One yellow jersey – many owners
As defining images go, you’d think it would be difficult to beat the moment 1km from the finish of the final stage of this year’s Tour de France. Bradley Wiggins, in his yellow jersey, led. The entire peloton trailed behind him.
However, there was a better moment and it came just a few seconds afterwards. It was when Wiggins pulled to one side so that Edvald Boassen-Hagen could launch Mark Cavendish to a fourth Champs Élysées win. Wiggins may well have been the strongest rider in the entire Tour, but at that moment, his role was to work for someone else. It was fitting, because more than anyone he has been the beneficiary of selfless work from his team.
One good turn deserves another
Last year, Wiggins put in the hard yards (the hard metres, surely?) so that Mark Cavendish could become world champion. In this year’s Tour, Cavendish has been seen carrying water for his team mates and has had precious few opportunities to go for sprint wins. He’s accepted a supporting role and Wiggins’ earlier work allowed this to happen.
However, other Sky riders have given their all without any glory by way of recompense. Christian Knees and Mick Rogers have sometimes expended themselves before the live coverage has even begun; Bernie Eisel has shepherded Cavendish like usual; Edwald Boassen-Hagen has turned his hand to every job going; and Richie Porte has generally led right up until the point at which things get interesting. Such is cycling, but it’s no less admirable.
Everyone has an ego
This team mentality could yet implode in the future. Relationships are fluid and a team is therefore a complex, ever-changing liquor. However, we should all celebrate this selflessness for now, no matter who we were supporting during the race. It’s a lesson to other sports people. It’s a lesson to all human beings.
You might think that Chris Froome’s strength and ambition represents the biggest threat to this fragile harmony, but perhaps it also represents the greatest opportunity to demonstrate the mentality that helped forge this historic victory. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect Bradley Wiggins to give up the chance to defend his yellow jersey, but I would absolutely love to see him make the ultimate selfless gesture next year: supporting someone else as the team bid to retain their yellow jersey.