By Brecht Decaluwé in Saint-Quentin
Bradley Wiggins was in the most important breakaway of the day. From kilometre 18 until two kilometres from the finish, he was in the break with four other guys. Mengin, Lefèvre, Coutouly and Martinez de Esteban were his compatriots on the road.
"I knew we would never stay away. It would be a matter of time before Quickstep brought us back although it surprised me that we were caught that late," Wiggins told Cyclingnews.
There were some attacks in the last few kilometres, but Wiggins didn't interfere in them: "Typically, the French rider played some cinema by attacking in the final. Maybe if we stayed together we could have made it to the finish. We were holding well at 0'45 as five, but then the French guy decided to attack. I hesitated a little bit with Mengin, and once it was 60 meters we decided to let ourselves get caught."
The collaboration in the breakaway looked alright, but maybe Wiggins felt something else: "Unfortunately for the break, Egoi Martinez de Esteban was there; he wasn't too far away in the GC. He always took the bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints, so probably Quick.Step didn't want to take any risks with him.
"If he wouldn't have been there, maybe we would have gotten nine or ten minutes. We realised that when we were held at four minutes we would never make it to the finish. In the end, I'm happy that I could show myself today."
One wouldn't have expected to see Cofidis send their specialist for the time trial into the attack, as this Saturday brings the first long individual time trial, but Wiggins said "it was the plan with the team this morning to be in the break.
"I shouldn't spare my energy for the time trial of Saturday because I don't have a chance in a big race like this. I'll go flat out, but normally it will be too hard for me. The prologue was alright, although the second half was better for me than the first half," he said.