THE first Briton ever to win a stage of the Tour de France has paid tribute to Bradley Wiggins’s “fantastic” achievement in this year’s event which he says “puts British cycling at the top of the tree”.
Brian Robinson, 81, is heading off to Paris for the end of the famous race and is fully expecting Wiggins to seal victory.
Mr Robinson won a stage of the Tour in 1958 and again in 1959.
Brian, who lives in Mirfield, is a renowned road racer of the 1950s and early 1960s and has won a stage of the gruelling Tour de France.
He turned professional in 1954 and took part in his first Tour de France in 1955, going on to complete a further six of the races.
He said his reaction to Wiggins’s successes in this year’s event can be summed up as “euphoria – a job well done”.
“It’s fantastic,” he said.
“We never dreamed of this in my early days. We were scrubbing along at the back of the bunch.
“To go right through the bunch, if you like, and to get to the top by a Brit is great.
“It can’t get any better, can it? And we’ve got back up as well.”
Speaking at his home in Mirfield, where he still rides his bike regularly, Mr Robinson rejected any suggestion modern cyclists have an easier time than those of his generation.
“I don’t think so, no,” he said.
“Riding the bike is riding the bike. No matter how good the bike is, you’ve still got to push it.
“You’ve got to work at it 100% and, sometimes, a little bit over.
“The facilities are easier and probably the infrastructure of the sport, but you still have to do it.”
He said: “It puts British cycling at the top of the tree, really, which I’ve longed for a long time.
“It’s been a long journey, but since we’ve got lottery funding that’s helped a great deal and we’ve got the structure now to bring on our youngsters, which is another great thing.”
Mr Robinson remembers riding to Windsor to watch the cycling at the 1948 Olympics with his brother Desmond and then competing in the road race at the 1952 Helsinki games where he came 27th.
Asked what he thought of Wiggins’s chances in London, he said: “If he comes out the Tour in good shape and gets a decent rest this week, he’s as good a chance as anyone because most of the other riders have been in the Tour anyway.
“If Bradley comes out in good physical shape, gets a good rest and gets his head into shape, I see no reason why not.”
He said he has tickets to the track cycling but will be watching Wiggins in the road race on TV.
He said he has spoken to Wiggins on the phone before, but missed the chance to say hello to him at a charity event when he injured himself falling off his bike.
“I’m hoping to put that right this weekend,” he said. “But everyone else will be wanting to do the same thing.”
Mr Robinson said he thinks the future of British cycling is rosy.
He said: “In 1958 there was only sort of one of us that could ride the Tour at that time. Now we’ve got 60 guys that can go into the Tour and give a good performance.”