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Rediff.com  » Sports » Wiggins becomes Britain's first Tour de France winner

Wiggins becomes Britain's first Tour de France winner

July 22, 2012 21:52 IST

Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour de France when he claimed the 99th edition of the greatest cycling race on Sunday.

Wiggins finished safe in the bunch on the 20th and last stage, a 120-km ride from Rambouillet won by Sky teammate and fellow Briton Mark Cavendish, the first reigning World champion to win on the Champs Elysees.

Overall, Wiggins led Sky compatriot Chris Froome by three minutes 21 seconds and Italian Vincenzo Nibali by 6:19.

Bradley WigginsAustralian Cadel Evans, who started the three-week race as the defending champion, finished seventh overall and was beaten by his BMC team mate Tejay van Garderen, with the American taking fifth place and the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider.

France's Thomas Voeckler claimed the polka dot jersey for the best climber and Slovakian Peter Sagan snatched the green jersey for the points classification.

RadioShack-Nissan won the team classification and Dane Chris Anker Sorensen was voted the most aggressive rider.

Wiggins, the first rider to win an Olympic track gold medal and the Tour, snatched the yellow jersey in the seventh stage at the end of the brutal climb to La Planche des Belles Filles.

He consolidated his overall lead with an awe-inspiring performance in the individual time trial on stage nine before Team Sky rode defensively in the mountains.

Only Froome appeared to be able to unsettle Wiggins, but the Kenyan-born rider was ordered by Team Sky to stay put after accelerating in the ascent to La Toussuire in the Alps.

Froome was again close to giving in to temptation in the Pyrenees, when he repeatedly gained a few metres on Wiggins in the climb to Peyragudes, urging his team leader to follow the pace with conspicuous hand gestures.

Wiggins refused to be drawn into controversy, but sports director Sean Yates later acknowledged he had asked Froome not to move away from his team mate.

Wiggins, however, set the record straight in the final time trial on Saturday when he won with a 1:16 advantage over Froome, who had expressed his frustration in the media at having to bow to his fellow Briton and risk his own Tour chances.

Belgium-born Wiggins in contrast showed his dedication to the team when he led Cavendish to a massive sprint finish in the 18th stage and on the finale.

Finishing one and two in the Tour and boasting the world champion was unimaginable for British cycling fans just a few years ago, when road cycling was viewed as a minority sport.

This year, almost all of Britain's Sunday newspapers carried front page photographs of Wiggins and shortly after his triumph it was announced that London would be bidding to host the world track championships in 2016.

His Tour exploits were even saluted at the British Open golf championship in northern England where a yellow jersey was draped on a scoreboard near the 10th hole.

British flags and fans wearing Wiggins' masks lined the Champs Elysees as he cruised to victory with Britain now set for another cycling party at the London Olympics in the next three weeks.

Photograph: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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