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
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Senior Infrastructure / Network Engineer (VMware, Windows, LAN/WAN)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Primary teaching jobs in Thetford

£1036224 - £1513056 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Educatio...

Primary teaching jobs in the Swaffham area

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Are you a fully quali...

Year 1 Teachers needed for day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week