Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) has laid down a significant marker in his bid to add the world time trial championship to his Olympic title in the same discipline and save his season.
The Londoner finished comfortably ahead of his closest rivals today, beating team-mate, Ian Stannard into second place by 32 seconds, and putting to the sword a host of time trial specialists and Grand Tour contenders. He now leads the race overall.
Cheif among the talents who fell victim to Wiggins’ blistering turn of pace were the Movistar duo of Alex Dowsett, the reigning and three-time British time trial champion, and Tour de France runner-up, Nairo Quintana, who secured overall victory in the Tour of the Basque Country by finishing second to world champion, Tony Martin, in the final stage time trial.
The Londoner, whose year began badly with a disinterested performance at the Tour of Oman, and which reached calamitous proportions mid-season with his abandonment of the Giro d’Italia and non-selection for the Tour de France, today seized the chance to lay solid foundations for victory in his home race.
Wiggins, who conquered all before him last season, winning a host of prestigious week-long races – Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, and the Criterium du Dauphine – as well as the Tour, had just one win to his name in 2013: the individual time trial at the Tour of Poland.
Team Sky’s erstwhile leader, supplanted in recent months by Chris Froome, who won this year’s centennial Tour in emphatic style, would have been determined to reestablish his reputation ahead of the world time trial championships in Florence at the end of this month. Today’s flat, 10-mile test provided a perfect springboard.
Long-term mentor, Shane Sutton, had been brought back into the Wiggins’ brain trust to preprare him for this year’s Tour of Britain, the tenth edition of its modern incarnation. The Australian’s influence has clearly been felt.
With victory today, Wiggins can claim his rightful place among the favourites for the world time trial championships. Here, the Londoner will have to overcome the challenge of defending champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), and Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard) a four-time holder of the rainbow jersey.
Both men gave ominous indications of form at the recent Vuelta a Espana, where Martin came with metres of a famous victory after a “four hour time trial” on stage six, and where Cancellara posted a convincing victory in the stage 11 time trial.
Wiggins, however, has beaten both before, most notably at last year’s Olympic Games in London, and not only has the innate class to do so again, but by winning today has proved he has the form, too.
Wiggins the Lionheart roared in Knowsley Safari Park, perhaps for the first time since the London Games. Should he repeat today’s success at the worlds, he will have taken a significant step towards seeing off the challenge of Froome and Mark Cavendish for the unofficial title of Britain’s greatest ever cyclist.