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Tour de France 2012: stage 19 – live

July 21, 2012

Bradley Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins: pretty useful in a time trial. Photograph: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters

4.43pm: Here’s Team Sky’s head honcho David Brailsford: “It’s a very proud moment … the stuff of dreams. What a fantastic champion.”

4.40pm: Phenomenal. We knew this was inevitable since the final day in the Pyrenees (and likely from pretty much the first day in the Alps) but it’s still quite a moment. “I covered the Tour for the Guardian in the mid 80s,” writes Charlie Burgess. “I never thought we would ever see anything as brilliant as this. I know I am an old romantic but I find this Tour profoundly moving.”

4.37pm: A huge punch of the air from Wiggins as he crosses the line, 1min 16sec faster than his nearest rival Froome. There’s the formality of the Champs Elysees still to come tomorrow, but that’s that. Stick a fork in it, it’s done. Britain has its first ever Tour de France winner. Just incredible.

4.36pm: And here comes Wiggins! This has been a quite superb piece of riding, on the back of three weeks of superb riding, in the middle of a year of superb riding.

4.34pm: Seconds later, Chris Froome arrives. His time is the fastest of the day so far, 34 seconds faster than Sanchez.

4.33pm: Nibali, whose ridden a very fine time trial by his standards just to stay ahead of Froome, comes home 14th fastest, 1min 47sec slower than Sanchez.

4.32pm: Van den Broeck crosses the line in 1hr 8min 35sec – he holds on to fourth. Just Nibali, Froome and Wiggins to go.

4.30pm: Wiggins roars past the final time check, a force of nature on two wheels. He’s 1min 15sec faster than Froome, who was in turn 22 seconds ahead of Sanchez. Wiggins isn’t just winning this Tour – he’s kicking the bejesus out of it.

4.26pm: Van Garderen, all the exuberance of youth thundering out through his pedals, heads to the line. He’s fifth fastest today, which means he probably won’t sneak past Van den Broeck for fourth. You have to wonder what he might have been capable of had he not been forced to babysit the out-of-sorts Evans in the mountains. Still, it’s a rite of passage. Evans picked up a little in the final third of the stage today and sits 48th at the finish.

4.23pm: Haimar Zubeldia has a slightly hairy moment as he enters Chartres, losing control briefly and narrowly avoiding the steel barricades. He holds on, though, and he’ll leapfrog the labouring Evans for sixth come the end of the day.

4.20pm: Pierre Rolland, eighth at the start of the day, rolls home in 1hr 10min 27sec and keeps hold of his eighth spot by about seven seconds.

4.19pm: The speedo on the motorbike following Wiggins registers 60kph. Sheesh.

4.17pm: “Allez Teejay!” roars Van Garderen’s directeur sportif from the team car. He’s been providing a fantastic soundtrack to the young American’s ride. Although I keep expecting him to suggest I vote for somebody.

4.15pm: Thibaut Pinot, out of the saddle and sprinting to the line, looks like he’s kept hold of his top 10 spot. He’s three minutes down on Sanchez, but that could well be enough.

4.14pm: Nicolas Roche comes over the line in Chartres 67th fastest and over four minutes down on Sanchez – I think that’s his top 10 hopes gone for a burton.

4.13pm: “Amazing performance by Teejay Van Garderen, but… not very nice leaving your mentor behind in the TT,” notes Serginho. It’s like Luke Skywalker chopping Yoda’s arms off.

4.11pm: “Any chance of Team Sky taking 14 minutes from Radioshack-Nissan and winning the Team Classification today?” wonders Hugh02 on Twitter. It’s one of those things that’s slightly difficult to tot up on the hoof, but even with Richie Porte currently third fastest I don’t think the sums quite add up for Sky.

4.09pm: Wiggins charges through 54 seconds faster than Froome. 54 seconds! He’s flying. Average speed: 49.9kph.

4.07pm: Froome is four seconds quicker than Sanchez through the 30.5km check point. What can Wiggins do?

