's fucking enormous," Wiggins said afterwards. "I really think about things like that, although I've been trying not to in the last few days. But to follow in Tom Simpson's footsteps to become the second Brit to win, everybody else on the list – Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Indurain, it's a massive thing."

A GB record-equalling fourth in the 2009 Tour de France, third and a week-long leader in the Tour of Spain last year, the winner of the Giro d'Italia's prologue in 2010 were all breakthroughs for Wiggins. However, to take a second major week-long stage race after the Criterium du Dauphiné last year confirms he has yet to stop pushing back the frontiers for British road-racing.

"The Dauphiné was huge as well, but to put my name on both those races is an absolute honour really, especially with the finish on Col d'Eze," Wiggins said. "I grew up watching [seven-times Paris-Nice winner] Sean Kelly winning Paris-Nice on that summit, so coming round that final bend to do that today was even more special."

But victory was not overly surprising, though. Wiggins's time trial in the low-key Tour of Algarve in Portugal in mid-February was his earliest win in any season and yesterday he confirmed that he and Team Sky had long had Paris-Nice in their sights.

"We've got these goals and Paris-Nice was a huge one – this hasn't all been written down on the back of a bog roll or anything." Wiggins said.

Traditionally seen as a stepping stone for the Tour de France, this latest win will inevitably raise the pressure on him in July. "I'm on that list of riders who won Paris-Nice, the Dauphiné. There's just one left now to win now," Wiggins said – and it is a sign of his, and GB's relentless improvement in road-racing that he did not have spell out which race he was referring to, either.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works