Historic day for Team Sky duo
Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins both sealed podium positions behind winner Juan José Cobo at the Vuelta a Espana.
By Jonathan Turner
Last Updated: 18/09/11 2:31pm
Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins both sealed podium positions behind winner Juan José Cobo as Peter Sagan (Liquigas) claimed the final stage of the Vuelta a Espana in Madrid.
On a landmark day for Team Sky, who were registering their best overall result so far in a Grand Tour, British pair Froome and Wiggins were confirmed in second and third, 13 seconds and one minute and 39 seconds respectively behind Geox rider Cobo.
They are the first Britons to make a Grand Tour podium since Robert Millar's second place at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
And it completed a memorable Vuelta for Team Sky who had seen that pair in the leader's red jersey at various points of an absorbing race while the team also won two stages during the course of the three weeks, Chris Sutton taking stage two while Froome claimed an epic victory over Cobo in the race's final mountain-top finish on Wednesday.
Since then the Kenyan-born Brit had done everything he could to try and overhaul Cobo's 13 seconds advantage but opportunities were limited and his Spanish rival held firm throughout.
That was very much the story on the largely celebratory final stage over 94.2 kilometres around Madrid, with the focus instead on the sprinters as they looked to bow out on a high.
And it was Sagan who just overhauled Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), with Sutton leading home Team Sky in seventh.
Froome, Wiggins - for whom this was his first race since breaking his collarbone at the Tour de France - and Cobo all came home in the front group as the general classification remained unchanged.
The other classification which was decided on the last day of the season's final Grand Tour was the points ranking, with Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) edging out Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), with Froome sixth in those standings and second behind Cobo in the combined category.
Plenty to celebrate
Team Sky Principal Dave Brailsford was a proud man after seeing two of his riders on the final podium and he said: "It’s never been done before by two Brits so it’s very, very pleasing.
"It’s a sign of just how far we are moving forward and just how well Team Sky are performing this year to achieve an historical result like that. Obviously we’d have liked to be on the top step but credit to the guys, they’ve both done fantastic races.
"It was a breakthrough performance from Chris Froome. We’ve always known from training that Chris produces fantastic power and great numbers. He’s done that back-to-back in a consistent way over the three weeks here.
"Bradley was being operated on for a broken collarbone only eight weeks ago so it's a remarkable turnaround. For him to perform at this level against some of the best riders in the world is really remarkable and an achievement in itself."
Reflecting on the bigger picture, Brasilford added: "It’s huge for the team. Like any sports team, confidence and self-belief and a real genuine pride in what they are doing is absolutely essential to get consistent high performance. As the season’s gone along this year the team has grown in self-belief, it’s grown in confidence and now we’ve seen all of that come to fruition in a three-week race where the guys were put under pressure several times and responded really well.
"We set out wanting to be the first team that puts a British rider on the top step of a Grand Tour and we’ve come a long, long way and as close as we could possibly get to that which gives us great confidence looking ahead to the three Grand Tours next year."
Afterwards Froome took time to reflect on his breakthrough performance, telling us: "I'm over the moon and it was an experience of a lifetime. Over the last week when it became clear that my early form and time trial performance were not one-off results I really began to enjoy myself and came to the realisation that I can now compete with some of the best GC riders in the world.
"It’s been really enjoyable and the best thing has been having my family over here to see me in the red jersey and also win a stage. The highlight for me was definitely winning that 17th stage at the top of the Pena Cabarga climb; it was a special day and will live long in my memory.
"Hopefully I’ve done something good for the team but I wouldn’t have been in this position if it wasn’t for everyone else. The other riders have worked so hard over the last three weeks to keep myself and Bradley protected.
"The support staff and the people behind the scenes were also amazing and they don’t get enough credit for what they do. It’s them that have got us here and I’m so happy that myself and Bradley finished on the podium."
Wiggins too was understandably delighted after a remarkable comeback so soon after his broken collarbone. He told us: "Thinking back to where I was a couple of months ago it’s a fantastic feeling to finish on the podium here and obviously it’s a massive result for the team to have Froomey on the podium with me too.
"With my shoulder as it was this race was always going to be a bit of a testing ground for me and I’m really happy with the way I’ve been able to ride.
"This race has proved that what happened two years ago at the Tour de France was no fluke and I know in my mind now that I have what it takes to match strong riders at the Tour next year.
"Froomey deserves massive praise for the way he’s ridden this race. He buried himself for me during those first two weeks and has been able to maintain his form right the way through to today. He’s produced ride after ride and also got his deserved stage win – I’m delighted for him."
The final day had seen the riders set out from Circuito del Jarama but the bunch was together starting out on the city circuits in Madrid before a three-man break comprising José Alberto Benítez (Andalucia), Damiano Caruso (Liquigas) and Joan Horrach (Katusha) escaped on the third lap.
They extended their advantage to a high of 51 seconds but they were always within range as the sprinters' teams lined up to lead their men out at the finish, Sagan and Liquigas just having the final say.