Briton makes Tour de France history
(CNN) — Much like buses coming in twos and threes, Britain found itself Sunday in the unprecedented position of having not just one but two cyclists on the 2012 Tour de France podium.
Against the backdrop of the Champs Elysees and resplendent in yellow — the jersey that denotes the Tour winner — Bradley Wiggins will deservedly take the plaudits for becoming the first Briton to win the most prestigious cycling race in the world.
But the presence of second-placed Froome is testament to an organizational effort that has ensured Team Sky has steamrollered its way past all the opposition.
Wiggins claimed his second stage win on the Tour as he sealed his overall victory Saturday in an individual time trial.
Froome also won a mountain stage and forged his reputation as a Tour de France winner in his own right in the near future.
While their teammate Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory on the final stage in Paris for his third stage victory and 23rd overall on the Tour as Team Sky’s domination was complete.
Wiggins seals Tour triumph in Paris
Race winner Bradley Wiggins riding on the Champs Elysees on the final stage of the 2012 Tour de France.
Wiggins rose to prominence with a gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Aged 24, he left Greece with the men’s 4km individual pursuit title.
Four years later in Beijing, Wiggins went one better by collecting two gold medals. One of his triumphs came in the four-man team pursuit discipline.
His second came courtesy of a successful defense of his 4km individual pursuit title.
In 2009, Wiggins competed in the Tour de France for just the third time. Riding for Team Garmin, Wiggins matched the best ever finish by a British rider as he took fourth place, equaling the effort of Scotland’s David Millar in 1984.
Wiggins picked up the first Tour de France stage victory of his career this year, winning 41.5km individual time trial between Arc-et-Senans and Besancon to take control of the race for yellow.
Wiggins’ success owes much to the tireless performances of his compatriot, teammate and heir apparent Chris Froome. The Kenya-born rider, who completed a British one-two, won his maiden Tour stage between Tomblaine and La Planche des Belles Filles.
Whether with Team GB or Team Sky, Wiggins’ success has been overseen by David Brailsford. British Cycling’s performance director led the team to a 14-medal haul in Beijing which included eight golds.
The rise and rise of Bradley Wiggins
CNN Explains: Tour de France
How times have changed since Scot Robert Millar was racing on the roads of France.
“There hasn’t been a GB winner before because there was no investment in road cycling up until now,” Millar, who was crowned King of the Mountains and finished fourth in the 1984 Tour, told CNN.
“If you wanted to be a pro rider before it was largely an individual process. There wasn’t any back up and very little encouragement from those running the sport. It’s only lately it has changed, due to the arrival of government money and sponsorship deals.”
When Millar first turned professional with the French team Peugeot in 1980, it was during an era when aspiring British riders had to brave the European amateur scene to achieve their dream.
It is a different story today. Off the back of growing success on the track, including a 14-medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, British cycling now receives over $40 million of government funding.
“We invest in Olympic sports with money from National Lottery and government along ‘no compromise’ principles,” explained a UK Sport spokesman, “rewarding success and potential success for the next Olympics.
“The sports basically get all funding except commercial deals from us.”
For British road cycling, the breakthrough moment came in 2009 when Team Sky was founded, the country’s only professional cycling outfit.
Spearheaded by Dave Brailsford, a driving force behind Team GB’s eight gold medals in China, Team Sky has produced Britain’s first Tour de France winner in only its third attempt at the race.
“When I raced you had to figure out most things for yourself,” Millar, who raced between 1980 and 1995, explained. “You received advice from friends and colleagues but the back-up was nothing like Bradley has to call upon.
“Types of training, the whens, hows and whys, diet, dealing with your psychology, they were all subjects you had to untangle yourself. It’s taken them a while to understand all those aspects and come up with a plan.”
Despite his hardships, Millar can take comfort in the fact his struggles paved the way for Wiggins to earn cycling immortality.
“When I started racing I looked at what had been achieved before by GB riders and put that as one of my targets,” said Millar. “You can only hope that inspires others to go further than you did.
