Tour de France: Wiggins puts in one for the boys

 

Le Cap d'Agde

Bradley Wiggins revealed another of his multiple talents yesterday when the Tour de France leader acted as wingman for his team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen in the 45-rider bunch sprint that decided yesterday's stage.

Finally third, Boasson Hagen was unable to add a third win to his brace of stages taken for Sky in the 2011 Tour – the victory went instead to Germany's André Greipel.

But the sight of the yellow jersey steaming round the final long right-hand corner at the head of the pack as they tore towards the finish in the Cap d'Agde Mediterranean beach resort had TV commentators out of their chairs all the same.

As Greipel pointed out afterwards, Wiggins has adapted to this role of guiding a team-mate through the pack at speeds of 70kph before, and very well, too – most memorably for Cavendish when the two raced in the Columbia-HTC team back in 2008.

And proof of the sprinters' faith in Wiggins's ability to mix it in the bunch gallops was that Greipel said he deliberately manouevred his way to behind Boasson Hagen because he was confident that Wiggins would get his Norwegian team-mate ideally placed for the final dash for the line. "He's very good at it," added the triple stage winner Peter Sagan of Slovakia, second yesterday.

Even so, for Wiggins to work so hard for his team-mate while trying to win the biggest bike race in the world was an unexpectedly generous gesture. Although Fabian Cancellara, the Tour's first leader, has also done this in the past, a time trial specialist like him is never going to battle for outright Tour de France victory. For an overall contender to do so, in yellow to boot, is almost unprecedented.

Wiggins's switch from Tour leader to lead-out man – as the last man to guide a sprinter into position – was not the only change for Sky yesterday. It had been widely expected that the world champion, Mark Cavendish, would be the British team's man for the sprint. However, like more than two thirds of the peloton, Cavendish was dropped on the Mont Saint Clair climb, some 30 kilometres from the finish, that reared out of the coastal town of Sète like the side of a house.

Key rival Cadel Evans tested the water with a prolonged acceleration in the climb's steeper second half, but Wiggins more than rose to the occasion, keeping a steady pace that saw him come steadily back up to the Australian's right shoulder and discourage further attacks.

Cavendish was unable to regain contact with the front group, meaning he will now have to wait until Monday's flattish stage into Pau to try to equal the total of 22 wins taken by André Darrigade – the Tour's all-time greatest sprinter. Meanwhile Sky's front-runners – Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mick Rogers – decided to switch to Plan B and work for Boasson Hagen, present in the front group, instead.

Explaining why he was willing to expend energy for his team-mate, Wiggins explained: "To be right at the front was probably the safest place for me.

"Apart from eliminating any personal risks, I also wanted to help Edvald get back up there because he's been solid for me this year and throughout the Tour."

"I'd have been making the same kind of effort if I was lying thirtieth, but it was a good way of trying to repay a friend of mine."

Apart from fielding the almost obligatory question about doping – "I have nothing to hide but I think that would not be enough for some people unless they lived with me for 12 months, and I'm not prepared for that", was Wiggins's forthright response – the British leader was asked if he was now prepared to take on another position traditionally assumed by the Tour's strongest rider, that of patron or unofficial boss in the peloton.

Wiggins politely but firmly said: "We're all equals at the end of the day, everybody works just as hard in the peloton, and in my experience when there have been bosses in the past it's been more out of fear rather than respect."

Fine words that Wiggins's willingness to work for Boasson Hagen suggests strongly are sincerely felt as well.

Today's stage Limoux-Foix, 191km. The Tour's first incursion into the Pyrenees, with two little-known first-category climbs, the Port de Lers and the Mur de Péguère. The second is unremittingly steep, but with 40 kilometres from its summit to the finish, the likelihood is that the overall contenders will ease back.

Pick of the week's stages

Stage 16 Wednesday 18 July (Pau–Bagnères de Luchon, 197km): Featuring all the classic Pyrenean climbs, from the dauntingly long, relentlessly demanding Tourmalet to the short, punchy Peyresourde, after nearly three weeks of racing nearly all the major contenders will be close to breaking point. If there is a long-distance mountain attack on the Tour de France this year – as happened in 2011 with Andy Schleck – this is the day it will happen. If Wiggins is still in the lead, this is his rivals' best opportunity to dislodge him.

Stage 19 Saturday 21 July (Bonneval–Chartres, individual time trial, 53.5km): Wiggins (if he's still leading) will have to make one final effort here before Sunday's largely ceremonial stage into Paris. Unremittingly flat and featureless, on paper this should be his best stage in the Tour. But with riders close to breaking point, nothing is so certain – and four of the Past five Tours have been won and lost on this final stage.

Golden month: How it might unfold

21 July

Bradley Wiggins wins the final time trial of the Tour de France, sealing Britain's first victory in the 108-year-old race.

22 July

Mark Cavendish wins on the Champs-Elysées for a fourth successive time. Wiggins and Chris Froome are first and third overall, the first Britons ever to stand on the Tour's final podium.

28 July

Cavendish takes Britain's first gold in the London Olympics in the road race.

29 July

Nicole Cooke repeats her 2008 victory in the women's road race. Lizzie Armitstead scoops silver.

1 August

Emma Pooley takes a medal in the women's time trial; Wiggins takes gold in the men's event.

2 August

Track, day one: Victories in the team sprints continue the gold rush.

3 August

Track, day two: Britain's team pursuiters, led by Geraint Thomas and Ed Clancy fend off Australia to repeat their Beijing victory.

4 August

Track, day three: The women's team pursuiters, favourites after their World Championships triumph, take gold and break the world record of just over 3min 15 sec.

6 August

Another gold for Sir Chris Hoy – unless Jason Kenny is making the running – in the men's sprint.

7 August

Track, day six: Vicky Pendleton nets a second London gold and the final medal of her career in the women's sprint; Laura Trott follows in the Omnium; Hoy repeats his 2008 keirin gold.

10 August

Shanaze Reade rounds off GB's efforts with their 12th medal, in the BMX.

18 August

Sky take the opening time trial of the Tour of Spain, en route to a second Grand Tour win in 2012 three weeks later.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
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

Geography Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusias...

Maths Teacher

£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusiastic Maths Tea...

English Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...

SAP Data Migration Lead

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform