Bradley Wiggins completes Tour de France breakthrough
Bradley Wiggins, a 32-year-old from gritty northwest London, became Britain's first winner of cycling's greatest race, ending a 75-year drought for his country.
PARIS — Twenty-three years ago, Bradley Wiggins marveled as Greg LeMond blazed a trail as America's first Tour de France winner. Now, he has blazed his own.
The 32-year-old from gritty northwest London became Britain's first winner of cycling's greatest race on Sunday, ending a 75-year drought for his country.
Wiggins had locked up the yellow jersey a day earlier by winning the final time trial.
But putting the coveted shirt to work one last time, he added a touch of class by providing a leadout to Sky teammate and fellow Briton Mark Cavendish, who claimed his third Tour stage victory — the 23rd of his career — in a sprint.
Wiggins congratulated his teammates after crossing the line on the Champs-Elysees, then hugged his wife and clutched the hands of their two children. A soprano sang "God Save The Queen" and Wiggins thanked the crowd with a touch of British humor.
"Cheers, have a safe journey home, don't get too drunk," he quipped.
"It's been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling," Wiggins said. "Some dreams come true. My mother over there, she's now — her son has won the Tour de France."
Then, with a Union Jack around his neck like a scarf, Wiggins sipped Champagne for a processional lap on the famed Paris avenue. He was trailed by his son, with "Allez Wiggo" — Go Wiggo — written on his cheeks.
This 99th Tour will be remembered for successes of other Britons too. Christopher Froome was second overall.
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali rounded out the podium in third place.
It was a race of disappointment for defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia, who struggled mightily in the climbs.
Wiggins had come into the race as the favorite, but he knew all too well how anything can happen over more than 2,100 miles of racing over three weeks. Crashes, sickness and doping scandals all thinned the pack.
His victory was all the more remarkable because it culminated the transformation of Wiggins from three-time Olympic champion on the track to road-race star. His ability to scale Alps and Pyrenees ascents was in question. There too, Wiggins came through.
It was not just the first British victory, but the first podium finish since Britons began riding in the race in 1937.
Sky was methodical in its march to victory — evoking at times some uncomfortable comparisons with the dominant teams of Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour champion was at times a presence in the background at this race, with news of his battle against U.S. doping charges that threaten his legacy. Four of his former teammates who were riding the Tour came under a media spotlight amid a news report they had struck deal with USADA.
This Tour, as in many in recent years, took its licks from doping.
On the first rest day, Remy Di Gregorio of Cofidis was arrested and ousted from the race in a French anti-doping probe, accused of possessing doping products or equipment prohibited without medical justification.
The bigger bombshell came on the second rest day: Frank Schleck, the RadioShack Nissan Trek leader from Luxembourg who placed third last year, was ousted after he tested positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide on July 14. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The impact of doping was felt even before the first starter's gun in Liege, Belgium: Two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador was sitting out to complete a two-year doping ban linked to the 2010 Tour. The Spaniard is by far the sport's biggest star.
• American Tejay van Garderen, 23, won the white jersey, for the best rider 25 or younger. Van Garderen was born in Tacoma. His fifth-place overall finish was the best by an American since Lance Armstrong was third in 2009.
• Wenatchee sprint specialist Tyler Farrar was 151st among 153 finishers. After van Garderen, the next-best American was 13th-place Chris Horner of Bend, Ore. American George Hincapie, in his record 17th and final Tour before retiring, was 38th.
• France's Thomas Voeckler won the climber's polka-dot jersey. Peter Sagan of Slovakia won the sprinters' green jersey over Germany's Andre Greipel, nicknamed "The Gorilla." Sagan, 22, is the youngest to win the jersey since Belgium's Willy Planckaert in 1966.
• Thibaut Pinot, 22, finished 10th, raising hopes that a Frenchman could again win the Tour. The last French winner was Bernard Hinault in 1985.