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Tour de PEZ: The British Rule In Paris
Roadside Finale: ‘A L’Heure Anglaise’ – the ‘Hour of the English’ says L’Equipe. There’s a huge image on the front page of Bradley Wiggins punching the air as he wins yesterday’s final time trial. Any thoughts we entertained of Froome running his Boss close or upsetting the band wagon were quashed with a time trialling master class from the Londoner.


He rode the 53.3 kilometres in 1:4:13, an average speed of 49.987 kilometres per hour.



PEZ drove the entire parcours and can tell you that the wind was anything but favourable for much of the way; making Wiggins’ ride all the more commendable.

Today can really only be about Bradley, his nation and team.



Rambouillet, the start of the last stage, is in its Sunday best ‘pour le Tour.’



Everything has turned yellow on the Sky vehicles – the thin blue line is now yellow and it’s an all yellow ‘Wiggarello’ for Brad.

But there are few signs of ‘Bradulation’ at the start – save a solitary Union flag.



But a Knight Templar, Sir Brian of Cleethorpes, servant to Prince Mark and King Brad awaits soon after the Chateau at Rambouillet.



He’s on a mission to bring to justice those who scattered the tacks on the road . . .

The radio is tuned to ‘Radio Paris’ as we roll along the parcours, wheat fields, forest, long straights and an easy, picnic vibe from the roadside.

Dave sends an SMS, he’s put a tap root down into his sofa to watch Brad enter Paris.

But he’s not got it quite right – Peroni?

1664, surely or Pelforth?

We’re in the Chevreuse Valley, where the Grand Prix des Nations time trial used to be held in the days when men were men and race distance was 100 kilometres – Jacques Anquetil won it nine times.

Maitre Jacques was knocking out 48 kph time trials 50 years ago – with no discs, skinsuits or tri-bars.

We pass the first of two fourth cat. climbs – don’t expect too many fireworks.

Having said that, I can remember Pedro Delgado snaffling second place in the King of the Mountains from Robert Millar on minor climbs on the last stage of le Tour, back in my youth.



We leave the soft greenery behind and go urban, but we’re saving our Nikon bullets for the final kilometres where we know the Brad fans will be swarming – we hope.

We cross the Seine, it won’t be long, now.



And there it is, the Eiffel Tower – originally a temporary structure for an exhibition, but now the symbol most closely associated with the city.



There are the odd little groups of Brad fans here and there, sheltering from the sun, unused to the late July blast in Paris.



There’s been a wee bit of thought going on, though – we have yellow Union flags.



Jean d’Arc guards the end of the Rue de Rivoli, but she’s been unable to thwart the English, this time.



The Rue de Rivoli is lined with fans, we’d have liked to see more ‘Wiggomania’ – there a few flags, but the Brits don’t do it as well as the Aussies did last year.



The Hotel Crillon provides a perfect vantage point to watch le Tour – if you have a black Am Ex, that is.



The sun bakes the fans, the over-priced bierre flies over the counters of the bars and eventually the Tour hurtles into town.



Once again, Sky does it differently – traditionally the maillot jaune’s team lead their man in for the first lap of the circuit.



But Sky gives the honour to George Hincapie, in his 17th Tour – a nice gesture, but maybe a little disappointing for the traditionalists.



But already the party has started with the teams – there’s pizza and champers ready at Saxo.

Over at Sky they’re waiting patiently; then there’s a roar, no prizes for why – Cav wins!





The first rider back to the bus is Michael Rogers.

Rogers has been around a long time, a world junior team pursuit and points champion way back in 1997; he took three consecutive world elite time trial championships between 2003 and 2005.

His career has been blighted by injury and illness but there have been flashes of great form – taking the Ruta del Sol and Tour of California in 2010, for example.

This year he’s been one of the key team men in Wiggins’ stage race domination of the Europe’s best races – his long experience of who’s capable of doing what, invaluable to the victory effort.

