One more box to be ticked in France

Mark Cavendish - Stage 20
Mark Cavendish wins Stage 20 - 22nd July 2012 — Rambouillet to Paris (Champs-Élysées), 120 km (74.6 miles)

for the perfect finish.

No champagne corks popping end of Tour jolly into Paris for Bradley Wiggins, he and the team had another debt to pay, especially after team boss Dave Brailsford finally got something wrong the night before.

At the team dinner Brailsford was talking about finishing this Tour of correctly, saying the Champs-Élysées was Cavendish’s home but then stated that the Manxman hadn’t lost there in a while. Which prompted the quick reply of I’ve never lost there.

Before Sunday he’d only completed three Tours and each time he finished it of with victory on the final stage on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Sky team allowed themselves a few photo opportunities to celebrate Wiggins’ yellow jersey and Froome’s second place in GC but this stage was going to be no different than those others over the last three weeks and for Cav in Paris.

Team Sky
Team Sky on the final Stage of 2012 Tour de France - Michael Rogers, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins, Richie Port, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernie Eisel, Christian Knees.

First they had to reel in the breakaway, were they going to do it? They left it late, last lap, but how could we doubt them? Sorry Jens, any other stage I’d be happy for you to cross the line screaming shut up legs! but this, not today.

Just over 1 kilometre to go and Bradley shows his class as he hits the front and powers it, need to be at that final right hand corner first, yellow drops off and Boasson Hagen is leading Cavendish around it in perfect position. Cav decides to go early, must have been 400 metres to go, his old lead out train member Matt Goss is behind him. You could just see the front of the Australian’s wheel but he wasn’t catching Cav he wasn’t getting close, the only one was Sagan, who gave himself a lot to do and did a great job getting up to finish second but there was only going to be one winner.

No one was going to take this from Mark Cavendish. Not four in a row as he indicated as he crossed the line hand up, four fingers aloft.

Next year for the thumb? If so could it be on another team as Brailsford stated that if both rider and team decide a separation would be best for both it could happen. Sky’s goals have changed and it’s hard to see where Cavendish fits into that and is it fair on the best printer in the sport, ever, to sacrifice himself when he’s at the peak of of his game?

Saying that he matched the top stage winners this Tour round with three. He’s done the rainbow jersey proud and he’s helped to win the yellow jersey for Britain.

Sky’s sixth stage win, Britain’s seventh, one third of all the stages won by British riders.

And it all ended with Bradley Wiggins atop the podium in that yellow jersey, flanked by Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali. In a situation that not so long ago would seem impossible a situation that even Lesley Garrett warbling the national anthem couldn’t spoil – though she tried her best. How many viewers injured themselves diving for the mute button?

Bradley’s look and I’m a little teapot stance said it all…

Bradley Wiggins and Lesley Garrett
Bradley Wiggins on the winners podium staring at Lesley Garrett while she warbles the national anthem.

Said it before and I’ll say it again. Greatest British sporting achievement this year, any year.

But as the title suggests the job still isn’t fully done. This was the last box ticked in France, there’s still two more in Britain. London to be precise. Cavendish for the Olympic road title and Wiggins for the individual time trial.

As with the professionalism the team and riders showed in dominating this Tour they were pretty much straight off to London after the celebrations. Wiggins wants gold and nothing else.

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