“I know how much work it took, how much it hurt sometimes and if someone comes along and beats that then I can have nothing but respect for them. There are no easy answers it comes down to hard work, commitment, sacrifices and talent.”
Whilst Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish may be making all the headlines for Team Sky at the moment, there is another Briton content to take a backseat role — for the meantime at least.
Alex Dowsett will be competing in his first Grand Tour in Spain next month, and is keen to match the success of his elder compatriots.
“My ambition is to emulate Wiggins and to emulate what he has achieved — I feel I’m capable of achieving that too.”
“Having those other Brits around me is a big help and inspiration. Wiggins went through the same system that I am in, and he’s proven that success is possible. There’s no reason that I can’t do that when I’m his age.”
Wiggins’ 2012 challenge was aided by the absence of two cycling superstars. The 2010 champion Andy Schleck missed this year’s race with a broken pelvis, while Spain’s Alberto Contador is still serving a ban for doping offenses.
Bradley Wiggins, left, celebrates on the finish line with teammate Michael Rogers of Australia after becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France on Sunday, July 22, in Paris.
From left, best sprinter Peter Sagan of Slovakia, overall race winner Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, best climber Thomas Voeckler of France and best young rider Tejay Van Garderen of the United States celebrate on the podium after finishing the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday.
Mark Cavendish of Great Britain celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the bunch sprint during the 20th and final stage of the Tour de France.
The pack of cyclists rides toward the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday.
British fans celebrate during the 20th and final stage of the Tour on Sunday in Paris.
Cavendish and Wiggins, in yellow, ride past the Arc de Triomphe as the three-week race comes to an end in Paris on Sunday.
The peloton rides towards the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday for the ceremonial finish on the Champs-Elysees.
Wiggins leads the pack on the Place de la Concorde in Paris as the final stage of the Tour de France comes to an end Sunday.
Overall race leader Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain rides next to a team car with a team member carrying a cup of Champagne during the final stage.
From left, best young rider Tejay Van Garderen of the United States, overall race leader Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, best sprinter Peter Sagan of Slovakia and best climber Thomas Voeckler of France ride together the final stage, which is largely ceremonial.
Briton Bradley Wiggins, wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, celebrates finishing the 19th stage of the 2012 Tour de France on Saturday, July 21.
Briton David Millar tapes an energy gel to his top tube Saturday before stage 19.
Blel Kadri of France waits to start on Saturday.
Nicki Sorensen of Denmark races down the starting ramp.
France’s Jerome Coppel readies himself before Saturday’s stage.
British rider Stephen Cummings wears bandages on his legs.
Denmark’s Nicki Sorensen races up a hill during the 19th stage of the 2012 Tour de France on Saturday.
France’s Thomas Voeckler (in the best climber’s polka dot jersey), Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (in the best sprinter’s green jersey) and stage winner Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish ride in the pack in the 222.5 km 18th stage of the 2012 Tour de France on Friday, July 20.
Fans watch as the peloton passes through sunflower fields on Friday.
Fans cheer on the pack riding past a windmill on Friday.
Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and SKY Procycling celebrates winning Stage 18 on Friday.
The peloton is chased by a television helicopter on Friday during stage 18.
Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain and SKY Procycling retained his race leader’s yellow jersey after Stage 18 on Friday.
Bradley Wiggins of Britain, riding for SKY Procycling in the race leader’s yellow jersey, makes the climb of the Cote de Saint-Georges with the peloton on Friday.
The peloton crosses La Dordogne River during Stage 18 on Friday.
Bradley Wiggins, left, of Great Britain, riding for SKY Procycling, cycles with the peloton Friday.
The pack of riders glide past a field of sunflowers Friday.
The leaders cruise past a windmill Friday on the 18th stage of the Tour de France.
Spectators cheer on Spain’s Alejandro Valverde as he rides to victory during the 143.5 kilometer (89 miles) Stage 17, starting in Bagneres-de-Luchon and finishing in the ski resort of Peyragudes, southern France, on Thursday, July 19.
The pack of riders descends the mountainous terrain of Thursday’s race.
