Bradley Wiggins Wins 2012 Tour de France

British cyclist Bradley Wiggins has won the 2012 Tour de France giving the U.K. its first champion in the 99-year history of the event. He’ll cap his historic run in the three-week long race by riding onto the Champs-Elysees in Paris in the Tour’s final leg.

Wiggins, who rides for Team Sky, grabbed the lead on the first major mountain stage of the race and really didn’t face much competition after that. Last year’s winner, Aussie Cadel Evans, didn’t seem to have the legs to hang with the Brit on the big climbs and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal crashed out of the race with a broken collarbone early on. Combine that with the fact that Wiggins’ very strong team were always close at hand, and other contenders found it impossible to earn back any time on the leader. As a result, this year’s Tour wasn’t particularly interesting for spectators to watch but it was definitely a clinic on how a strong and efficient team can win the race.

Wiggins will be joined on the podium by teammate Chris Froome and Italian Vincenzo Nibali in second and third place respectively. There were times when it seemed that Froome could have pulled away from Wiggins and possibly won the race himself, but like a good teammate he stayed close and paced his friend through the mountains. He is expected to be a major threat to possibly win the Tour in the future, however, and the two men may find themselves battling each other down the road.

Today’s final stage is 130km (80.77 miles) in length and runs from Rambouillet to Paris. It is largely a ceremonial victory lap for the winner of the race’s famed Yellow Jersey as none of the other riders will attack the leader on the final day. The top sprinters will battle it out on the Champs-Elysees, however, and when they hit that famous road it will be chaos at the front of the peloton. Gaining a stage win in front of the crowd in Paris is a major accomplishment and there are a number of very fast riders who will be hoping to earn that distinction.

Congrats to Bradley Wiggins on his impressive victory. I’m sure British cycling fans will be enjoying the final ride later today.

[Photo credit: Sapin88 via WikiMedia]