Bradley is simply our best… EVER!
01:06 GMT, 23 July 2012
Ever. It certainly is a big word.
Just the two syllables but huge in sport. Hugely misused, too. The best
ever, the first ever. That last word is superfluous. We mean the best,
we mean the first. Yet when Bradley Wiggins made his way up the
Champs-Elysees, each pumping limb its own little revolution,
ever has never sounded more appropriate.
Bradley Wiggins is the first British
winner of the Tour de France. Ever. Bradley Wiggins is the greatest
British cyclist. Ever. Bradley Wiggins may well be the finest British
These are incredibly unlikely words to
be writing. The sentences feel as if they should end, not with mundane
little full stops or even a bold exclamation mark, but punctuation of
their own. A symbol that expresses our collective surprise, pronounced
with the same breathy wonder as an open-mouthed WOW.
Champagne moment: Bradley Wiggins tastes victory on the Champs-Elysees
We get so used to the tumbling of
records, the shifting of milestones in sport, that when a genuine
jaw-dropping accomplishment comes along, we are by comparison strangely
unmoved. We are so used to Super Sundays and matches of the century and
casual hyperbole — ‘Could this be another Duel in the Sun’ asked a
quivering voice on 5 Live on Friday night, comparing the epic meeting of
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson at Turnberry, in 1977, with Brandt
Snedeker versus Adam Scott — that when Wiggins scorches through virgin
territory for a British rider, words almost fail us.
This is the 99th edition of the Tour de France, yet there has been no winner quite like Le Gentleman.
Cynics snipe that this is not a
vintage year for the Tour but Wiggins is most certainly a rider of
vintage potential. He is a three-time Olympic champion in the
velodrome who has converted that excellence to mountainous, cross-country terrains, road racing and explosive time trials.
The greats of the sport such as
Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Wiggins’s boyhood poster hero Miguel
Indurain were all outstanding track cyclists, too, but none emulated
Wiggins’s success in, for instance, the individual pursuit. This is
renaissance work, a movement across cycling’s cultures. Wiggins needs
multiple Tour wins to be placed among the greatest names of the event,
but is he among the greats of the sport For sure.
Fans' favourite: Supporters clamber to offer their best wishes to Wiggins
His is an achievement that spans
centuries and cannot be attributed to mere advances in training or
technology. The first Tour de France was held in 1903 and the first
British entrants rode in 1937. Since 1956, there have been only two
Tours that have not contained a British presence. Some were lone riders,
operating without the protection of a team, but it is not as if
Wiggins is the first winner from these shores because no other blighter
Nor is he winning an event in its
infancy. This is not like football where the Premier League and
Champions League have become so powerful, it is as if history started
just 20 years ago.
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Standards in other sports have been
skewed by advances in travel and technology. Cricketers play more
matches and therefore amass more runs, science — legal and not — has
invaded the running track and swimming pool. And the velodrome,
Nobody would claim Wiggins’s triumph
comes without technical support and team orders, or that professional
cycling in the 21st century is not vastly different to the sport pursued
by Maurice Garin, winner of the first Tour in 1903. Yet there remains
purity in Wiggins’s achievement. There have been 99 editions of the Tour
and 56 of them have contained British riders, and he is the first to
And purity is not a word that has been greatly associated with road cycling for several decades now. Yet as much as one can ever know with complete certainty, Wiggins is straight. More than this, in a sport tainted by nefarious instincts, he has earned the nickname Le Gentleman because of his courteous conduct in letting the riders reassemble before starting again, when the race was disrupted by tacks thrown in the road.
So, taking it all into consideration, this is one of the greatest achievements in British sport, if not its summit. Its uniqueness, the making of history, the sheer physicality of the challenge, the decency of the champion, puts Wiggins up there.
Head and shoulders above: Wiggins is hoisted aloft by fellow Team Sky members
Sir Chris Hoy placed him higher even than Sir Steve Redgrave, and he may have a case. Put it like this: if Danny Boyle was reshooting his finale for the Olympic ceremony right now, so that Wiggins rode up a ramp to light the flame, it would not be his worst day’s work.