Thomas Voeckler of France and Fredrik Kessiakoff of Sweden ride in a breakaway group together through the Pyrenees mountains.
Overall race leader Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, in yellow, rides in the main group during Thursday’s race.
The peloton wind through the narrow mountains rodes of Thursday’s race which included several several long difficult climbs on the way to the finish in Peyragudes.
Australian rider Cadel Evans of Team BMC, right, follows closely behind teammate Tejay Van Garderen of the United States, left, who is currently wearing the race’s “best young rider’s” jersey.
Riders pass through foggy pass in the high altitude of Thursday’s route.
Stage winner Alejandro Valverde of Spain is overcome with emotion after crossing the finish line at the end of the race Thursday.
Tour de France riders wait before the start of the 17th stage of the race on Thursday.
Stage winner Thomas Voeckler of France grabs a bottle of water from a fan as he climbs the final pass before the finish Wednesday, July 18, during the 197-kilometer (122-mile) race through the Pyrenees from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
Race leader Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, in yellow, and the main pack of riders pass a Nelson Mandela birthday banner Wednesday. People around the globe celebrated Mandela’s 94th birthday.
Riders race through the Pyrenees Mountains on Wednesday on a difficult course that contained two “beyond categorization” sections, climbs that are so hard they are considered off the charts.
Katusha team rider Vladimir Gusev of Russia receives assistance from a race official after a fall in the Pyrenees on Wednesday.
Riders round a treacherous turn on stage 16 Wednesday.
George Hincapie, of the United States and Cadel Evans of Australia on Team BMC talk during Wednesday’s race.
Bradley Wiggins, left, is in first place while Christopher Froome is in second and Vincenzo Nibali is in third place in the race to maintain their standings Wednesday.
The peloton makes the climb of the Col d’Aubisque in the Pyrenees Mountains during Wednesday’s stage.
Germany’s Jens Voigt of team Radioshack-Nissan answers journalists’ questions Wednesday after teammate Frank Schleck tested positive for a banned substance overnight and withdrew from the race.
Pierrick Fedrigo of France sprints to the finish to win the 15th stage of the Tour de France on Monday, July 16, covering 160 kilometers (99 miles) from Samatan to Pau, France.
Spectators cheer on riders as they pass through a small village along Monday’s route.
The main pack of riders pass through the French countryside during Monday’s course.
Fans applaud Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, here in the yellow jersey, as he makes his way up a climb in the main group Monday.
Monday’s stage was a mostly rolling course with no major climbs.
French rider Pierrick Fedrigo celebrates after winning Monday’s stage in Pau.
Luis-Leon Sanchez of Spain celebrates after winning the 14th stage of the Tour de France, which ran 191 kilometers (119 miles) from Limoux to Foix, France, on Sunday, July 15.
Riders make their way around a bend during Sunday’s stage, which is the first in the Pyrenees mountains.
France’s Thomas Voeckler, center, helps teammate Pierre Rolland of France, left, change a wheel during the race Sunday. Around 30 punctured tires were reported near the top of the last major climb, apparently caused by tacks thrown on the course by spectators.
Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, wearing the yellow jersey, maintains his position as the overall race leader, 2 minutes 5 seconds ahead of Team Sky teammate Christopher Froome, on Sunday.
Spectators greet a breakaway group of 11 riders as they picnic along the course Sunday.
Philippe Gilbert of Belgium and Team BMC leads a breakaway group as rain starts to fall Sunday.
The main group of riders passes by a field during Sunday’s stage, which consisted of two major climbs.
A spectator dressed as Santa Claus rings a bell from a field along the race route as riders pass by.
Spain’s Luis-Leon Sanchez, center, eventually created a gap between himself and the rest of the breakaway group and was able to maintain his lead through the finish Sunday.
Cheerleaders from the Perpignan rugby club cheer on riders Sunday.
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, wearing the green jersey of the sprint points leader, reaches for second place at the finish of the race Sunday and maintains his lead as sprints points leader, 97 points ahead of Andre Greipel of Germany.
Fans cheer on cyclists participating in the 2012 Tour de France on Saturday, July 14.
