Bradley Wiggins has won the nineteenth stage of the 2012 Tour de France to move within a single day of becoming the first Briton to win the race.
The yellow jersey destroyed his opponents on an almost entirely flat 53.5km course from Bonnneval to Chartres on the south eastern outskirts of Paris.
Wiggins’ teammate, Chris Froome, was second on the stage and remains second overall, while Spanish time trial champion, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), winner of stage 14, was third.
Wiggins, who as race leader started last, was four seconds up on then-fastest Froome at the first time check after 14km, but by the second checkpoint, at 30.5km, was 54 seconds ahead of his super domestique and closest challenger.
Froome was again the quickest at the third checkpoint, but Wiggins went faster still, extending the lead over his Kenyan-born teammate to 1.15.
Images from the speedometer of the television motorbike following Wiggins revealed the Londoner speeding through the second half of the course at 60kmh.
As he crossed the line, Wiggins was 1.16 up on Froome, and punched the air in delight, secure in the knowledge that he has all but won the race. Tradition dictates that the peloton does not attack the leader on the final day.
Wiggins said: “It’s the Tour. It doesn’t get much bigger than this. You couldn’t write a better script. What a way to finish.”
“I wouldn’t say it was a lap of honour, because it hurt, but I just wanted to finish the job off in style.
“There was a lot of emotion in the last 10k. Everything was going through my mind.
“All the years of getting to this point, my family, disappointments, crashing out the Tour last year, watching Cadel in this very position a year ago in Grenoble. I always imagined what that would feel like and now I know.
“I was thinking about my wife and children, my grandfather, my nan, my mother. That was just spurring me on with every pedal stroke.
“It sounds cheesy but your whole life to get to this point – it’s a defining moment in your life. From the minute I got into cycling as a kid it’s all summed up for today.”
Defending champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) suffered a bitterly disapointing ending to his title defence.
He suffered the indignity of being passed on the road by his young teammate, Tejay Van Gaarderen, 23, who finished seventh on the stage and is likely to end the Tour fifth overall and in possession of the white jersey of best young rider.
Van Garderen was one of just three riders, with Froome and Wiggins the remaining pair, to best the time of Sanchez at the opening time check.
Sanchez, who won stage 14, and came within metres of winning yesterday’s 18th stage before being passed within sight of the finish line by Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), set an early time that survived most of the day.
Team Sky’s Richie Porte and Slovak time trial champion, Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), came closest to besting the Spaniard’s time, but it was left to the last two riders to leave the start house to displace Sanchez from the top of the time sheet.
Tomorrow’s twentieth and final stage will take the riders over a 120km parcours from Rambouillet to Paris, finishing on the Champs-Élysées.
Stage 19 – result
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky + 1.04.13
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +1.16
3) Luis Leon Sanchez (SPA) – Rabobank +1.50
4) Peter Velits (SVK) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +2.02
5) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky +2.25
6) Patrick Gretsch (GER) – Argos – Shimano +2.28
7) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +2.34
8) Vasili Kiryienka (BLR) – Movistar +2.46
9) Rein Taaramae (EST) – Cofidis +2.50
10) Jérémy Roy (FRA) – FDJ-Big Mat +3.05
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 84.26.31
2) Chrisr 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