Tour de France: Les Anglais on the Champs-Elysées


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The Independent Online

Sometime late this afternoon, the Champs-Elysées will become the "Promenade des Anglais".

Not only will Bradley Wiggins – failing a calamity – become the first Briton to win the Tour de France. Another British cyclist, Chris Froome, will come second.

A third Briton, their team-mate, Mark Cavendish, is the favourite to win the prestigious final stage. No nation has won such a startling triple crown in the modern history of the Tour.

One might expect the French, who have not won their own race since 1985, to be aghast. But they have become used to cheering other people's champions and even making them their own. Bradley Wiggins, who once rode for French teams and swears impressively in French, will be a popular winner, up to a point. It may have been a magical Tour for Britain but it has lacked drama for the fans. The two best riders, Wiggins and Froome, were in the same highly disciplined, British-run Sky team. The widespread view is that Chris Froome should have won because he was manifestly the best hill climber. But Froome respected team orders and held back.

"We like Wiggins because he is so passionate about the sport and he has the British sense of humour," said Cyril, 24, a cycling fan in a Paris sports bar. "But he is not one of the great Tour winners. Froome is more typical of the great hill climbers of the past."

Marc Madiot, who gave Wiggins his first break in road-race cycling, said: "Everyone was hoping Froome and Wiggins would try to screw one another. The Tour needs, and feeds on, great rivalries."

Wiggins is seen as a warmer, more passionate, less arrogant rider than Lance Armstrong, the last "Anglo-Saxon" Tour champion. It is believed he represents a cleaner, drug-free generation.