It was a rare sight at the Tour de France — the holder of the yellow jersey charging down the streets of Paris at the head of the peloton, trying to set up a teammate for a sprint victory on the final stage.
Bradley Wiggins turned his victory lap into another exhibition at the Tour de France.
With Wiggins heading for a historic victory at the end of a largely ceremonial ride into the French capital, there was one last job to perform before he could savor his achievement of becoming the first British rider to win cycling’s biggest race.
Like with everything else over the past three weeks, Wiggins did it to perfection — leading the Team Sky train for parts of the final kilometers, before pulling back to let “Manx Missile” Mark Cavendish secure yet another sprint victory.
Only then was it time for Wiggins to take it all in — the British flags waving in the heart of Paris, the view of the Champs-Elysees from the top of the podium and God Save the Queen being sung in his honor.
“It’s been a magical couple of weeks for the team and for British cycling,” Wiggins said. “Some dreams come true. My mother over there, she’s now — her son has won the Tour de France.”
There will be little time to celebrate, though.
The British success comes less than a week before the start of the London Olympics, where Wiggins and Cavendish are the overwhelming favorites for gold in the time trial and the road race.
“Tonight I go home,” Wiggins said. “Everything turns to the Olympics and I’ll be out on the bike tomorrow, and I’ve got an Olympic time trial to try and win. So that’s a higher priority than anything else. It’s a little weird to leave Paris without a party, because it would be nice to spend time with the team and really enjoy it.”
Wiggins enjoyed a perfect Tour from the start and secured the victory with a dominating performance in Saturday’s final time trial to extend his already commanding lead. Fellow Briton and Sky teammate Christopher Froome finished second, 3 minutes, 21 seconds behind overall. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy finished third, 6:19 off the pace.
With Cavendish having sacrificed some opportunities for more stage wins along the way by helping his teammate protect the yellow jersey, Wiggins was all too happy to pay him back over the final kilometers of the race — normally a time when the winner is merely cruising along and already receiving congratulations from other riders.
“It’s hard to take in as it happens,” Wiggins said. “Every lap of the Champs-Elysees was goose-pimple stuff. We had a job to do with Mark today and we were all motivated to do that, so it made it go a lot quicker. The concentration was high and for Mark to finish it off like that ... well, it couldn’t get any better.”
Cavendish — widely regarded as the best sprinter in the world — won the final stage of the Tour for the fourth year in a row. After Wiggins pulled back, Edvald Boasson Hagen delivered the perfect lead-out for Cavendish to sprint away from his rivals at the end of the 120km stage. Cavendish accelerated coming out of the final corner, never looked back and raised four fingers as he crossed the line.
“That was incredible, what a sight,” Cavendish said. “The yellow jersey, Brad Wiggins pulling at the end after Chris Froome had been riding ... I just gave everything to the line, I wanted it so bad. It’s the cherry on top of an amazing Tour for us.”