Tue, Jul 10, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Pinot wins a thriller as Wiggins retains yellow

AP, PORRENTRUY, SWITZERLAND

France’s Thibaut Pinot celebrates winning the eighth stage of the Tour de France in Porrentruy, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Bradley Wiggins and his Tour de France team “ticked off” a successful first day in the yellow jersey. Then he got ticked off when asked about doping in cycling.

The frank-speaking former Olympic champion with ambitions to be Britain’s first Tour winner launched a profanity-laced tirade over chatter on social media after Sunday’s entree into Switzerland in the eighth stage.

Thibaut Pinot — at 22, the youngest competitor — won the stage over seven mid-level climbs and gave France its first victory this year.

Wiggins quashed a late attack by defending champion Cadel Evans to retain the lead.

Wiggins’ Team Sky has controlled the Tour in a style reminiscent of Lance Armstrong’s former US Postal team. The Briton lost his composure when asked by a reporter to comment on comparisons between the teams and “cynics who believe that you have to be doped up to win the Tour.”

The British rider replied with a profanity-laced tirade, adding: “I cannot be dealing with people like that. It justifies their own bone-idleness because they can’t ever imagine applying themselves to anything in their lives.”

“And it’s easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that sort of [thing],” he added, using an expletive.

The 140-character social media platform has become an online voice box for many professional cyclists.

The US Anti-Doping Agency last month filed formal charges against seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong, accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong denies any wrongdoing.

The International Cycling Union has worked to rid drugs cheats from the peloton and has gained some praise from the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Tour is without two-time champion Alberto Contador — the sport’s top star — this year as he serves out a doping ban linked to the race in 2010.

Wiggins is looking to move from three-time Olympic track gold-medalist to a rising star of the Tour de France roads. His fourth-place Tour finish in 2009 put to rest many questions about his climbing skills.

Speaking to French television, Wiggins said his ability to get up hard mountain climbs came from training, diet and lifestyle.

“I drink nothing now ... before, in 2004, I was almost an alcoholic after the Olympics,” he said.

He has come a long way since then — and he showed over the last two days that he is able to keep up with strong climbers like Evans, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Belgium’s Jurgen van den Broeck.

Sunday’s ride into the Jura range next to the Swiss Alps, known as the birthplace of the Swiss army knife, offered double drama — a hard last climb that splintered the peloton and a nail-biting chase of Pinot to the finish.

Pinot burst from the peloton and overtook a breakaway rider during a steep, final climb to win the 157.5km stage from Belfort in eastern France to the Swiss town of Porrentruy.

“I will remember this day my entire life,” Pinot said as teammates were embracing him in the winner’s circle to congratulate him. “I can’t yet get my mind around it.”

Evans of Australia was second, 26 seconds behind, but he did not gain any time on Wiggins, who was fourth in a small group that included most of the remaining pre-race favorites.

Wiggins enjoyed the late jockeying.

“It was good fun coming in at the end there,” he said. “It was a bit like being in a junior race again. Everyone attacking in ones and twos. It’s good — it’s what it’s all about.”

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