Tour de France 2012

The Tour began in Liege with the Prologue won impressively by Fabian Cancellara. Bradley Wiggins was positioned closely behind.

The first road stage of the race was won by the young Slovakian Peter Sagan riding his first Tour. Sagan added another Stage two days later to become the first Tour debutant to win two stages for over thirty years. In between Mark Cavendish took Stage 2 for the 22nd stage win of his career.

The first week saw a series of crashes which led to twenty riders withdrawing from the race the highest total for many years.

The first decisive stage for the overall classification was up a short but steep climb on Stage   6. Team Sky’s Chris Froome won the stage ahead of defending champion Cadel Evans and Wiggins. Behind them the field fragmented and this gave the yellow jersey to Wiggins.

The next day was the first time-trial of the race. Cancellara set the early standard but Wiggins and Froome produced superb rides to take the top two places. This gave Wiggins more than a minute’s lead and moved Froome up to third in the overall standings. In second was Evans but on the first big mountain Stage in the Alps he suffered on the final climb and lost second to Froome who even had his team leader Wiggins in trouble for a minute before easing up.

David Millar won as part of a breakaway group in a stage after the Alps, becoming the fourth member of the British Olympic Road Race team to win a stage.

As the race entered the Pyrenees a dramatic stage saw a series of punctures as the riders reached the top of the final climb. Most severely affected was Cadel Evans who had to wait for over a minute for a new bike. The leading pack, including Wiggins, slowed down to wait for him. It later emerged that someone had put carpet tacks on the road causing more than thirty punctures.

Wiggins survived the Pyrenees without a serious challenge from his main rivals and even extended his advantage over third placed Vincenzo Nibali when he and Chris Froome broke away on the final climb of the final Pyrenean stage. Evans dropped away in the standings and even fell below team-mate Tejay van Garderen who went on to be the best young rider in the Tour.

Wiggins then turned into a lead out man for Mark Cavendish when he won the penultimate road stage of the Tour with a devastating finish.

The second Time Trial merely confirmed Wiggins’s superiority as he won it by over a minute to take a lead of over three minutes into the final day to Paris. The final stage saw Cavendish win on the Champs Elysee for the fourth year running to become the first man ever to win four times there. He also became the sprinter with most stage wins in the history of the Tour with 23.

Peter Sagan took the green jersey and Thomas Voeckler the King of the Mountains. However, for Great Britain history is made. Never before had a Briton made the podium of the Tour de France. Now Britain had first and second with Wiggins and Froome.

In all honesty it was quite a routine victory, if such a thing can ever be called that in the Tour. From Day One Wiggins had looked in supreme form and with the route suiting him perfectly containing two Time Trials and few really high mountains he was never in serious trouble. The only time he appeared under pressure was when his own team mate Froome pushed hard in the mountains but he was working for Wiggins and relented. Next year with the route likely to be more mountainous it could be a different story but for now Wiggins is supreme.

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