Bradley Wiggins has a solid grip on the yellow jersey after Monday's time trial, but the Tour de France leader warned yesterday that it will be no simple task staying that colour all the way to Paris.
"It's going to be a real s***fight," he said. "I don't for one minute think anybody's going to say, 'Yeah, Sky have won it, we'll just go home and they can have their party in Paris. It's going to be a very long haul before we get there."
Wiggins recognised, as he has done every time when asked about his rivals, that last year's winner Cadel Evans was his biggest threat. "He's a very consistent performer and things could always fall apart," Wiggins said. "I don't see why they should but that is what sport is all about."
Meanwhile, world champion Mark Cavendish yesterday halted speculation that he might pull out of the Tour to prepare better for the Olympic road race. Cavendish stated categorically that he hopes to get "another win on the Champs-Elysées" in 12 days' time.
"We've got the yellow jersey and we've got it early, so we'll try to keep that," Cavendish said. "I've never felt this well at this point into the Tour, and I'm hoping I'll finish well."
Wiggins seemed cool and collected after his first day off – with just two hours' training in the morning before resting again – in nearly a fortnight, but he waxed eloquent about just how hard it had been for him to get to wearing yellow and how much it meant to him.
"When I put on the yellow jersey before I started the time trial it was just like an Olympic final in my old track days. You hear the crowd building up for me outside the starting hut, I could see Cadel and his team car in the distance on the road ahead of me and it was just fabulous. I had goosebumps."
"That's what I made all these sacrifices for, that's why I went out in Lancashire [near Wiggins' home] in December training when it's minus one, or ride over the Trough of Bowland hill [in Lancashire] in freezing hail. That first pedal stroke that day, riding in yellow through the crowds – it was fantastic."
Sky refused to field questions about the French rider Rémy Di Gregorio (left) of the Cofidis squad, arrested at his team hotel yesterday as part of an ongoing drugs investigation, but Wiggins was willing to discuss almost everything else.
That included team-mate Chris Froome, currently third overall and as Wiggins put it "a big part of the jigsaw... We've gradually grown together as a team, we're like a little family now, and we're willing to ride and die for each other." On a rather less lugubrious note, he agreed that Froome and he were like Batman and Robin "as long as I can be Batman".
Wiggins may well have to pull on his cape and get in his Batmobile today when he tackles the 17km (10.6-mile) climb of Col de la Colombière during a 197km slog across the western Alps. La Colombière is this year's first hors catégorie ascent, and is so tough to be unclassifiable. Or as Sky's team director, Sean Yates, puts it, "absolutely evil".
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