Riders set off one-by-one in the race against the clock in reverse order of the standings, and Wiggins‘ dominance was evident from the first time check. He was 12 seconds ahead of Froome after 8 ½ miles.
Wiggins had a formidable lead coming into the stage. His only threat of any kind was from Froome, a successful time-trial rider, and less so from Nibali, who is not quite as strong in this discipline.
Despite rumblings about behind-the-scenes competition between them, Froome proved a faithful teammate to the end.
“As we saw today, he’s stronger than me,” Froome told French TV, after hugging Wiggins. “I’m very happy. The (Sky) goal this year was to win the Tour with Bradley. To be second (for me) is an added plus.”
The big question mark concerned the riders below them: Whether young American Tejay Van Garderen could overtake Jurgen Van Den Broeck for fourth — he didn’t. Or whether Frenchman Pierre Rolland, a strong climber but not a time trialer, would stay in the top 10 — he did.
The main change at the top involved Evans. He was passed by BMC teammate Van Garderen despite a three-minute head start and fell one spot to seventh in the overall standings.
The mostly flat course passed fields of corn and wheat into Chartres, known for its towering cathedral with asymmetrical spires. The route presented few challenges other than the breeze.
In the last six miles, Wiggins said his thoughts turned to his family. He was born in Belgium and raised by a single mother in the working-class area of Kilburn in northwest London. His father, a former racing cyclist, was largely absent from his life; he died in 2008.
“Just thinking back to my childhood. My father leaving us when I was a kid and growing up with my mum in a flat,” Wiggins said, recalling his grandfather’s death during the 2010 Tour. “My grandfather brought me up — he was my father role model.”
“That’s something that touches me more because it’s difficult for the English with the French,” Wiggins told French TV, in French.
Wiggins was fourth in the 2009 Tour and 24th in 2010. But he has been the favorite to win in 2012 since his dazzling turn with three stage-race victories.
This Tour has been about as favorable as it could be for Wiggins: he is among the world’s best in the time trial. Mountains — not his specialty — carried relatively less importance this time. But he proved through two days in the Alps and two in the Pyrenees that he’s among the best climbers, too.
And now he can savor it all with champagne.
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