Bike Rides & Hikes

July 9, 2012

Wiggins loses his cool, retains overall lead

Bradley Wiggins kept the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Keeping his cool was another matter.

PORRENTRUY, Switzerland – Bradley Wiggins kept the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Keeping his cool was another matter.

The three-time Olympic gold medalist, seeking to become Britain's first Tour champion, unleashed a profanity-laced tirade after Sunday's eighth stage.

Thibaut Pinot, at 22 the youngest competitor, gave France its first stage victory this year. Wiggins quashed a late attack by defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia to retain the overall lead.

Wiggins' Team Sky has controlled the Tour in a style reminiscent of Lance Armstrong's former U.S. Postal team. But the Briton lost his composure when asked by a reporter to comment on comparisons between the teams and "cynics who believe that you have to be doped up to win the Tour."

Wiggins, angered by social media chatter, let loose with an expletive-filled outburst.

"I cannot be dealing with people like that," he said. "It justifies their own bone-idleness because they can't ever imagine applying themselves to anything in their lives. And it's easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that."

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last month filed charges against Armstrong, accusing the seven-time Tour champion of using performance-enhancing drugs. He denies any wrongdoing.

The International Cycling Union has worked to rid drug cheats from the sport and has drawn some praise from the World Anti-Doping Agency. Alberto Contador is missing from this year's race while he serves a two-year doping ban linked to his 2010 title.

Wiggins is looking to move from Olympic track champion to a rising star of the Tour de France roads. His fourth-place Tour finish in 2009 put to rest many questions about his climbing skill.

Speaking to French television, Wiggins said his ability to get up hard mountain climbs came from training, diet and lifestyle.

"I drink nothing now before, in 2004, I was almost an alcoholic after the Olympics," he said.

Wiggins has come a long way, and the last two days he has showed he can keep up with strong climbers like Evans.

Sunday's ride into the Jura range next to the Swiss Alps offered double drama: a hard last climb that splintered the pack and a tense chase of Pinot to the finish.

Pinot burst from the pack and overtook a breakaway rider on a steep, final climb to win the 97.9-mile stage from Belfort in eastern France to the Swiss town of Porrentruy.

"I will remember this day my entire life," Pinot said as teammates embraced him. "I can't yet get my mind around it."

Evans was second, 26 seconds behind, but didn't gain any time on Wiggins, who was fourth in a small group that included most of the remaining prerace favorites.

"It was good fun coming in at the end there," said Wiggins, who leads Evans by 10 seconds overall. "It was a bit like being in a junior race again. Everyone attacking in ones and twos. It's good. It's what it's all about."

Sunday's trek included yet another crash that caused a high-profile withdrawal. Defending Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain broke his right hand and injured his left shoulder 35 miles into the stage and could miss the London Games.

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