Wiggins extends Tour de France lead

Wiggins extends Tour de France lead
By Eurosport

09/07/2012 at 23:38Updated 10/07/2012 at 02:43

Bradley Wiggins extended his lead in the Tour de France to 113 seconds after victory in the 41.5km individual time trial from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon.

The Briton completed the demanding stage nine course in 51 minutes and 24 seconds, beating Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome into second place by 35 seconds. It was Wiggins’s first ever stage victory in the world’s greatest cycling race.

Defending champion Cadel Evans, who started the day in second place overall just 10 seconds behind Wiggins, could only finish sixth, 1:43 behind the winner.

Froome moves from sixth to third on the GC, just 14 seconds behind the Australian from BMC who is now 1:53 down on Wiggins going into the race’s first rest day.

“Bradley delivered,” said an ecstatic Team Sky sporting director Sean Yates. “It’s a long way to Paris but obviously we’re in a fantastic position. Brad is in the form of his life and everyone in Britain will be very proud. Long may it continue.”

It was an extraordinary day of complete and utter domination for Team Sky whose two top riders led the field at each check point over the hilly course.

Froome paved the way as he bettered the time of young American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) at both check points, before moving 22 seconds ahead of the provisional leader at the finish, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan).

But it was the devastating performance of Wiggins that will last long in the memory. On the first uphill segment of the course to Abbans-Dessus – a rise of 145m at a maximum gradient of 10% - Wiggins was already a minute ahead of his Australian opponent.

Evans steadied the ship in the middle part of the technical time trial – but by then, the 35-year-old was riding more to protect his second place from Froome than to compete with Wiggins at the top.

“Time trialling is what I do best,” 32-year-old Wiggins said after his double appearance on the podium. “I was in the zone and I knew it was having a good ride right from the start. This is what we’ve trained for. All the hours, all the sacrifices. I didn’t set out for the win – I was more concerned with the GC – but to get the win was brilliant.”

Never before has there been a British one-two in a stage on the Tour de France – and Froome’s superb showing was icing on the cake for Team Sky.

“I think we couldn’t have asked for more with Bradley putting almost two minutes into Cadel,” said 27-year-old Froome. “I’m very happy with my performance. I have no regrets. It puts the team in a very strong position.”

Froome’s second-place ride saw him leapfrog Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) in the overall standings. Both riders delivered strong time trials to limit the losses, with the Italian now trailing Wiggins by 2:23 in the GC ahead of the fifth-place Russian, who is 3:02 down.

Outside Sky’s top two, the performance of the day came from Evans’s BMC team-mate van Garderen, who moved into the top 10 after posting the fourth-best ITT on Monday. 23-year-old Van Garderen now leads the white jersey standings as best young rider on the Tour. He trails Wiggins by 5:14 on the GC in eighth.

BMC sporting director John Lelangue remained bullish after a disappointing day for Evans, promising fireworks in the days to come. “We tried our best to control the gap between Cadel and Wiggins but the race is not over and we will now have to go on the offensive,” he said.

The Tour continues on Wednesday with the 194km stage 10 from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, which features three climbs including the race’s first HC ascent: the mythical Col du Colombier.