Monday 27 June 2011

Wiggo wows 'em

Bradley Wiggins, fresh from his Critérium du Dauphiné success, stormed ahead to victory in yesterday's Men's Road Race final in Stamfordham and, with a 35" lead over team mates Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh, proved why it is he's Britain's best hope for the Tour de France in many years. Judging by the cheers coming from the spectators, most people had no uncertainty about that anyway. Thomas, meanwhile, demonstrated the sort of skill that has led to him being a part of Wiggins' Tour team by chasing down and pulling back Kennaugh after an attempt on the leadership within sight of the end.

Wiggins used his respectable time trialing skills to great effect yesterday in Stamfordham - having got up to a high rate of knots, he just kept on turning the gears. When it came to the finish, he had one last reserve where others were spent.
The three formed part of a large breakaway early on in the race and kept the pace high, putting the pressure on the rest of the group and eventually splitting it in two, at which point they began to build up their lead. Various riders dropped away from the second group, finding the effort too much, until it too consisted of just three men -  Rapha-Condor's Kristian House, ex-MTB and cyclocross star Ian Bibby of Motorpoint and the Sky boys' team mate Ian Stannard. They kept chasing, but they didn't have the power necessary to catch up. Meanwhile, the rest of the pack languished some seven minutes further back. Even the Manx Missile Mark Cavendish, one of the fastest cyclists to have ever lived, couldn't keep up and so had no chance of taking the final sprint - he finished outside the top ten. However, it's the sprints at which he excels and we can still expect to see him racking up the points in the Tour, which starts this coming Saturday.

23-year-old Ben Swift, who will be joining Wiggins and Thomas in France, also achieved a good result. He may have been 8'13" off Wiggin's time, but it was sufficient to take 7th place. As he matures over the coming four or five years he may well prove to be the man to take on Wiggins' mantle and become Britain's next cycling star.

Towards the end, there was no way of knowing which of the three men was going to be first over the line until Kennaugh decided to attack. Thomas went after him and while their attention was diverted Wiggins surged ahead, finding one last reserve of strength that after 122 miles the other men simply didn't have, and powered across the line ahead of them in what must have been one of the most exciting finishes many of the spectators have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The 31-year-old, who was born in Ghent but has lived in the UK since early childhood, will now have the honour of wearing the blue and white National Champion's jersey in the Tour, but don't expect him to do so for long. He'll be wanting to swap it for a yellow one before too long, 
and it's looking more and more like he has the ability to do so.

1st - Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 4h41'08"
2nd - Geraint Thomas (Sky) +35"
3rd - Peter Kennaugh (Sky) received same time
4th - Ian Stannard (Sky) +5'41"
5th - Ian Bibby (Motorpoint) +8'02"
6th - Kristian House (Rapha Condor) +8'05"
7th - Ben Swift (Sky) +8'13"
8th - Yanto Barker (Pendragon) +8'20"
9th - Scott Thwaites (Endura) +8'28"
10th - Andrew Fenn (AN Post) received same time 

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