LE CAP D’AGDE, France – Bradley Wiggins doesn’t think the Tour de France needs a “boss” of the pack. At least not him. He says riders are equal and he’s too reclusive.
But the 32-year-old Briton is taking charge at cycling’s greatest race and showed leadership on Saturday with a bold if unsuccessful effort to help a teammate win Stage 13 – instead won by Germany’s Andre Greipel.
Wiggins finished the windy and flat 217-kilometer (134.8-mile) ride from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Le Cap d’Agde on the Mediterranean with his top rivals to retain the yellow jersey for a seventh straight day.
Greipel, who turns 30 on Monday, earned his third stage victory this Tour – a photo finish showed he won by half a wheel’s length ahead of Slovakian rider Peter Sagan. Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway was third.
Just seconds earlier, Wiggins, with Sky teammate Boasson Hagen on his back wheel, led a speeding bunch of riders around a sharp final bend to overtake two breakaway riders, hoping to set up the Norwegian for a win.
Instead, a crafty Greipel – seeing the Wiggins setup in the works – held close to Boasson Hagen, and then outsprinted him in the final few-hundred yards to the line.
In Tour lore, such bold displays are unusual from the bearer of the yellow jersey.
Wiggins had his reasons: It’s safer to stay in front of possible trouble in the frenzied pack, and he owed one to Boasson Hagen.
“I tried to repay Edvald in some way, because he’s been solid this Tour for me – and all season,” said Wiggins, noting that the Norwegian had been there to escort him in the Alps earlier this week.
Cycling experts have pointed to riders over the years who have dominated the pack, or peloton, with attributes of teamwork, willpower and race mastery, among others – earning them the “boss” moniker.
The most recent examples are Lance Armstrong, the retired seven-time champion, and two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador of Spain – who is still competing but is missing the Tour over a doping ban linked to the 2010 race.
Many believe that Wiggins is well-positioned to become the first Briton to take home the yellow jersey after the Tour ends on July 22. But he says it’s not his style to be the dominant force in the pack.
“I don’t think it’s important for the peloton to have a boss. I think we should all have our own voice, and I’ve never thought that anybody should be above anybody else,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re equals.”
After the 13th stage, the top standings didn’t change: Wiggins leads second-place Sky teammate – and fellow Briton – Christopher Froome by 2 minutes, 5 seconds. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali is third, 2:23 back, and defending champion Cadel Evans of Australia is fourth.