He won't admit it yet, but Bradley Wiggins has to know that, barring extreme disaster (or more nails and tacks thrown onto the pavement), he's going to win the Tour de France.
The Brit has been wearing the yellow jersey for 10 days, and with a 2:23-lead over his closest rival, Vincenzo Nibali, it's all about holding on until the finish.
Only five more days of riding remain until he officially becomes the winner, but Wiggins plans to wait until those five days have passed before he even considers the possibility of a win. His focus has gotten him this far, and he's not about to lose it now—not when victory is as close as it's ever been.
It feels like the right time in Wiggins' career for a win at the Tour de France. Wiggins has weathered a long career, and he's matured. He's already garnered three Olympic golds and victories at the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine this year, according to the Associated Press.
A win here would just be the icing on the cake.
There are still challenges to overcome before victory is his. There is the mountainous Stage 16 terrain, which Wiggins will have to face down on Wednesday. There are the upcoming time trials, but those shouldn't be too much trouble for Wiggins, given the way he decimated the competition during the last time trials during Stage 9.
But the way Wiggins has staked his lead up to this point hasn't been by thinking about how far ahead he is, or how close he is to the finish, or by anticipating the challenges that will arrive days from now. He's managed to get this far by putting the distractions aside, by taking each day at a time and by focusing only on the task at hand.
He told the AP:
It's really just a case of going out and doing the performance. ...Ultimately it's just a bike race. ...You get really good at ignoring people. I think it is an incredible bubble to be in, but in a nice way. But as a kid you dream of being in this position, so it's fantastic.
Heading into the 16th stage, Wiggins leads teammate Christopher Froome by 2:05. In fourth place, and behind by 3:19 is last year's winner, Cadel Evans.
Wiggins must hold on for only a few more stages before he becomes the first British winner of the Tour de France. To Wiggins, there are just a few more individual races to conquer, all of which he must win.
That's the way he's looked at each stage up to this point, and it's worked. That is the kind of focus and strategy that's going to lead him to the finish line.
Current standings (as of Stage 15):
|1st||Bradley Wiggins ||68:33:21|
Cadel Evans ||+0:03:19|
Jurgen Van Den Broeck
Tejay van Garderen ||+0:06:57|
Janez Brajkovic ||+0:07:30|
|9th||Pierre Rolland ||+0:08:31|
|10th||Thibaut Pinot ||+0:08:51|