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Moment that mattered: Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins, winner of the 2012 Tour de France cycling race kisses the trophy on the podium of the the Tour de France cycling race in Paris, France, Sunday July 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour felt important at the time. But looking back now, after all the Lance Armstrong revelations, it seems hugely significant – not because he was the first Brit to win it, but because he won it clean.

Before Wiggins’s victory, I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to win the Tour without being on drugs. I’ve followed the sport for a long time and the last winner that I completely trusted to be drug free was back in 1990.

Other riders have won since who were probably clean, but had been with teams who were involved with doping. They were close to guys involved with it and were tarnished by association. I know Wiggins and the people around him well and I am absolutely convinced he won the Tour clean.

Bradley’s not someone I have ever fully connected with: he’s hard to deal with, although he’s an intriguing character. He used to be shy and awkward around the media, but the more time he spent in the spotlight during the Tour, the more he grew. He realised that people enjoyed his new confidence and he allowed it to come through. He had an epiphany that people liked him.

The Europeans didn’t quite understand the piss-taking, dry humour aspect of him at first, but I met one veteran French journalist who said that Wiggins gave the best winner’s press conference since 1990. He was funny and intelligent. There is an awkwardness about him, but there’s honesty too. I went to the premier of a documentary about him and he was interviewed there. When he was asked what he had learned about the real him he replied: ‘I don’t know who the real me is.’

In truth it was not a vintage year for the Tour de France, there was no real flair or panache. That’s not to take anything away from Wiggins. The commitment that he made was phenomenal. He slept in an oxygen tent and weighed all his food – you burn 7,000 calories a day, but you can’t eat 7,001, it is all so precisely calculated. People think the life of a professional cyclist is great. But it’s not. For the most part, it’s a boring, hard slog.

Richard Moore’s latest book ‘The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the Seoul Olympic 100m Final’ (Wisden Sports Writing) was nominated for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

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