Tour de France - Credit where credit's due
Blazin' Saddles pays tribute to the brilliance of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Team Sky.
Saddles then listened to Wiggins's emotional post-race press conference and was wholly won over by a man at the pinnacle of sporting achievement – a worthy winner who was roundly applauded by the whole room for the meticulous and human way he went about becoming the first ever Briton to win the Tour de France.
So today, on the eve of the Tour's finale in Paris, let's take a little look at what Wiggins, Froome and Dave Brailsford's Team Sky have achieved over the past few weeks...
- Britain's first ever Tour de France (and Grand Tour) winner
- Britain's first ever Tour de France runner-up
- Britain's first ever Tour de France or Grand Tour one-two
- The first time two riders from the same team have topped the Tour overall standings since 1997 when Jan Ullrich beat defending champion and Telekom team-mate Bjarne Riis
- The first national one-two since 1984 when Laurent Fignon beat fellow Frenchman Bernard Hinault
- Three Tour stage winners in Wiggins, Froome and Mark Cavendish
- Five Tour stage wins, with a unprecedented prospect of the maillot jaune leading out Cavendish for a sixth in Paris on Sunday
- Sky have so far contributed the lion's share of Britain's tally of six wins. Britain is the only country this century to win six stages in one Tour on two different occasions – and on Sunday could be the first to win seven
- One-twos in both of the Tour's major time trials
- Three riders in the top three of the second ITT, with Richie Porte riding to a solid fifth in Chartres
- Wiggins arrived at the Tour having already made history after becoming the first man to win Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine stage races in the same season. Adding the Tour to it is even more of an unprecedented achievement – something which will probably never be matched
- Sir Chris Hoy went as far as to label Wiggins's forthcoming Tour win "the greatest achievement by any British sportsperson ever"
- Wiggins was never lower than second place in the Tour's GC after completing the opening prologue in Liege seven seconds slower than Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara
- Wiggins took the yellow jersey after placing third at La Planche des Belles Filles in stage seven in the Jura mountains, won by Froome, two days before the first major time trial in Besancon consolidated the pair's dominance. He will have worn the yellow for 13 stages in total
- Sky achieved their aim of delivering a British Tour winner within five years (which we all initially baulked at) in just three
- Sky showcased the values of team-work and team spirit, with every rider pulling towards one goal and no one veering off course, however tempting it may have been
- In Chris Froome, Sky have a someone who can continue the team's current hegemony if, say, the next Tour route is one peppered with mountains
- Sky will have changed the way teams prepare for Grand Tours by showing how making enough marginal gains can add up to mammoth advantages. Sky's precedent will mean all ProTour teams will put more into aspects such as tailored training and nutrition or risk losing further ground
- Wiggins has shown that success can come from disappointment, returning from a broken collarbone in last year's Tour fitter, leaner, stronger and better
- Wiggins has shown the importance of hard work and dedication to a generation who crave fame and celebrity for doing nothing (his words)
- Wiggins underlined his dedication to science by punching a button on his SRM bike computer to log his ride data before punching the air in celebration of his win
- Wiggins delivered what was labelled the "best press conference ever" from one respected Reuters reporter. Another said it was "As classy as his time trial riding"
- "Based on today's press conference," one Sunday Times reporter said, "Sky should put Bradley Wiggins in charge of press and public relations. He gives the machine a human face."
- Wiggins won over these journalists despite ending his conference with an apology for being "a pain in the arse", explaining to the world's media that "I've never been trained to do well in the media" before thanking the packed room "for the last couple of weeks" amid rapturous applause
- Following a worthy winner (Evans) who nevertheless delivered a string of banal platitudes in the press room, Wiggins managed to spice things up throughout the three weeks, delivering priceless quotes, endless stories and talking absolute sense ("It's quite often the people who are saying 'it's a boring Tour' who are the ones saying, 'well, he's on drugs anyway'.")
And some more light-hearted achievements...
- Wiggins has put the London borough of Kilburn on the map
- More than three decades on from the 70s, Wiggins has made sideburns fashionable again
- Wiggins managed to make Gordon Ramsey sound like Enid Blyton by turning early press conferences into a sea of asterisks or a medley of bleeps (depending on whether or not you were reading or listening)
- Ahead of the Olympics, Wiggins taught foreigners coming to London 2012 how the C-word can be used a viable alternative to a full-stop
- Wiggo demonstrated you don’t have to attack in the mountains to win the Tour – provided you have a team mate you can do the attacking for you
- Talking of Froome, the runner-up was the race's only stage winner born outside Europe
- Together, Wiggins and Froome probably ended Cadel Evans's career as a serious GC contender
- Wiggins and Froome also became the first aliens to mount the final podium after Luis Leon Sanchez, third in the final ITT, labelled them "from another world"
- The nationalist fervour inspired by Wiggins and Froome gave a new lease of life to Union flags gathering dust since the Queen's Diamond Jubilee earlier in the summer
- Wiggins and Froome also managed to make world champion Cavendish's first (and last?) Tour with Team Sky decidedly underwhelming – although gave Cav a vital chance to hone his climbing skills ahead of 10 laps of Box Hill in the Olympics in less than two weeks
- Team Sky's brilliance managed to provoke fickle Australian fans into booing their fellow Australians following Michael Rogers and Richie Porte's relentless riding in the mountains
- Sky managed to instil fear amid the peloton, with Garmin's David Millar describing their team bus as the 'Death Star' from Star Wars
- And finally... Wiggins comprehensively laid to death the notion of peaking too early