All eyes were on Andy Murray at Wimbledon on July 8 but even had he beaten Roger Federer in the men’s singles final, it could be argued that this landmark would be eclipsed by Wiggins now. Even British tennis has Fred Perry as a distant male role model.
Wiggins has no-one. No inspirational figure, no individual to emulate, not even his cyclist father considering their fractured relationship. He was part of a team on Tour, yet has very much travelled alone: and his journey did not start in Liege, Belgium, on June 30. It began in Kilburn.
Wiggins was born in Ghent, Belgium, but raised in north London. This is where he has much in common with Murray. For just as a man does not rally his way to Centre Court from Dunblane, Scotland, he does not cycle to the Champs-Elysees from London W9 at the point where Kilburn High Road becomes Maida Vale.
Like Murray, Wiggins must have been phenomenally driven, brutally single-minded and self-sacrificing. There are nine mountain stages in the 2012 Tour. For those that are unfamiliar with Kilburn High Road, crampons are not required.
A moment to savour: Wiggins stands top of the podium, ahead of team-mate Chris Froome (left) and Vincenzo Nibali
Wiggins’s acceptance as a Tour cyclist of substance finds its truest expression in the ‘Wiggo le Froggy’ headline to be found in L’Equipe this weekend. They have adopted him, just as Ellen MacArthur was a household name across La Manche long before she was lauded in Britain.
The French, steeped in cycling history in a way we simply are not, know the journey Wiggins has undertaken to this point. They see beyond the Tour’s darkness. It is still too new for us. To the average bloke from Kilburn — one that did not idolise Indurain as his mates did Gary Lineker — the Tour means drugs and dishonour. On the continent, they understand that beyond the scandal are some quite outstanding individuals — and that Britain has one; more than one, in fact, considering Wiggins’s team-mates at Team Sky include Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome. So set aside the cynical caveats. The Tour has not been 98 years of sheer brilliance and then that time the British bloke won it. ‘I’m not some s*** rider who has come from nowhere,’ snapped Wiggins in response to a question about his pedigree.
He is not on stabilisers here. There will have been stronger fields, but weaker too, in almost a century of competition. Maybe this is not a peak Tour but it was not the greatest Australian cricket team that failed to regain the Ashes on home soil in 2011, and the Brazilian football team of 1970 were considerably superior to the Brazil of 1966. A man can only beat that day’s opponent. Even if it was just Wiggins versus Froome versus Cavendish it would still be some race to win.
As for drugs, Wiggins cannot be held responsible for the fact others have cheated. Dave Brailsford, Team Sky’s general manager, acknowledged there is a reputational risk in his team’s continued employment of Geert Leinders, the doctor used by Rabobank when the Dutch team were embroiled in a doping scandal between 2007 and 2009.
Well-oiled machine: Wiggins spearheaded Team Sky's ruthless assault on the Tour title
Yet he also said he would stake his life on Team Sky being honest. So would the majority of people. Leinders’s future with the team requires examination, but it is Wiggins’s misfortune to be clean in a dirty sport. Considering cycling’s recent history the questions are understandable, but so is Wiggins’s frustration that he cannot enjoy his moment without them.
Still, as he powered along the Champs-Elysees yesterday, he had every right to embrace a unique outpouring of goodwill and admiration for a British rider in what has remained, until now, a resolutely foreign environment. Wiggins was the best road cyclist of 2012 and in one corner of the globe, at least, he was simply the best ever.
And if that is tautological, who cares For once it was also, without need for hyperbole or exaggeration, a pure truth.
FA mystery over Terry
FA court: John Terry
No direction to a jury has been clearer than all the instruction given
to the Football Association since John Terry was found not guilty of a
racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster Magistrates
Court 10 days ago.
