Is this the finally going to be the year?

The Tour de France starts tomorrow and there is a lot of talk about Bradley Wiggins. No Briton has ever won the Tour in the previous 98 times it has been held. There have been one or two over the years that have looked promising. Tom Simpson was considered a contender when he tragically died at the top of Mont Ventoux in the 1967 tour and Robert Miller (my hero as a teenager) came closest and won the King of the Mountains. Chris Boardman’s chances were certainly talked about in the mid ’90’s and although he wore the yellow jersey after winning the prologue on three separate occasions it was in the big mountains that he was unable to sustain his challenge. In the lead up to the 1997 tour there was a lot of optimism about his chances and I spent a number of weeks with him photographing a story for the Guardian Weekend Magazine: ‘The loneliness of a long distance cyclist’. The commitment and dedication I witnessed over those weeks have stayed with me ever since: riding alone for hundreds of miles through the North Wales hills (they just weren’t big enough, I guess) in cold winter fog; riding to the point of collapse on a treadmill in the basement of the local council sports centre with his dad ready to catch him when he fell off due to exhaustion and the seemingly never ending circuits of the new Manchester Velodrome to hone the time-trialling skills that had won him Olympic gold in 1992, a World Championship in ’94 and Tour yellow jerseys.

Here’s a few pics…

This is the 99th Tour, all that remains to be said is ‘Come on Bradley’, do it for Britain before the Tour reaches 100.

 

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