Tour de France: Invasion of les rosbifs!

Britons rush to conquer France with Wiggins favourite for the Tour

They are travelling by train and plane and ferry. One diehard fan has chartered a helicopter. But they're thinking only of bicycles, and one man who they hope can pedal into the history books to become the first Briton to conquer the Tour de France.

The prospect of Bradley Wiggins winning the gruelling 3,500km race has created an invasion of "les rosbifs", with thousands of supporters crossing the Channel to join the 12 million expected to line the route around France before reaching the Champs-Elysées on 22 July.

The 32-year-old multiple Olympic gold medal winner started in Liège, Belgium, yesterday, as the bookies' favourite to take on defending champion Cadel Evans from Australia.

Wiggins has already won the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné races this year, setting the scene for another chapter in this summer of heightened British sporting hopes. There is talk of him pulling off the biggest British cycling win for two decades. In last year's Tour de France, British sprinter Mark Cavendish won the Green Jersey, for high stage finishes, but no Briton has won the race outright.

At the beginning of last month, Wiggins was doing his best to manage expectations. He said: "If I put my full energy into it and as much commitment as I did on the track in the Olympics, there's no reason why we couldn't get better than fourth and maybe win."

But for his growing army of fans, there is no maybe about it. Michael Farrant, 25, a sports photographer from Essex, is watching the race to celebrate his brother's 30th birthday. He said: "It's quite something; Britain has never won the Tour before and we'll be right behind him."

David Dunphy, 28, a finance assistant at British Cycling, who left for Liège on Friday, said thousands of British fans were travelling over for the start this weekend. Others will be at the Champs-Elysées on 22 July, hoping to see Wiggins crowned the winner. Preparing to set up "fan zones" for keen Brits on the side of the road as the race went by, Mr Dunphy said: "If Bradley won, it would be the biggest thing in cycling in Britain since Chris Boardman won the Olympic gold medal in 1992."

Sports Tours International, one of the largest Tour de France trip organisers, has had a dramatic 20 per cent increase in demand.

Cycling enthusiast John Forbes, 47, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers from the Wirral, is so excited at the prospect of this year's Tour de France that he is treating his wife, Helen, and their two children to a helicopter ride, looking down on the race as it snakes through the French mountains. He said: "Wiggins has ridden fantastically this year and the fact he is going into this as favourite is really outstanding."

Doping charge

The US Anti-Doping Agency has recommended filing formal doping charges against Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist who won seven Tour de France titles. The agency said that it has Armstrong's blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are "fully consistent" with doping. It also has at least 10 former team-mates and colleagues of Armstrong who will testify that he used performance-enhancing drugs during races from 1999 to 2005.

Armstrong says he is innocent and will challenge the findings. "These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity," he said.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living