Tour de France 2012: Bradley Wiggins Closing in on Historic Finish

Steven GerwelContributor IIIJuly 21, 2012

BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, FRANCE - JULY 20:  Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain and SKY Procycling retained his race leader's yellow jersey after stage eighteen of the 2012 Tour de France from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde on July 20, 2012 in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The Tour de France began in 1903, and the numerous winners over the years have come from a variety of countries around the world.

The race's 100-year history has been dominated by local French racers, who have been able to capitalize on their home-field advantage. There have been 36 French winners throughout the race's history (although they've been shut out since 1985). 

Clearly, the advantage of racing in their homeland has been very beneficial for the French. With that in mind, you would think that their neighbors across the English Channel would have had better luck over the years. 

Great Britain has been shut out completely. Despite being right next door to France and having relatively easy access to the course, the British have yet to produce a Tour de France winner. 

However, this year's race represents a change in luck. 


Bradley Wiggins Leads the Way

Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky, who was one of the hyped favorites leading up to the race, is sitting at the top of the leaderboard. 

The second-place racer behind Wiggins is Sky teammate Chris Froome. With Team Sky controlling the top two spots, they'll be able to work together in order to ensure a victory. 

The riders will compete in a time trial from Bonneval to Chartres for Stage 19 on July 21, while the final stage of the race will take place on Sunday, July 22. 

The 53.5-kilometer time trial from Bonneval to Chartres will be the last chance for racers to close the gap on Wiggins, who has a two-minute, five-second lead over Froome and a lead of 2:45 over the third-place Vincenzo Nibali.  

Unless there's an epic meltdown, it looks as though Wiggins will be the latest Tour de France champion and will honor Britain with a victory for the first time in history. 

This year's race was almost guaranteed to produce historic results. 

Cadel Evans and Wiggins were two of the favorites entering the race, and both racers offered admirable storylines leading up to the race.

Had the 36-year-old Evans performed better, the 2011 champion could have been the second-oldest winner in Tour de France history and the oldest winner since 1922.  

But while Evans won't be breaking the age barrier, Wiggins will be taking his place and making his own historic splash by finally leading Great Britain to a victory. 

Saturday's Stage 19 began at 8:00 a.m. ET and can be viewed by television on NBC or online at NBC Sports.

The final stage will take place at 8:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 22.