LIÈGE, Belgium (VN) — Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is already in control of the Tour de France as it departs for its second day today. The Brit superstar gained time on all of his general classification rivals yesterday in the opening prologue, but doesn’t have the burden of the race leadership today as he finished just shy of the best time of Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) — perfect.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that,” Wiggins responded when asked if it was better not to take yellow jersey. “I did say to the team [Friday] night that there’s one man who can beat me, and that’s Fabian. He’s the king of those things and he’s proved once again he’s the best in the world.”
The Swiss time trialist won the world title four times and the Olympics time trial in 2008. He claimed the prologue with seven seconds to spare to Wiggins. However, Wiggins took important gains on his GC rivals. Defending Tour champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) placed 10 seconds back and Giro champ Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) was 11 seconds slower.
1. Bradley Wiggins, Sky in 7:20
2. Denis Menchov, Katusha at :06
3. Cadel Evans, BMC Racing at :10
4. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas-Cannondale at :11
5. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Sharp at :11
6. Levi Leipheimer, Omega Pharma-Quick Step at :21
7. Chris Horner, RadioShack-Nissan at :27
8. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar at :28
9. Fränk Schleck, RadioShack-Nissan at :31
10. Samuel Sánchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi at :33
11. Juanjo Cobo, Movistar at :37
Wiggins controls the race’s overall classification, but relies on Cancellara’s RadioShack team to protect the race lead and set the pace. The situation couldn’t be anymore perfect for him as the race rolls into the second day.
Wiggins, an Olympic and world champion himself, on the track, won the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné stage races this year — a treble never before seen in cycling. Early into the Dauphiné, he took the race lead and regretted it.
“I rode safe at the front, but the downside is that I took the jersey, which I didn’t really want to do,” he said after stage 1 at the Dauphiné. He wants to avoid having to face daily press conferences and podium presentations, which take more than an hour after the stage. Wiggins said at the time, “This is why I didn’t want the jersey, I got to deal with this shit every day.”
He had a smile on his face yesterday in the crowded bus parking lot near Liège’s Parc d’Avroy at the end of his 6.4km run. He covered the course in 7:20 and proved he hasn’t lost his touch since mid-June in the Dauphiné.
“I finished second so that’s a good start,” Wiggins said to the press waiting behind the bus. “Physically, I felt fantastic out there. I didn’t take any major risks. I concentrated… It’s everything we’ve been training for. It’s good to get it out of the way.”
The Tour de France always throws up surprises, but barring any major incident or upset, Cancellara should be able to stay with Wiggins though the next week. Today’s 198km stage passes through the Ardennes before ending near Liège in Seraing on a slight uphill, but it shouldn’t dislodge Spartacus. He may keep his lead until one week from now, Saturday, when the race finishes up La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges Mountains.
For Wiggins, the scenario’s perfect. He’ll let RadioShack lead, avoid the distractions that come with the yellow jersey and save his strength for a charge in the final two weeks. As he said yesterday, “There’s a long way to Paris.”