Let’s not get carried away. A few short years ago we’d have been delighted to have had any British contender for a Grand Tour, so it’s a bit rich to start knocking Sir Bradley Wiggins after a torrid opening week at the Giro d’Italia. There’s no escaping though that it’s not gone according to plan. The first rest day is an opportune time to indulge in some objective analysis. With plenty of time for the situation to be transformed, particularly since the testing mountain stages lie ahead, the balls are still very much up in the air. Where they land depends on how the main protagonists cope with not only the physical but also the psychological demands of this arduous assignment. The evidence so far suggests that Team Sky’s leader is coming up short in both departments.
Bradley Wiggins’ whole world is about to change. The image many thought they would never see, that of a British cyclist standing atop the podium on the Champs Elysées proudly clad in yellow, became a stunning reality yesterday. A nation which once treated the Tour de France, a global sporting monolith, with casual indifference, hailed a new hero. In achieving victory in this remarkable test of endurance, the spindly lad from Kilburn with a penchant for sideburns and mod culture, has exploded on the public consciousness. For much of continental Europe, where this two wheeled pursuit is almost a religion, he was already a household name. Britain has been slow to appreciate the allure of bike racing. Now, in the wake of this landmark triumph, nothing short of a revolution has been unleashed.
The Tour de France is a harsh and unforgiving test of stamina so it is spurious to make outlandish predictions before the highest summits range into view. It is, however, difficult not to get just a little bit excited that Britain could be about to provide the winner of this great race for the first time. Bradley Wiggins, already a national cycling hero for his previous exploits on the track, is resplendent in yellow on the resumption following a rest day. Not only that, but his lead over rivals including last year’s victor Cadel Evans suggests he may not be headed again before Paris. There is another possibility here though and it is one that few had anticipated. Current form and recent history point to an intriguing subversion of the anticipated plot. Team Sky will be doing everything in their power to secure top place on the podium, but the first British winner of Le Tour might just not be Wiggins after all.