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins rides in the pack in the 13 stage of the race, which started in Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux and finishes in Le Cap d’Agde, France, on Saturday.
A fan cheers on the pack riding in the 226-km (140-mile) stage 12 of the 2012 Tour de France, starting in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and finishing in Annonay Davezieux, southeastern France, on Friday, July 13.
Australia’s Cadel Evans checks technical problems with his radio-link earphones as he rides on Friday.
Fans wait for riders in Western garb during stage 12 Friday.
The leading men ride in a tunnel in a breakaway on Friday.
Team Europcar rider Pierre Rolland of France is cheered on Thursday, July 12, as he rides to victory in stage 11.
Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, left, and Bradley Wiggins of Britain celebrate at the conclusion of Thursday’s race.
Overall race leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain rides ahead of Cadel Evans of Australia, who started Thursday’s stage in second place.
Riders make their way through the French Alps on Thursday during the 11th stage of the Tour de France, which covers 91 miles starting in Albertville and finishes in La Toussuire-Les Sybelles, France.
Representations of Tour de France leaders’ jerseys hang along the road during Thursday’s race.
Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, left, rounds a turn Thursday, followed by teammate Christopher Froome.
Australian fans cheer riders as they pass by during Thursday’s race, the first full stage in the Alps.
France’s Thomas Voeckler celebrates after winning stage 10, a 194.5-kilometer (120-mile) course starting in Macon and finishing in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, France, on Wednesday, July 11.
The cyclists cross a bridge in Macon at the beginning of Wednesday’s events.
Large cutouts of cyclists in colorful jerseys are featured on the facade of a building in Macon on Wednesday.
Frederik Kessiakoff of Sweden, wearing the polka dot jersey signifying his position as the best climber in the race, races among the peloton Wednesday.
Bernhard Eisel of Austria and Team Sky drive the peloton as they work to defend Bradley Wiggins’ hold on the overall race lead Wednesday.
Overall race leader Bradley Wiggins, right, receives a water bottle handoff from Team Sky teammate Mark Cavendish on Wednesday.
Race leader Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain rides through the French countryside in the main pack of riders Wednesday.
Thomas Voeckler of France, right, leads a breakaway group of four riders through the mountains.
Jens Voigt of Germany attacks on the final climb of Wednesday’s race. He finished third, unable to best Thomas Voeckler of France and Michele Scarponi of Italy.
Riders make their way up the Col du Grand Columbier, the most challenging climb of the race, rated as “beyond categorization.” Most climbs are rated from 1 to 4, with four being the easiest.
Voeckler crosses the finish line first at the mountaintop finish at Bellegarde-sur-Valserine on Wednesday.
Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins of Britain, in the leader’s yellow jersey, crosses the finish line during the individual time trial in the ninth stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Arc et Senans and Besancon on Monday, July 9.
Radioshack-Nissan rider Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland crosses the finish line during the individual time trials.
German Tony Martin rides for the Omega Pharma Quick Step team.
Stage winner Bradley Wiggins drinks before entering the anti-doping control bus at the end of the 41.5-kilometer Stage 9 individual time trial.
Sylvain Chavanel of France, riding for Omega-Pharma-Quickstep, races to fifth place in the individual time trials.
Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Liquigas-Canondale rides in Stage 9.
Australian rider Cadel Evans of the BMC Racing team rides the Stage 9 time trial.
World time trial champion Tony Martin of Germany rides the Stage 9 time trials on Monday, July 9.
Thibaut Pinot of France celebrates on the finish line after winning Stage 8 of the Tour de France on Sunday, July 8. The stage covered 157.5 kilometers (98 miles) from Belfort, France, to Porrentruy, Switzerland, with seven major climbs.
The main group, known as the peloton, departs from Belfort at the start of the race Sunday.
Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain went into Sunday’s stage wearing the yellow jersey as the race’s overall leader.
The pack rides past a field of cows in the French countryside Sunday.
Germany’s Jens Voigt, the oldest cyclist in the Tour at 40, attempts to break away from the peloton during the race Sunday.
