Embedded in the race and commentating from the back of a Eurosport moto, Bradley Wiggins was getting excited. Thirty kilometres to go, rattling along with a tailwind, he edged into position behind a four-man leading group and peered across his pilot’s shoulder at the speedo:
“Hmm, quatre-vingt, so that’s 80 kilometres per hour we’re going at, these four guys are working really well together and they’re not gonna’ bring them back, the stage win is gonna’ come from these four!”
Thirty kilometres to go, a mere thirty second lead, and Brad has called it.
The four guys – Nils Politt, Imanol Erviti, Harry Sweeney and Stefan Kung – had detached themselves from the original thirteen-man breakaway and were scorching, the Mistral wind at their backs, into the town of Nîmes. ‘Like a team time trial squad’, as Brad put it, committed and unified.
That unity, as it always is of course, held in place by knifes, ready to be drawn and slid into backs.
The peloton, including the Yellow Jersey, and Mark Cavendish, for whom many had today down as a sprint friendly gallop across the Occitanie in the general direction of Eddy Merckx’s stage win record, were fifteen minutes back.
Clocked off. Powder dry. Long since having made peace with a breakaway win.
Our backdrop today was stunning. Ardecheois gorges, crumbling historic aquaducts, terracotta tiled rooves. Add a scorching sun in a southern blue sky and we had ourselves a proper, south of France Tour stage on our hands.Embed from Getty Images
With twelve kilometres to go, Nils Politt upped the horsepower. With one decisive acceleration he was away, and clear. For some of us, our minds were cast back to 2017 and a breakthrough performance from the German to finish seventh at Paris-Roubaix.
There he is, we’d thought, back then, as one, turns out the next Tom Boonen is right there in front of us after all. Pffssh. Who knew?
He moved on from Katusha, spent a year at Israel Start-up Nation, and then joined Bora-Hansgrohe this year. We continued to wait. That big win proving elusive. He’s twenty-seven now, we realised. And then today, twelve kilometres from Nîmes, he made his move with the certainly of, well…a Boonen or a Cancellara.
We rang around all those people we’d told, furiously messaged others, NOW…turn on the telly, Nils Politt, he’s doing it NOW!
He would not be caught. Into the final kilometre our man was incredulous. Shaking his head, tongue out aghast, whacking himself comically on the head. Looking every inch the solid gold race-winning pro cyclist, power to burn, energy to spare.
This is SURELY the start of his glory years.