4.07pm: Nibali has gone through the second checkpoint. Froome next.

4.05pm: “Agree this will probably only hailed as significant by the British but may be seen as the start of some brilliant careers and an exciting era in the Tour,” writes Tim Aldrich. “Future tours should have not only Wiggins but van Garderen, Froome, Nibali, Sagan, Cavendish and will be much tighter than this one.” Throw in Thibaut Pinot, the returns of Andy Schleck and Bertie Contador too. Tasty.

4.02pm: Poor old Cuddles. It’s the ultimate time trial ignominy for Evans. Tejay Van Garderen, who started three minutes behind, tears past him about 33km into the stage. The passing of the torch at BMC, perhaps?

4pm: Denis Menchov comes home 22nd fastest, two and a half minutes slower than Sanchez. Froome is about four minutes from the second time check.

3.56pm: It’s a cloudy day in the middle of France, and not the most picturesque setting for a time trial, but it’s passing by in a blur for Wiggins and co. It’s oozing by for Evans though – he’s 76th fastest at the second time check. Van Garderen is not far behind at all now.

3.53pm: Froome hammers those long pistons into the pedals and tears through the countryside. Wiggins, less than three minutes behind him, gives chase with his textbook time trial style.

3.52pm: Pierre Rolland, a mountain goat attempting to keep up with the cheetahs on the plains, goes through the second checkpoint 56th fastest.

Bradley WigginsBradley Wiggins starts his 53.5km ride into the history books. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

3.50pm: … but there’s no chance! Wiggins goes storming through the first checkpoint like a yellow, lyrca-clad hurricane. 16min 49sec! He’s 12 seconds quicker than Froome.

3.48pm: Chris Froome sets a new fastest time at the first checkpoint – 17min 1sec, a superb 23 seconds quicker than Van Garderen. If Wiggins goes through 30 or so seconds slower things might get very interesting …

3.46pm: Vincenzo Nibali has gone fifth fastest at the first time check, just six seconds slower than Van Garderen. Meanwhile, Roche is 2min 33sec down at the second time check, that top 10 spot slipping from his grasp.

3.44pm: Kloden isn’t having a great day. He’s 12th fastest at the second time check. Good news for Pinot and Roche.

3.41pm: Van den Broeck goes through the first time check in 17min 50sec – his fourth place is under threat from the astonishing Van Garderen.

3.39pm: And it could get worse for Evans. Much worse. Tejay Van Garderen has just gone through the first time check in 17min 24sec – the fastest of the day. If he keeps up that pace, he’ll overtake his BMC team-mate before Chartres.

3.38pm: The day of the final time trial last year provided the finest moment of Cadel Evans’ career. It’s been a very different Tour for Cuddles this year, and this is a very different time trial. He’s gone through the first time check in 18min 37sec – 70 seconds slower than Sánchez. This is going to be a long day for the Australian.

3.33pm: It’ll be about 17 minutes before Wiggins gets to the first time check.

3.32pm: Here we go then. Bradley Wiggins. An hour of agony away from ecstasy. 53.5km between him and history. Trois, deux, une … and he’s away!

3.30pm: With a decent roar from the Brits in attendance, Chris Froome charges down the start ramp.

Luis-Leon SanchezLuis-Leon Sanchez powers into Chartres. Photograph: Laurent Rebours/AP

3.28pm: Peter Velits puts the hammer down but narrowly misses out on Sanchez’s time, by a mere 12 seconds – he goes second fastest.

3.26pm: “re Gary Naylor’s lamenting the end of romantic Tours,” notes Timmy Ward on Twitter. “Time trial specialist Indurain won 5 TDF in a similar style 20 years ago.” Yep. I agree with Gary’s point that Sky’s approach has been game-changing, but I don’t share the pessimism.

3.23pm: Apologies for the radio silence. Ghosts in the machine. With spanners and pliers. Making mischief. What’s been happening in the past 20 minutes? Well, Richie Porte has gone second fastest, 35 seconds behind Sanchez. Taaramae has gone fifth fastest. Evans, Van den Broeck, Zubeldia, Pinot and Rolland are all out on the course, and Nico Roche has recorded a disappointing 33rd-fastest time at the first time check.