Frederik Kessiakoff of Sweden, who led for much of the race, rounds a turn Sunday.
Fans cheer on Kessiakoff during the last major climb of the stage Sunday.
Overall leader Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain rides in the peloton with his Team Sky teammates Sunday.
The peloton makes its way through the narrow roads of the French countryside on the way to the stage finish in Porrentruy, Switzerland, on Sunday.
Great Britain’s Christopher Froome celebrates as he crosses the Stage 7 finish line on Saturday to take the win.
Bernhard Eisel of Austria leads the main group of riders, or peloton, through the French countryside during Stage 7 on Saturday.
The pack rides by during the seventh stage of the 2012 Tour de France.
Anthony Delaplace of France, who has an injured wrist, retired from the race Saturday.
Delaplace is the 17th rider to drop out this year.
Fans cheer on riders from bales of straw on Saturday.
From left, France’s Christophe Riblon, Switzerland’s Michael Albasini, Denmark’s Chris Anker Sorensen, Spain’s Luis-Leon Sanchez and France’s Cyril Gautier lead the race on Saturday.
Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen takes a drink during the ride Saturday.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, riding for the RadioShack-Nissan team, retained his race lead (signified by the yellow jersey) after Stage 6 on Friday, July 6, in Metz.
Riders make their way back to the peloton during Stage 6 on Friday.
Stage 6 winner Peter Sagan of Slovakia pushes to the finish line ahead of Germany’s Andre Greipel on Friday. The 207.5-kilometer stage began in Epernay and finished in Metz, in northeastern France.
A fan wearing a yellow jersey cheers on the pack riding in Metz on Friday.
The peloton was split by a crash in Gorze, with 25 kilometers remaining in Stage 6 on Friday.
A bloodied Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, riding for Garmin-Sharp, is accompanied by teammate Tyler Farrar of the United States as they ride to the finish of Stage 6 in Metz. Hesjedal was involved in a crash 25 kilometers from the end of the stage and was separated from the yellow jersey group.
Sweden’s Gustav Larsson, center, and Italy’s Daniel Oss were among the 30 riders involved in the crash Friday.
Italy’s Davide Vigano is lifted on a stretcher after the crash on Friday, July 6.
Belgium’s Johan Van Summeren reacts after the crash on Friday, July 6.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara chats to Ivan Basso of Italy at Stage 5, from Rouen to Saint-Quentin, on Thursday, July 5.
Andre Greipel, second from left, of the Lotto-Belisol team charges ahead to the finish line on Thursday to win Stage 5 of the Tour de France.
Fans wave French flags and cheer on riders Thursday as the main group passes on the way from Rouen, where Stage 5 of the race started, to Saint-Quentin.
Jonathan Cantwell of Australia lies on the ground after crashing near the finish of Stage 5 Thursday.
Tyler Farrar of USA riding for Garmin-Sharp sits on the ground dazed after crashing hard near the end of Thursday’s stage.
Farrar bleeds from multiple wounds as he rolls through to the finish line after crashing in the final sprint Thursday.
Riders pass a field of poppies as they race through the French countryside Thursday.
Fabian Cancellara of team RadioShack-Nissan holds on to the team car as he makes an adjustment during the race Thursday.
Fans cheer and a television helicopter flies above as the riders stream by.
From left: Julien Simon of Saur-Sojasun, Pablo Urtasun Perez of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Matthieu Ladagnous of FDJ-BigMat ride in a breakaway from the main group Thursday.
Fans line the road and wait for riders to pass along the 196.5-kilometer (122-mile) Stage 5 course Thursday.
Riders roll past a hot-air balloon sitting in a field along Thursday’s course.
Christian Vande Velde of the Garmin-Sharp team signs an autograph for a fan before the beginning of Thursday’s stage.
Jonathan Vaughters, director of Team Garmin-Sharp, addresses the media before the start of Stage 5 on Thursday.
Andre Greipel of Germany and the Lotto-Belisol team celebrates winning Stage 4, from Abbeville to Rouen, on Wednesday, July 4.
The pack of riders cycles past spectators during Stage 4.
