Tour de France stage 20: Cavendish triumphs as Wiggins crowned champion

Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins provided the perfect leadout to propel Mark Cavendish to a fourth successive stage win on the Champs Elysees as Team Sky enjoyed a dream finish to the perfect race.

Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish (Tour de France 2012 stage 20)
The Wiggo & Cav Show

With the overall win secure after victory in Saturday’s time trial, Wiggins took to the front with 1.5km remaining, before Edvald Boasson Hagen delivered Cavendish onto the finishing straight.

And Cavendish proved unstoppable yet again, accelerating away from green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) for his third win at this year’s race and 23rd in three years.

Cavendish’s triumph caps an historic race for Team Sky, with Wiggins the first Brit to win the Tour, Team Sky the first squad to place two riders first and second (Wiggins and compatriot Chris Froome) on the general classification, and Cavendish the first world champion to win on the Champs Elysees.

“I’ve had 24 hours for this to soak in and today we were just on a mission to finish the job off with Cav,” said Wiggins. “So job done and what a way for him to finish it off.

“I’ve got to get used to going into the history books now, but I’m just trying to take everything in today first. It’s very surreal at the moment because this type of things [usually] happens to other people. You never imagine it happening to yourself.”

Cavendish added: “It’s incredible what we’ve achieved today – what a team. We got a one and two on GC but still we were riding to control things on the Champs Elysees.

“It was an honour to have the yellow jersey leading me out. Bradley told me he’d go full gas to the last kilometre and then Edvald led me into the last corner. The finish couldn’t have been more perfect – no better end to this Tour.

“It’s an incredible achievement for the team. Four years ago we said we were setting out to win the Tour, but we haven’t just done that, we’ve got second place as well and a handful of stages. Seven stages have been won by British guys this year so that’s one in three – not a bad stat.”

Team Sky supremo Dave Brailsford promised a British winner of the Tour de France within five years of the squad’s inception in 2010 but even the most loyal British fan would not have expected to see Wiggins in yellow on the final day after just three years.

But the three-time Olympic track champion has delivered a mastermind performance at this year’s Tour, taking the yellow jersey on stage seven and, supported by a superstar team, holding on to it until Paris after a succession of supreme rides in the mountains and against the clock.

Tour de France 2012 stage 20 (Mark Cavendish)
Cavendish makes it four wins out of four on the Champs Elysees

Team Sky’s achievements aside, the final day also saw Sagan win the points classification with the biggest total since Sean Kelly in 1982, while Tejay Van Garderen’s fifth place finish earnt him the white jersey for best young rider, French hero Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was crowned King of the Mountains and Radioshack-Nissan-Trek won the team competition.

Wiggins chose not to ride an all-yellow bike until victory was secure so, with only the processional ride to Paris to complete, the Brit’s Pinarello Dogma 2 received a makeover ahead of the final stage, leaving the 31-year-old decked head to toe in yellow.

Team Sky moved to the front of the peloton as the race approached the centre of Paris after a steady ride from Rambouillet, ahead of eight laps on the most famous finishing circuit in the sport.

Christian Knees led the peloton onto the six kilometre circuit for the first time, while George Hincapie (BMC Racing), riding his 17th Tour de France, was then given the honour of taking the race onto the Champs Elysees, with another of the race’s veterans, Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek), on his wheel.

Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek) instigated the final stage’s traditional breakaway and ten riders then bridged the gap to form a dangerous 11-strong group.

Team Sky continued to escort the peloton, with Cavendish locked onto the wheel of Wiggins, but, with a large escape group growing out an advantage of more than 30 seconds, Peter Sagan’s Liquigas-Cannondale team moved to the front to help with the pace making.

The escape group splintered going into the final two laps as the gap began to fall, with Team Sky directeur sportif Sean Yates delivering the message to reel in the escapees.

Bradley Wiggins (Tour de France 2012 stage 20)
Bradley Wiggins: Tour de France champion

Voigt, Rui Coasta (Movistar) and Sebastien Minard (Ag2r La Mondiale) continued to hold a 16-second advantage going into the final lap as the sprinter’s teams began to sweat over whether the trio would be caught.

But their brave challenge ended with 2.8km remaining, with Team Sky, SaxoBank-Tinkoff, Lotto-Belisol, Argos-Shimano and Orica-GreenEDGE all fighting for position at the head of a strung-out peloton.

The yellow jersey traditionally cruises into Paris, soaking in the adulation of the crowd and reflecting on the magnitude of their achievement, but Wiggins hadn’t finished the job yet and the Team Sky leader took over at the front of the Sky train inside the final two kilometres.

The Champs Elysees is Cavendish’s favourite and most prolific hunting ground and Boasson Hagen put the Manxman into the perfect position going into the famous cobbled finishing straight.

And the Manx Missile launched himself from the Norwegian’s wheel inside the final 300m, crossing the line two bike lengths ahead of Sagan, holding four fingers aloft to signify his run of wins in Paris, while Wiggins crossed the line arms aloft.

All was left then was for Cavendish to take to the podium yet again, before the 27-year-old was replaced by the Tour de France champion – Bradley Wiggins.

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Result

1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky – 3:08:07 hours
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Liquigas-Cannondale – same time
3) Matthew Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
4) Juan José Haedo (ARG) – SaxoBank-Tinkoff
5) Kris Boeckmans (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DCM
6) Greg Henderson (NZL) – Lotto-Belisol
7) Borut Bozic (SLO) – Astana
8) André Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol
9) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky
10) Jimmy Engoulvent (FRA) – Saur-Sojasun

Final general classification

1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 87.34.42
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +3.21
3) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +6.19
4) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto Belisol +10.15
5) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +11.04
6) Haimar Zubeldia (SPA) – RadioShack-Nissan- Trek 15.43
7) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +15.51
8) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Europca +16.31
9) Janez Brajkovic (SLO) – Astana +16.38
10) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ-Big Mat +17.17

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Cyclist, Bradley Wiggins, kisses the yellow jersey of Tour de France leader, while stood on a podium wearing a cap

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Tour de France stage nineteen: photo gallery