3.22pm: Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome are on their warm-up bikes.

2.54pm: Denis Menchov is next off the start ramp. He was grouped in with the pre-race threats to Wiggins – he’s a two-time Vuelta winner, a winner of the Giro, and has twice finished on the Tour de France podium after all – but never looked to have the legs in the mountains. He’s a decent time trialler, but seems unlikely to move up or down from his current position of 15th.

2.49pm: Edvald Boasson Hagen, well, trundles somewhat into Chartres. He’s 59th fastest.

2.47pm: And another view from Gary Naylor: “The Tour 2012 will be remembered in the UK for a monumental performance by a great British sportsman – arguably, the greatest. Elsewhere it will be remembered as the final triumph of science over romance, albeit ‘good science’ and not ‘bad science’. Other teams will approach Grands Tours the way Sky have approached this one and racing will be more clinical, more predictable, less exciting. Ten years ago we thought Lance Armstrong’s weighing his food was the pinnacle of preparation detail – how quaint that looks already.”

2.45pm: Peter Velits has gone second-fastest at the first time check, just one second down on Sánchez’s time.

2.44pm: For me, this email from Mark Swinhoe pretty much hits the nail on the head with regards to the Has-It-Been-A-Classic? debate: “The 2012 Tour will not go down as a classic for me, largely due to the fact that the main contenders failed, or were physically unable, to attack Wiggins on the big mountain stages. However, what this Tour has lacked in classic stages, it has made up for in its significance – a British winner of Le Tour was unthinkable a decade ago.”

2.40pm: The leaders as it stands:

1. Luis-Leon Sanchez 1hr 06min 03sec 
2. Patrick Gretsch at 38sec
3. Vasili Kiryienka at 56sec
4. Jérémy Roy at 1min 15sec
5. David Zabriskie at 1min 22sec

2.35pm: Team Sky’s Richie Porte, who when the history of this Tour is written should have a chapter of his own as one of Wiggins’ key lieutenants, has gone fifth fastest at the first checkpoint.

2.34pm: The good folk of Bonneval roar their appreciation for the King of the Mountains, Thomas Voeckler, as he rolls out onto the course. For me, he’s a kind of little wiry French version of Ace Rimmer – “What a guy!”

2.31pm: Rein Taaramae – a white jersey wearer earlier in the race – goes through the first time check 20 seconds slower than Sanchez, and sixth fastest overall. There’s unlikely to be much movement in the youth classification today: Tejay Van Garderen leads Thibaut Pinot by over three minutes, and Steven Kruijswijk is third over an hour back. Taaramaee is fifth.

2.29pm: Christian Vandevelde records the 10th fastest time – 1hr 07min 53sec.

2.25pm: Alex Vinokourov is in the middle of his final Tour de France time trial. He’s retiring from the peloton at the end of the season. Unfortunately the pastel yellow and sky blue colour scheme of his bike and suit make him look like he should be selling ice creams.

2.17pm: Luis-Leon Sánchez, the winner of the stage into Foix last Sunday, makes his way to the finish in Chartres. He thunders over the line in a time 37 seconds quicker than Gretsch. He’s been in better form this past 10 days or so than his 66th place in the GC suggests.

2.12pm: Poor old David Millar sounds in a right state – he’s just had a coughing fit when being interviewed by ITV’s Ned Boulting. And he’s also lost a bet with his room-mate David Zabriskie, the payout of which is his public admittance that American is the better time-trialler.

Mark CavendishCav in time-trial mode. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

2.09pm: Mark Cavendish has taken to Twitter after his time trial: “3 muscles make up the buttocks: Gluteus minimus, gluteus medius & gluteus maximus. After today’s TT, I have none. Ripped them to shreds.”

