BESANCON, France - Reuters
Wiggins poses with his yellow jersey on the first rest-day of the 2012 Tour. AFP photo
Bradley Wiggins is too worldly-wise to think he has the Tour de France title in the bag, especially after being chewed up and spat out by the cycling gods in last year’s race.
The favorite has lived up to his pre-Tour billing and leads by one minute 53 seconds on yesterday’s first rest day but the flurry of crashes seen in the first week show that even a commanding advantage can be lost in a tangle of mangled metal.
A smash on the seventh stage last year ended the Briton’s race and the same could easily happen in the next two weeks in the peloton.
“It is never over,” the double Olympic track individual pursuit champion told reporters.
Olympic road champion Samuel Sanchez was ruled out on July 8 with a broken hand after a pileup which came out of nothing on the tight roads that symbolize this great race.
Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal was also forced out after another moment of multi-bike mayhem.
If Wiggins avoids chaos and his Sky teammates protect him like they have in recent days, then Britain’s first yellow jersey victory is highly likely unless defending champion Cadel Evans can excel.
The second-placed Australian suffered on the time trial on July 9 when Wiggins blew away the rest of the field.
Big mountain stages follow today and tomorrow and Evans must attempt to win both in order to slim down his rival’s lead.
Third-placed Chris Froome will make sure he is no threat to his teammate but Vincenzo Nibali, the 2010 Vuelta champion, can not be discounted at 2:23 behind Wiggins.
If Wiggins does roll into Paris
on July 22 as the champion, he will know that the luck of avoiding a pileup was as key to his triumph as his immense skill in the time trials and on the ascents.