But he also found time to win the hotly contested Tour of Bavaria in between helping Wiggins Tour of Romandie and Dauphine victories.



‘Eddy’ Boasson Hagen beams his way back to the bus, resplendent in the Norwegian road champion’s jersey.

Last year, BH came away from the Tour with two stages to his credit – but this year was a different game;

‘All for Bradley (with maybe a little bit for Cav)’

The Norwegian was a key player in Wiggins’ victory, spending huge chunks of time on the front of the peloton.

A stellar junior and U23 rider, he’s won at the Giro as well as the Tour, not to mention Tirreno the Dauphine and has a classic under his belt, Gent-Wevelgem – all at just 25 years-of-age.



Right behind BH was Sky’s Tasmanian Devil, Richie Porte.

Strong rides as a U23 in Italy in 2009 – including a stage win in the Baby Giro – gained Porte a contract with Saxo Bank for 2010.

He delivered the goods with a time trial win in the Tour of Romandie and a spell in pink in the Giro.

A stage win in the Tour of Denmark and a top six in the Worlds TT were the high points of last season.

He joined Sky for 2012, started the season brilliantly with victory in the Tour of the Algarve and then chaperoned Wiggins through Paris-Nice, Romandie, the Dauphine – and all the way back to Paris.



Christian Knees girl’s T-shirt echoes Brad’s sentiments, ‘I love Christian Knees.’

Undemonstrative, rock steady and reliable – all you could want from a domestique.

But he’s a quality rider in his own right with wins in the Tour of Bavaria, Rund um Kцln and German elite road race championship notched on his top tube.



A look at Chris Froome’s palmares prior to last year reveals promise, but not potential super star status.

A stage win in the U23 Giro delle Regione, another in the Giro del Capo in South Africa – and Martin and I remember being hugely impressed with him in the British elite road race championships in 2009 (he eventually finished fourth).

Prior to the Vuelta last year he was out of contract with Sky, and looking for a team.

A mountain top stage win and a second place on GC later, there were at least 11 teams after him.

There were a few slips in the choreography in this Tour, on the page marked, ‘dance of the humble, loyal servant’ – but it all came good on the night.

I wouldn’t put money on him being with Sky next year, nor would I bet against him winning a Grand Tour – watch this space.



One of the few men on the planet who Cav pays any attention too, Bernie Eisel – he’s handsome, laughs a lot, multi lingual and a genuine good egg.

Although his main responsibility in this race was as Cav’s wingman, there were a lot of kilometres where the Eisel visage was filling the TV screen as he tapped out that grim Sky tempo.

The Austrian has some solid wins under his belt – stages in the Tour of the Algarve, Tour de Suisse and De Panne; not to mention a Gent-Wevelgem and the very hotly contested French semi-classic, Paris-Bourges.

There’s a rumour that he may be actually be attached to Cav.



World Champion Cav has pretty well used up all the clichйs and superlatives journos can dream up.

There’s little doubt that he’s the fastest road sprinter on the planet.

He won three stages (that makes it 23 in total at 27 years-of-age) in this Tour with minimal help from Sky – which is understandable given the team’s main goal of taking Brad all the way to Paris in yellow.

For me, his other big quality is his ‘grinta’ – he doesn’t moan, he just picks himself up off the tar, takes a day or two to recover then goes out and wins again.

There must be huge respect to you, Mr. Cavendish.







Bradley Wiggins, let’s lay aside a stellar track career – check his road palmares pre-2009 and they’re scant.

In this one season he’s built palmares which most roadmen would give their right arm for as the fruit of an entire career.

He’s lost weight, embraced new training techniques and found new motivation.

And he’s won the biggest bike race on earth.

I was a doubter, I must confess, but the way he rode both time trials in this race left no one any in any doubt as to who the boss was.

Congratulations, respect and awe at what you have achieved, Mr. Wiggins.



And all that remained for us in Paris was for the lovely, if inebriated Norwegian lady to give us a singing lesson . . . .



 

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