Brit third overall after first Alpine stage
Bradley Wiggins took a huge step towards winning the Tour de France Sunday in the Swiss Alps. The Garmin rider left Lance Armstrong and other rivals behind to finish fifth on top of the Verbier climb alongside last year's Tour winner Carlos Sastre.
He is currently third overall behind Alberto Contador and Armstrong with six days to race, including a time trial likely to suit his ability.
"Everyone keeps talking to me about what's ahead, but that does not help my concentration. I just go day by day. How can you think three days ahead when you've got two days before that? That is how you crack and cock things up," said Wiggins.
Wiggins concentrated on keeping in contact with the Tour's favourites the end of stage from Pontarlier to Verbier. It finished with an 8.8-kilometre climb up the Verbier, a climb that had the potential to affect Wiggins' sixth place overall.
Contador (Astana) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) each attacked solo and rode clear on the climb, but Wiggins stayed with a chase group of eight. Wiggins rode with teammate Christian Vande Velde, Astana's Armstrong and Andreas Klöden, Liquigas' Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger, Sastre (Cervélo), Cadel Evans (Silence) and Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank).
Wiggins and Fränk Schleck each attacked to help form a smaller group with just three kilometres remaining. Nibali and later Sastre joined the two. Finishing with the group, Wiggins gained enough time on Armstrong and Klöden to jump from sixth to third overall.
"You just got to ask yourself all the time, 'If it is hurting you, God knows what it is doing to the others."
Contador won the stage and took the leader's yellow jersey. The Spaniard leads by 1:37 over teammate Armstrong and is 1:46 ahead of Wiggins.
Tomorrow is the second rest day of the Tour de France. There are three more mountain stages left to race, but if Wiggins can remain with the favourites on those stages he has a chance of winning the Tour.
There is a 40.5 kilometre individual time trial on Thursday in Annecy. As a two-time Olympic pursuit gold medallist the stage is expected to suit Wiggins' strength.
He finished third in the opening 15.5 kilometre time trial and his Garmin team finished second in the stage four team time trial.
Wiggins said he is ready for the classification battle, "I have trained for this mentally as well as physically."
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