2.03pm: Thinking about Gilbert, I keep mulling over whether or not this Tour has, in the wider scheme of things, been a classic. Despite the dominance of Team Sky (or, more likely perhaps, because of it) it feels not, but then it also feels we’ve been spoiled of late – in 2010 the epic battle between Contador and Schleck,culminating in one of the finest pieces of sporting theatre I’ve ever witnessed on the slopes of the Tourmalet; 2011 seemed to have everything – Johnny Hoogerland’s torn buttocks, Tommy Voeckler defending the maillot jaune with such bravery, Cavendish winning stage after stage, Gilbert, Wiggins, Cadel Evans riding the time trial of his life for victory.

Any thoughts? Where will the 2012 Tour fit in in the annals?

1.55pm: Peter Sagan rolls down the ramp to begin his time trial. The green jersey wearer has been one of the stars of this Tour. Scratch that, he’s been the star outside the Sky stable. He’s followed three minutes later by Philippe Gilbert, one of the stars of the 2011 Tour.

1.54pm: Sanchez has gone quickest at the second time check.

1.42pm: “It’s mostly headwind, it was really long,” says Omega-Pharma QuickStep’s Martin Velits after arriving in Chartres. “At the end of three weeks it was really tough. For the win? It’s between Wiggins and Froome.”

1.35pm: Sánchez has just gone quickest through the first time check, three seconds quicker than Gretsch.

1.31pm: News from one of our men on the Tour, Richard Williams, via Twitter: “Shock in the #TDF: at the last gasp, Chartres snatches Grand Prix de Buffet Presse away from Brive. Chapeau!”

1.27pm: Out on the road Simone Stortoni is getting a very cheeky slipstream off Luis-Leon Sánchez. It’s not allowed, but no one seems particularly bothered.

1.16pm: “A couple of questions occur to me. Can you help?” asks David Nelson. “1) Is two minutes too much for Froome to make up? (sounds like yes, as Wiggins is very good at this time trialling business, but could he just have a shocker/get hit by a stray wild boar?) and 2) Would team orders stop him doing it if he could?”

1) Yes. You’d probably need a roaming gang of wild boar. In Doc Martens.

2) No. In that hypothetical situation, if Wiggins has any sort of problem, Sky wouldn’t want to risk losing out completely.

1.13pm: David Millar has crossed the line in Chartres, in a time of 1h 10min 35sec. He admitted to being tired this morning, so it’s no real surprise he’s recorded a slow time.

David MillarDavid Millar on his way to Chartres. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

12.58pm: Of the early starters Argos-Shimano’s Patrick Gretsch still leads the way. “It’s never really even,” says Omega-Pharma’s Bert Grabsch of the course. “It’s not easy at all, even if it looks not much of a trial.”

12.49pm: If you’ve not read Bradley Wiggins’ Guardian column yet today, I strongly recommend making time to do so. Also whet your whistle with INRNG’s stage preview.

12.37pm: “There’s only one way Wiggins can lose today: if he realises the monumental achievement that is within his grasp,” writes Paul Griffin. “In order to prevent that happening it is imperative that he feels it is just another TT, perhaps an evening club event on a windswept dual carriageway. In order to help Wiggins with this notion, it is vital that roadside British supporters scream abuse – ‘Get off the road, you don’t even pay road tax,’ or, for the really sophisticated humorist, ‘Get off and milk it.’ I also suggest David Brailsford promises the glittering prize of a tubular tyre if Bradley wins the Tour De France.”

12.32pm: Start times

The first 70 riders (the last 70 riders in the GC) have already rolled off the start ramp and 19 have crossed the finish line in Chartres. Mark Cavendish in among them, finishing in a neat time of 1hr 11min 11sec. Patrick Gretsch is the quickest so far with 1hr 6min 41sec.

