Authors: John Deering
Tour de Force
JOHN DEERING was born in Fulham in 1967. He has lived in Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Essex, Surrey, Toulouse and Edinburgh. He is the author of
Team on the Run: The Inside
Story of the Linda McCartney Cycling Team
12 Months in the Saddle,
and is a regular contributor to
Ride Cycling Review.
He lives in Richmond-upon-Thames with his Giant
This eBook edition published in 2013 by
West Newington House
This edition first published in Great Britain in
2013 by Arena Sport an imprint of Birlinn Ltd
ISBN 978 1 78027 129 3
eBook ISBN 978 0 85790 532 1
Copyright © John Deering, 2012
The right of John Deering to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form, or by any means electronic, mechanical or photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express written permission of the publisher.
The author has made every effort to clear all copyright permissions, but where this has not been possible and amendments are required, the publisher will be pleased to make
any necessary arrangements at the earliest opportunity.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available on request from the British Library.
This book is for Brad.
For always being Brad.
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Sunday, 1 July 2012
Monday, 2 July 2012
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
Thursday, 5 July 2012
Friday, 6 July 2012
Saturday, 7 July 2012
Sunday, 8 July 2012
Monday, 9 July 2012
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Thursday, 12 July 2012
Friday, 13 July 2012
Saturday, 14 July 2012
Sunday, 15 July 2012
Monday, 16 July 2012
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Thursday, 19 July 2012
Friday, 20 July 2012
Saturday, 21 July 2012
Sunday, 22 July 2012
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
It’s approaching seven minutes past five on Saturday, 30 June 2012. The 188th rider to begin this year’s Tour de France is inhaling deeply in the small start house
that will fire him on his way towards Paris. There may be 3,500km to go, 90 hours of saddle time, the Alps, the Pyrenees, a defending champion to conquer and he may have finished no higher than
fourth in this race before
only ever finished it three times, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the 188th starter is the favourite to win. He’s British, too. His name is
Bradley Marc Wiggins OBE.
We’re in Liège. Not France – Belgium. The Tour de France makes regular sorties beyond its natural borders (notably for the start), usually every two years or so. In 2007,
Bradley stood in a similar Tour de France start house waiting for his moment to begin, but in his home city of London. As the reigning World and Olympic Pursuit Champion, the short-time trial
format of the prologue made him a big favourite to take the first yellow jersey of the race and Brad’s first stage win in the Tour de France. On that day, home expectation got the better of
him and he was beaten into fourth place by one of his opponents today, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara. But that was 2007, when Brad’s sole aim was that short sprint around the streets
of Westminster. Today he has bigger fish to fry. He wants to win the Tour de France.
Behind the mirrored mask of his aero helmet visor, Brad closes his eyes and visualises the course in front of him, the corners and the bends. He knows that the Tour de France lasts three weeks
and can’t be won on any one day, but it can be lost in the blink of an eye. Last year he found himself in a ditch with a broken collarbone after a week’s racing. His predecessor as
World and Olympic Pursuit Champion and British Tour hope, Chris Boardman, hadn’t even made it through the 1995 prologue when a horrific crash in storm-battered Brittany ruled him out with a
shattered ankle after just a few minutes of the prescribed three weeks.
It would be nice to win today, but far from essential. Laying down a marker to his rivals before the race has begun in earnest would be a good thing, but would also raise a separate conundrum:
will Brad’s Team Sky want to defend the yellow jersey that he will wear as winner of the prologue for twenty more stages? Especially as they are here with the stated second objective of
helping his teammate, World Champion Mark Cavendish, to win as many stages as possible. The number one priority is to get around safely without losing any time to his most significant rivals: Cadel
Evans, Vincenzo Nibali, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Denis Menchov. There is a queue of suitors for the final yellow jersey in Paris.
