With every stage of the Tour de France that passes, Britain gets closer to having its first-ever winner, and Bradley Wiggins is to thank.
The cycling star tightened his hold on the lead at cycling's main event on Monday, when he finished the ninth stage in 51 minutes and 24 seconds, 35 seconds ahead of Chris Froome, his teammate and the second-place finisher.
The yellow jersey will be his for another day—and hopefully many more to come.
It's certainly a big step up from last year for Wiggins, when he crashed out, and from 2010, when he finished in 24th. But Wiggins feels different this year. He feels as though he's been able to put all of his strengths on display, particularly during the time trials, in order to stake this lead, which he doesn't plan on surrendering at any point.
After winning the individual time trial on Monday, Wiggins told Eurosport's Felix Lowe:
Time trialling is what I do best. I was in the zone and I knew it was having a good ride right from the start. This is what we’ve trained for. All the hours, all the sacrifices. I didn’t set out for the win—I was more concerned with the GC—but to get the win was brilliant.
What is scary for the rest of the field is the fact that Wiggins is getting better and better as each stage progresses, and the competition is falling farther behind—even Cadel Evans, the defending champion, who finished Monday's time trial in sixth place and remains 1:43 behind Wiggins.
According to the New York Times' Jon Brand, the reason Wiggins was so strong during Monday's challenge is because he is a former Olympic track racing champion who has perfected the upper body stillness required to succeed during individual time trials, when there is no wind protection provided by other riders.
Now that he has Monday's win under his belt, and now that he's been able to pad a gap which seems more and more difficult to close as each stage passes, the rest of the field has to be starting to worry. There's a lot of ground left to cover during this Tour de France, but Wiggins is only gaining momentum and getting stronger.
Monday's win may have been Wiggins' first stage win, but it's hard to believe it will be his last. There's still a ways to go, but there's no one riding better than Wiggins at this point, and that is what makes it hard to believe he can be caught by anyone.
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