It is not enough for Terry to be charged. He must be
found guilty. And no doubt he will, because here is the good news: an FA
court does not require the same pesky burden of proof as a chief
To brand a man a racist requires only a balance of
probability, according to the FA. So Garth Crooks, Lord Ouseley, the
sages of Twitter, the opinion formers, the pressure groups, all will be
highly hopeful of securing the justice so cruelly denied by Howard
Riddle and his outdated ideas about a case needing to be proven.
Terry did not swing in a proper court, so now he will be tried in one
with less exacting standards. This is considered a positive
development in many liberal quarters, although heaven knows why.
Why Carroll must go
Andy Carroll should leave Liverpool. If he had made a quicker or more significant impression following his 35million transfer from Newcastle United, the manager who signed him, Kenny Dalglish, might still be in a job.
But he didn’t, and he isn’t.
In Dalglish’s place is Brendan Rodgers, who has made it plain that Carroll is for sale. Rejecting loan moves is no sign of faith: that simply means Rodgers wants the money to fund team building, rather than just a wage off the roster. Carroll should now take the hint. His big move failed. The new manager no longer plays to his strengths and if he stays he will be a bit-part presence, a battering ram brought on for emergencies only. It is no way to spend his peak years as a player — or further his infant career with England.
And Carroll has good options. If he says he is open to a permanent move, there will be significant competition, in England and abroad. Carroll may not wish to give up on Anfield this easily, but he is only delaying the inevitable if Rodgers remains in charge. In a year, he may be begging to leave: go now and make a fresh start.
Heed the signs: Andy Carroll must move on from Liverpool – or stagnate
Stop doctoring the Plastic Brit debate
Each week, writers at The Guardian must clasp their hands in thanks for the Plastic Brit debate. What else would they have to put in Yamile Aldama’s column otherwise Five weeks of shoulder injury updates That wouldn’t sell many papers (not that much of what appears in its pages does, mind you).
Anyway, last week Aldama — who has competed for Cuba, via Sudan, and now Great Britain handily in time for a home Olympics — devoted an entire piece to the issue of nationality. And this is how she challenged her critics.
Stating her case: Yamile Aldama
‘Imagine if I was one of the top 10 heart surgeons in the world — better than anyone in Britain — would these same people be happy for me to operate on their children Or would they insist on a British surgeon who is not as good’
Well, I can certainly answer that one. The doctor that identified the heart defect in my son Robert was, I believe, British-Asian. We didn’t discuss his specific ancestry because when they think a three-day-old boy has been born with his four chambers reversed, where we all come from is less important than where this baby may be going. The paediatric specialist who then identified the condition correctly as acute pulmonary stenosis — the pulmonary valve that transfers blood to the lungs was more than 90 per cent closed — was Dr Hla. Top man Dr Hla. I think he is from the Far East, but again we have never pinpointed locations as it doesn’t seem vital.
As for the surgeon who performed a balloon dilation on Robert’s valve at five days old — and then again after three months allowing him to live a healthy, happy and sporty life — that was Professor Andrew Redington. He is British but works in Toronto now. I doubt if they call him a Plastic Canadian, though: because heart surgery is not a competitive international sport.
Once Professor Redington had finished operating on Robert, he did not wrap himself in a Union Flag and do a lap of the theatre for patriotic onlookers. He probably doesn’t do that with the Maple Leaf at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, either. He did not get a newspaper column on the back of competing for Britain and his public profile has never been defined by representing his country at surgery. One might say his nationality, like that of Dr Hla, is entirely irrelevant to his job. This makes him different to international athletes and to even draw the comparison is, frankly, ludicrous.
The Plastic Brit debate is sport specific. Aldama needs to get that shoulder fixed before glibly appropriating the complex world of paediatric cardiology.
RVP to fly the nest
Arsenal want 30million for Robin van Persie but will no doubt sell
anyway if they do not get it.
The moment RVP stayed home from the club
tour of Asia, he was as good as gone; it now only depends on whether
Arsenal can persuade the Manchester clubs to enter a bidding war.
if they do not, Van Persie will depart: a club do not remove a player
from their pre-season preparations if they believe there is any chance
he will kick a ball for them on August 18.