It’s a fine day, with no showers, high winds or thunderstorms to worry about. French time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel has held the best time since earlier this afternoon. The first
serious challenger to his position is the TT specialist Tony Martin of Germany. Wearing a white skinsuit emblazoned with the rainbow bands that tell everybody he is indeed the champion of the world
in this discipline, Martin certainly looks the part and sets a furious tempo around the boulevards alongside the river Meuse. Misfortune awaits him though, and his low-profile carbon time trial
bike has to be replaced just after the halfway point in the 6.4km race when he picks up a puncture. He gets a superfast bike change from his Omega mechanic in the following car, but you can’t
change bikes and win prologues when they’re this short. The World Champion will end up sixteen seconds behind Chavanel, near enough to feel that he could have won if his luck had been in.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck, a true threat in the mountains to come, although not one in short bursts against the clock as today, rolls down the start ramp and takes to the road. It’s time for
Bradley to step up. Breathing deeply and smoothly, intent on the road ahead, his red sideburns peeking out from below the billiard ball Team Sky aero helmet, he knows that the waiting is over at
last. Every day since last year’s heartbreaking crash on the road to Châteauroux, Brad has been dreaming of this day, the chance to put it all right. All the training, all the racing,
all the famous victories he has already strung together this season point to today in Liège. The starter raises his hand to count off the seconds. A few more deep breaths and Brad sets his
jaw. Time to stand up and be counted. He’s off.
The route heads along the Meuse, often doubling back on itself to head down the opposing carriageway. Though an all-out effort is required for a shot at victory, control and caution are needed
at the corners, often full 180-degree turnabouts. Brad’s awareness of his power output and what he needs to deliver to win is acute, but he also knows that his Pinarello time trial machine is
a weapon built for speed in straight lines, not for zipping around city streets. He blasts along the wide boulevards but slows carefully for the tight angles, warned continuously by the calm voice
in his ear, his
(DS) Sean Yates in the car behind. Together they have been over this course many times in the past few days of preparation.
Brad is in tenth place at the first time check. Has he kept something under the bonnet? It appears that he has. The long sweeping roads of the second half of this short race see the Brit begin
to open the throttle. His long illustrious history in track pursuiting has left him with an almost preternatural ability to time and judge his effort. World Junior Champion at just seventeen years
of age and later World Champion at the same event no fewer than three times, Brad knows how to keep his effort steady and increase the pace relentlessly as he closes on the line.
He plunges down the boulevard d’Avroy and breaks the beam on the finish line fractions of a second quicker than the long-time leader Chavanel who smiles ruefully at his luck. It’s
now Brad’s turn to wait. Just about to leave the start house a short distance away is Mr Prologue himself, Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss has brought home the prologue bacon no fewer than four
times in the Tour de France, the first time being in this very city in 2004 when he consigned Lance Armstrong in his pomp to a shock defeat. The rumours among the press band in Liège were
that Spartacus was on the way out, his legs not what they were, his collarbone still uncomfortable since his heavy crash in the Tour of Flanders in April, and younger riders were ready to grab his
Perhaps they were a little hasty. Cancellara, despite the top ten riders home being separated by a mere handful of seconds, astonishingly thumps seven seconds into Wiggins in second. Tour de
France prologue number five is his, and so is that coveted first yellow jersey.
Bradley Wiggins is quietly satisfied. He has taken a little time from every one of his rivals for the overall victory and saved his team from the effort of a fraught first week protecting the
yellow jersey. He hasn’t won the battle, but in the first skirmish in the war of the Tour de France 2012, he has put fear into the hearts of his enemies.
‘I’m really calm, really relaxed. I keep taking myself back to reality by putting my headphones on and just taking myself out of this madness, because this isn’t reality at the
moment. It’d be very easy to get drawn into all this,’ says Brad after his iPod-soundtracked warmdown on the rollers as he attempts to brush off the chaos that is always attendant
around team buses at the Tour. ‘Bit of Otis Redding.’
Sky like to do things differently.
Dave Brailsford transformed British track cycling through using professional training methods and preparation, and leaving nothing to chance. His GB national set-up reached its zenith at the
2012 Olympics when they grabbed seven of the ten gold medals on offer.
Brailsford had long dreamed of transferring the success of the track squad to the road. He knew as well as anybody that success in the velodrome meant Olympic success and huge national pride,
but in cycling it’s the road that matters. In 2007 he began to talk openly about establishing a pro road set-up, somewhere that the track prodigies coming through the national system could
aim their sights. Riders like Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas had all been key members of the track performance programme, but all of their ultimate goals lay on the tarmac of
Europe. What if Brailsford could build an umbrella organisation to keep these talents together? It would have to be a British team with a British sponsor, a national team for the country to unite
behind in a way that had never happened in cycling before.