When he crossed the line, it finally sank in that an English rider was going to win le Tour.
Up until that moment, it had all seemed like a dream, but as Bradley punched the air, I looked around the wee bar we were in and realised; ‘he’s done it, he’s actually done it!’
My mind went back to the Tours of my youth, the joy at Barry Hoban’s wins, the pride at Robert Millar’s wins – on Friday, L’Équipe ran a double page spread on; ‘Les Sujets de sa Majestie‘ – ‘The Subjects of Her Majesty.’
That had me thinking about how I’d never even dared to dream about a GB rider winning this Holy Grail of bicycle races.
Our place was to win stages and remind everyone that Robert Millar is the only English speaker ever to win the King of the Mountains.
Brian Robinson was the first man to win a stage, in 1958, with another coming his way the following year.
Robinson was a cool rider; he won the Dauphine and was the first rider from outside the big cycling nations to stand on the podium of a classic – third spot in the 1957 Milan-Sanremo.
The legend that is Tom Simpson was the first Briton to wear the yellow jersey, that was 1962, and it’s fitting that on the 50th anniversary of his demise on the Ventoux, ‘les coureurs Britannique‘ should be making such a mark on the race.
My memory enters the picture with Michael Wright and Barry Hoban.
Wright had British nationality but struggled with his native tongue and was more comfortable speaking Flemish – having grown up in Belgium.
On his day, he was rapid and won three stages.
‘Uncle Barry’ L’Équipe calls Barry Hoban; he won eight stages between 1964 and 1978.
Barry was more than a roadman sprinter; he had a nose for the breaks and even won a mountain stage.
To get information on le Tour in the early 70’s was difficult.
The only sure bet was the Daily Telegraph, which wasn’t easy to come by in a Socialist mining town like Kirkcaldy.
And of course there was the good old Comic – ‘Cycling Weekly’ was consumed from cover to cover during le Tour when I was a boy – but it was a different beast back then, not Sportif-centred, equipment and clothing test heavy, ‘six ways to get wasted on strong drink and still have your best ever climbing day,’ glossy mag that it now is.
The TV coverage was much better a decade later and I can remember watching Robert Millar riding superbly to take seventh place in the 1984 Tour’s final time trial, sealing fourth overall.
In front of him were, Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond – enough said about the quality of that ride.
And he took the polka dot jersey that year, too.
The podium seemed inevitable, but it never worked out that way.
He ‘only’ won three stages – but all were in the mountains and none were anything less than beautiful.
Sean Yates – Dave and I were there when he won his time trial in ’88.
As he said; ‘yeah, I was going a bit, wasn’t I?‘
Yates also wore yellow – just for a day, in 1994.
I remember Phil Griffiths telling me that even when Yates was riding as a ‘super domestique’ for Lance, he was always asking Phil about who had won what time trial in the UK and if such and such of his course records still stood.
When he came back as an amateur, after his pro career, he never managed to recapture his 1980 ’25’ title, but he did win the ’50.’
‘Monsieur Prologue’ L’Équipe calls Chris Boardman.
When Boardman broke the world hour record, Luc Leblanc said; ‘if Boardman can break it, then so can half the peloton.‘
When Boardman caught the Frenchman for a minute en route his 1994 supersonic prologue ride, Boardman responded; ‘half the peloton – but obviously not his half!‘
The following year, Boardman crashed out, ‘The Human Bomb’ said L’Équipe.
An evening start to suit TV saw the early seeds ride on dry tarmac; the ‘heads’ were all at the back of the race and chose to ride on road tyres and in conservative fashion.
Except Boardman, on super light silks he took off on the technical course like a bat out of hell.
Hurtling down a descent, the card flipped from ‘glory’ to ‘death’ as Boardman’s rubber and the tar parted company.
The team car narrowly avoided running him over as he slid across the wet tar – a broken ankle and long convalescence followed.
He missed out the next year, too – perhaps with the previous year’s happening still in his mind, he was just a little too conservative on wet parcours and was beaten by Alex Zulle on his Look ‘Bat Bike.’
But he would go on to score two more prologue wins in the Tour.
David Millar; and before we say anything, we’re tired of the ‘reformed . . . etc’ which accompanies every mention of his name.
He did what just about everyone else of the era was doing, what the teams expected of their riders and what the UCi turned a blind eye to.
He regrets it, he says what he did was wrong and unequivocally supports ‘clean sport.’
You can dress it up 100 ways, but that’s all there is to say – and we reckon his conviction is ‘spent’ by now, anyway.
Millar arrived at the Tour in a blaze of glory, winning the opening time trial in the 2000 edition, wearing the yellow jersey and making the headlines.
He was young, articulate, arty, looked good on the bike and the glossy mags loved him.
He won stages in 2002 and 2003 before it all went wrong in 2004.
It was great to see him back at his best, just a few days ago – winning from the break and making us feel very proud to be Scottish.
There’s little to say about Mark Cavendish that hasn’t been said, but love him or hate him, you have to respect him – 22 stage wins, with the latest one making Matt Goss and Peter Sagan look like third cats.
And his grinta has to be admired, one day he’s on the tar but a day or two later, he’s on the podium.
And that brings us back to Bradley Wiggins, but the name which you have to mention and without whom the events of today, on the Champs Elysees would not be taking place, is David Brailsford – the real winner of Britain’s first Tour de France.
Encore, ‘chapeau! Monsieur Brailsford,’ you were right, we were wrong.
Result - Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 19: Bonneval - Chartres (ITT), 52 km
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:16
3 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:50
4 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:02:02
5 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:02:25
6 Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Argos – Shimano 0:02:28
7 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:34
8 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team 0:02:46
9 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:02:50
10 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:03:05
11 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin – Sharp 0:03:12
12 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Argos – Shimano 0:03:20
13 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:24
14 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:27
15 Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:03:34
16 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:38
17 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Sharp 0:03:40
18 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:03:43
19 Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:03:49
20 Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
21 Christophe Kern (Fra) Team Europcar 0:03:56
22 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:03:57
23 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Belisol Team 0:04:05
24 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:04:06
25 Dominik Nerz (Ger) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:04:14
26 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:04:22
27 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:04:24
28 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:04:28
29 Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Katusha Team
30 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:32
31 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:04:37
32 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin – Sharp 0:04:41
33 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:04:53
34 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:04:57
35 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Nissan 0:05:08
36 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:05:09
37 Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin – Sharp 0:05:11
38 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:05:15
39 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Movistar Team 0:05:17
40 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team 0:05:25
41 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:05:31
42 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:05:32
43 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:05:33
44 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
45 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:05:34
46 Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:05:35
47 Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol Team 0:05:37
48 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:05:38
49 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team 0:05:48
50 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:05:49
51 Yann Huguet (Fra) Argos – Shimano 0:05:53
52 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:05:54
53 Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:05:55
54 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:06:01
55 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:06:03
56 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:06:06
57 Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar
58 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:06:07
59 Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling
60 Alexandr Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:06:09
61 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:06:12
62 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
63 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:06:13
64 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:06:14
65 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
66 Julien Fouchard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:06:17
67 Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team 0:06:18
68 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky Procycling 0:06:19
69 David Millar (GBr) Garmin – Sharp 0:06:22
70 Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Saur – Sojasun 0:06:24
71 Albert Timmer (Ned) Argos – Shimano
72 Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale
73 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:06:28
74 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:29
75 Koen De Kort (Ned) Argos – Shimano 0:06:31
76 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:38
77 Nicolas Roch