The peloton fans out during Stage 4.
The peloton passes through wheat fields.
The pack of riders cycle through the city of Abbeville.
Liquigas-Cannondale rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia signs autographs for spectators.
The pack of cyclists streams along a country road during Stage 4.
An injured Mark Cavendish of Great Britain sits on the pavement just after crashing near the end of the 214-kilometer Stage 4.
Cavendish rolls to the finish with visible injuries and damage to his jersey and helmet after crashing near the finish.
The pack rides by the cliffs of Dieppe.
The peloton passes by windmills on Wednesday.
France’s David Moncoutie, Japan’s Yukiya Arashiro, and France’s Anthony Delaplace ride in a breakaway.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia celebrates while crossing the finish line Tuesday to win Stage 3.
Overall race leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, in yellow jersey, rides in the main group during Tuesday’s 197-kilometer (122-mile) stage.
Fans wave the French flag as the peleton, led by team RadioShack-Nissan, rides past.
France’s Thomas Voeckler grimaces during one of the course’s many climbs on Tuesday.
The peloton, the main group of riders, descends a hill during Stage 3.
France’s Sebastien Minard, left, and Denmark’s Michael Morkov, in the polka-dot jersey, lead a breakaway in Stage 3.
Mark Cavendish, left, rides with teammates from Britain’s Team Sky, wearing yellow helmets signifying their lead in the team standings.
Tour de France 2011 winner Cadel Evans of Australia rides in Stage 3 on Tuesday.
Team Sky sprinter Mark Cavendish of Great Britain arrives for the start of Stage 3 on Tuesday.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland riding for Team RadioShack-Nissan arrives Tuesday for the start of Stage 3, which is 197 kilometers (122 miles) from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Fans cheer on riders as they climb the Cote de la Citadelle de Namur (Climb of Namur Citadel) during Stage 2, which takes place in Belgium.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland holds the yellow jersey and overall race lead going into Stage 2 on Monday.
A spectator sits along the course Monday in Belgium, where Stage 2 of the race covers 129 miles from Vise to Tournai and is relatively flat.
Three riders broke away from the main group early in Stage 2, including (left to right): Anthony Roux of France, Michael Morkov of Denmark and Christophe Kern of France.
The main group of riders quickly fell several minutes behind the breakaway group as they traveled along Belgian roads Monday.
The peloton races through the Belgian countryside Monday.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia celebrates on the finish line as he wins Stage 1, just ahead of Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, on Sunday in Seraing, Belgium.
Cancellara, wearing the yellow jersey, rides alongside Cadel Evans of Australia, second from left, and Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, left, on Sunday.
The peloton follows the official Tour de France vehicle at the beginning of Sunday’s Stage 1.
A spectator waves the Belgian flag as fans wait for riders to pass along the Stage 1 route on Sunday.
A group of six riders, including Nicolas Edet of France, left, breaks away from the main group very early in Stage 1on Sunday. The riders were able to maintain a gap of several minutes until they were eventually caught about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the finish line.
The peloton travels along a narrow road through the Belgian countryside on Sunday.
Fans wait on the roadside for the almost 200 riders to pass during Stage 1 on Sunday.
Fans peer over a railing as riders crest a small hill on Sunday.
Anthony Delaplace of France leads the six riders in the breakaway group on Sunday.
The peloton begins the final climb of Sunday’s stage, called the Cote de Seraing, as riders near the finish of the 198-kilometer (123-mile) course.
Peter Sagan of Slovakia, right, sprints to victory at the Stage 1 finish line Sunday ahead of Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, left, and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway, center.
Overall race leader Cancellara embraces former Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx after Sunday’s stage.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland lunges out of the starting gate for the individual time trial and first test in the 2012 Tour de France in Liege, Belgium, on Saturday, June 30.
Cycling fans sit on a bronze statue in the town of Liege, Belgium, to get a glimpse of the individual time trial on Saturday.
Nicki Sorensen of Denmark eyes the finish line as he nears the completion of the 6.4-kilometer (4-mile) course on Saturday.
