Blazing saddles

Wiggins looking good in yellow. Photo wikimedia/lgs165These are heady days for British cycling. For many years, reason to cheer at the Tour de France was offered by the odd stage win at the most. This year, four Brits have taken to the podium to celebrate winning a stage, while Bradley Wiggins has worn the race leader's yellow jersey for days and looks set to become the first Briton to win the world's most famous bike race.

British track cycling has enjoyed considerable success over the last decade and this is now finally being transferred to the road. One of the key reasons behind the gold medals and world titles on the track was funding provided by British National Lottery. Again, cash has proved king, and if lottery money has helped cyclists excel in the velodrome, then BSkyB's decision to create Team Sky two years ago and pour millions into the project has certainly aided the success now being tasted in Le Tour. Another significant factor is Dave Brailsford. The man who helped plan Britain's rise to the top of track cycling as performance director is also team manager for Sky.

Brailsford has assembled a team that has absolutely dominated the Tour this year. Barring disasters or unforeseen mishaps, Sky look set to claim a 1-2, which would be some achievement for a team that was only set up in 2010. After a strong run of form this season, which has seen him claim three wins already, Wiggins went into the Tour de France as the favourite ahead of defending champion Cadel Evans. If Wiggins's strong showing was expected, perhaps slightly more surprising is the form of his team mate Chris Froome. The Kenyan-born Brit has looked the only man capable of challenging Wiggins and even had to be called back on his team radio during one mountain stage as he launched an attack that nobody else - Wiggins included - could follow. Unlike in Formula 1, cyclists are expected to follow team orders.

Both Wiggins and Froome will be part of the strong British team for the Olympic road race in a couple of weeks time. They'll be joined by their Sky team mate and reigning world champion Mark Cavendish, also a stage-winner at the Tour. The fourth British rider to win a stage this year is David Millar, who will captain a GB team that will be looking to set Cavendish up for one of his trademark sprint finishes in London. If everything goes according to plan, it could cap a golden summer for British cycling.


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