The big GC boys get underway from around 3pm onwards:

Andreas Kloden 3pm
Nicolas Roche 3.03pm
Thibaut Pinot 3.06pm
Janez Brajkovic 3.09pm
Pierre Rolland 3.12pm
Haimar Zubeldia 3.15pm
Cadel Evans 3.18pm
Tejay Van Garderen 3.21pm
Jurgen Van den Broeck 3.24pm
Vincenzo Nibali 3.27pm 
Chris Froome 3.30pm
Bradley Wiggins 3.33pm

12.20pm: Presumably we won’t be seeing drama like this today.


“Time trials are about maintaining a constant pace, like a continuous hum. But they are also about pain, an agonising heat you feel in your stomach, a burning that affects your breathing. You get into a rhythm, and when the pain comes, you tunnel into it, exploring it to the bitter end.

“What with the discomfort and the heat some riders cross the finish line and throw their helmet down. I don’t even think about it: it’s all part of the same ache. From top to bottom, front to back, I gather it into a smooth ball of pain that spins around in my mind until the time trial is over – pain in my muscles, a burning in the sole of my feet, an aching in my wrists, a stabbing in my neck from holding my head in one position. There isn’t a second to relax and stretch, or move my hands. I have to go on in the same position. If I want to spit, I do it by twisting my mouth sideways – tuh! – to avoid moving my head. I fix my eyes on an arbitrary landmark – a tree, a point on a curve – and I say, Until I get there, I’m not going to change position. And before I get there, I fix another point …”

Colombian rider Victor Hugo Peña’s description of a time trial in Matt Rendell’s book A Significant Other has to be one the best descriptions ever committed to print of the mental and physical challenge of the time trial. Bradley Wiggins may have more than two minutes of lead to play with, but that doesn’t mean he’ll escape one last hour of agony today.

But barring a scenario both extreme and unforeseen, that agony will be followed by ecstasy, with Wiggins confirmed as the winner of the 2012 Tour de France, an achievement up there with the very best in British sporting history.

General classification ahead of stage 19
1. Bradley Wiggins (GB/Team Sky) 83hr 22min 18sec 
2. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +2min 05sec 
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Liquigas) +2:41
4. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium/Lotto) +5:53
5. Tejay Van Garderen (US/BMC Racing) +8:30
6. Cadel Evans (Australia/BMC Racing) +9:57 
7. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain/RadioShack) +10:11
8. Pierre Rolland (France/Europcar) +10:17
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia/Astana) +11:00
10. Thibaut Pinot (France/FDJ) +11:46
11. Nicolas Roche (Ireland/AG2R) +12:54
12. Andreas Kloeden (Germany/RadioShack) +14:05
13. Chris Horner (US/RadioShack) +14:22
14. Chris Sorensen (Denmark/SaxoBank) +18:46
15. Denis Menchov (Russia/Katusha) +22:54
16. Maxime Monfort (Belgium/RadioShack) +24:24
17. Egoi Martinez (Spain/Euskaltel) +25:32
18. Rui Costa (Portugal/Movistar) +29:51
19. Eduard Vorganov (Russia/Katusha) +33:07
20. Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +33:50
21. Jerome Coppel (France/Saur-Sojasun) +36:11
22. Sandy Casar (France/FDJ) +41:59
23. Michael Rogers (Australia/Team Sky) +48:57
24. Michele Scarponi (Italy/Lampre) +52:48
25. Ivan Basso (Italy/Liquigas) +54:29
26. Thomas Voeckler (France/Europcar) +55:08
27. Jelle Vanendert (Belgium/Lotto) +57:38
28. Laurens ten Dam (Netherlands/Rabobank) +59:38
29. Juan Jose Cobo (Spain/Movistar) +1:02:17
30. Peter Velits (Slovakia/Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) +1:03:08″

Away from Wiggins, it’ll be interesting to see if either of the best French riders in the GC – Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Rolland – can hang onto their top 10 spots. Neither can time trial particularly well, so you’d expect Nicolas Roche and Andreas Kloeden to sneak ahead of Pinot at least. Tejay Van Garderen should confirm his status as the one to watch over the next few years with victory in the white jersey competition and he could even squeak past Jurgen Van den Broeck into fourth.


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