Sylvain Chavanel of France rounds a sharp turn on the course in Liege on Saturday.
Bradley Wiggins of Britain sprints to the finish line on Saturday.
A performer wearing a hat decorated with toy cyclists poses for spectators on Saturday.
Andriy Grivko of Ukraine grimaces as he nears the finish line during the time trial, cheered on by fans.
Cadel Evans of Austraila, last year’s Tour winner, rounds a turn during the time trial. He finished witih the 13th best time.
Cancellara, who won the prologue with an individual time trial time of 7 minutes, 13 seconds, sprints to the finish on Saturday.
Cancellara celebrates on the podium Saturday and pulls on the yellow jersey, worn by the overall race leader.
Tour de France 2012: The best photos
Doping has cast a long shadow over cycling throughout the history of the sport, with Andy’s brother Frank Schleck failing an in-Tour test earlier this week, but the ever forthright Millar denied it was an excuse for British riders past failings.
“I don’t consider the doping aspect to be a factor, it’s a cop-out for those happy with being the big fish in a small pond or even a small fish in that pond.
“It is easy to hide behind the excuse that everyone is doping so it’s not worth doing but the reality is there hasn’t been enough investment or the people with the talent and commitment to make the top level on the road.”
Dowsett was keen to stress that Team Sky wear their cleanliness as a badge of honor.
“If there’s one thing in our team it’s a clean philosophy. It’s an even stronger testament to Wiggins’ ability that he’s done all this clean.
“The Tour de France has some of the most tested athletes on the planet and our team’s ethics are unrivaled. Wiggins and Froome have put all these riders to shame both on and off the bike.”
So what has Wiggins got which previous British challengers have lacked? And what has gone into transforming him from track speedster to road racing extraordinaire?
Millar believes Wiggins’ switch to the American Garmin Slipstream team was key point on his path to greatness.
“Only when he went to Garmin did he take steps forward with his road career,” Millar said of the 32-year-old.
“Probably due to a mix of the French teams he was at previously not asking the right questions of him talent wise and Bradley’s own contentment with being just a pursuiter who could win short time trials and prologues.”
Tactically, Team Sky were impeccable throughout the three-week marathon. Ably assisted by Froome and sprint star Mark Cavendish, Wiggins was consistently in the right place at exactly the right time.
“It’s been more about how Sky as a team have been above everyone else,” added Millar. “That limits possibilities to challenge when they are riding so fast.
“They’ve put their general classification riders in the best positions by controlling the race and then Wiggins and Froome have performed better than the other challengers in the time trials.”
The support role adopted by Froome and Cavendish is a vital one, and not one to be undermined, as Dowsett testifies to, “With cycling you have days when you go for the results and you have days when you know it doesn’t suit your ability, so you help the team as much as you can.
“Cycling, essentially, is all about pushing the air out of the way. If you have a chain of guys in front of you you barely have to pedal at all. It can keep you fresh — and keep you out of crashes, too.”
After finishing a then British-best fourth in the 1984 Tour, what does Millar think he could have achieved under the tutelage of the meticulous Brailsford and with a ruthless team like Sky at his back?
“Who knows,” he replied. “These are different times with different riders, sometimes I raced too much and usually there were never enough rest periods. It was difficult to prepare well because the thinking used to be one race after another.
“It’s like trying to compare eras and champions. The best riders of each era are at the top because of the talent, commitment, intelligence and suffering they cope with.”
Regardless of his teammates’ performances and the peerless tactical guidance he has received, Wiggins’ win in a race many professionals struggle to finish should not be belittled.
“It takes commitment to be a professional cyclist and the Tour de France will push you to your absolute limits,” insisted Millar.
“If you do well it’s a fantastic feeling and it makes the tiredness and mental fatigue justifiable. It’s only later you fully realize what’s happened when you’ve had a bit of time to reflect, if you’ve achieved something that’ll go down in history then you can be happy with yourself.
“Then you start planning for the next step, improving, making sure you are staying at that level everyone else is aiming for.”
Robert Millar spoke to CNN International on behalf of the cycling charity Braveheart