Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins' pedal power wins over the French

John Lichfield on the Champs-Élysées watches the British cyclist complete a famous victory

Not since Winston Churchill in 1944 has an Englishman received such a triumphant welcome on the Champs-Élysées.

With British fans waving Union Flags and chanting "Allez Wiggo" like a football crowd, Bradley Wiggins entered sporting history yesterday by becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France.

His Sky teammate Mark Cavendish – helped by Wiggins until the final yards – won the final stage for a record fourth time in succession. Another Briton and Sky team member, Christopher Froome, came second after three weeks and 3,500 kilometres of cycling to give Britain an unprecedented triple crown in the most gruelling sporting event on earth.

However, it seems that Britain and France can rarely agree on anything. The British excitement has been matched by French "ennui".

By common consent of the French commentators and fans, this has been one of the dullest Tours in history. Is this because France is miffed that the British should have the cheek to win "their" race?

Raphaël Delory, 23, part of the huge crowd which lined both sides of the Champs-Élysées for the final stage, said: "It is not that. We love Bradley Wiggins as much as you do but the tactics of the Sky team made it a very dull race. There were no attacks or breakaways in the mountain stage. No excitement. No emotion."

French cycling fans have grown used to cheering foreign winners – Americans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Luxembourgers, an Irishman and now a Briton. No Frenchman has managed to win the Tour since 1985.

Wiggins rode for several years for French teams; he speaks French; he has the quirky sense of humour which the French think goes well with bowler hats, fish and chips and mint sauce. He is a popular rider in France.

The French doubts about his victory are based on the domination of the race by the computer-aided tactics of the Sky team – and a belief that Wiggins was not truly the best rider. The widespread French view is that Froome should have won the Tour because he was manifestly the best hill-climber.

The Tour is traditionally won in the near-vertical climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Froome was bound by team discipline, and his contract, to hold back in the mountain stages to help his team leader, Wiggins, to win.

British fans who gathered on the Champs-Élysées in their hundreds had little time for such technicalities.

James Froggatt, 47, a tax accountant from Hemel Hempstead, said: "It's exciting not just because it's a British victory. The Wiggomania in Britain is also a tribute to him – an extraordinary man who has overcome adversity and knows how to win."

A group of friends from the Midlands had all grown long sideburns "in homage to the Wiggo look".

One of them, Jamie Mason, 32, was wearing not a yellow jersey, like the Tour leader, but a yellow dress.

"He's getting married next month," said his friend Matt Voss, 33. "This is his stag party."

After receiving the trophy, Wiggins said: "It's been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling. Some dreams can come true, and now my old mother over there… her son's won the Tour de France."

In interviews after crushing the opposition in the final time trial on Saturday, Wiggins replied to the French complaints about the dullness of this year's race. The protesters are the "same people who insist that we are all doped", he said.

They can't have it both ways; road-race cycling has changed, he said. The old days of phenomenal individual feats in the mountains are over. In other words, team discipline and computer-analysed performance levels are the new drugs.

Wiggins has a point. There has been an institutionalised hypocrisy surrounding the Tour de France for years. Everyone spoke of the need to drive dope and artificially inflated blood-oxygen levels out of cycling. No one wanted the riders' performances to dip. No one wanted to lose the exciting mountain breakaways by superhuman riders who, in many cases, turned out to be superhuman for artificial reasons.

The fact that such exploits were missing this year is perhaps the clearest sign that cycling is cleaning up its act.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering