Wiggins to repay loyal team-mate

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Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins has given his strongest hint yet that he hopes to repay the loyalty of Mark Cavendish by helping the world champion to a stage victory in Paris on Sunday and then Olympic success.

Wiggins entered today’s rest day with a yellow jersey advantage of two minutes five seconds over Chris Froome, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), the nearest rival to the Team Sky pair, a further 18 seconds behind.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, Froome insists he will support his team leader Wiggins’ bid for glory in Paris, while Cavendish has transferred from prolific winning sprint machine to willing domestique to aid Team Sky’s bid for the maillot jaune.

The Manxman might have been eyeing the 158.5-kilometre 15th stage from Samatan to Pau as a possible chance to claim a 22nd Tour success yesterday, but again Wiggins’ safety was the priority ahead of two days in the Pyrenees.

Now Wiggins, who hopes to become the Tour’s first British, has vowed to repay Cavendish’s support and we could yet see the world champion being led out by the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees before the duo combine in the July 28 Olympic road race.

“Mark has been fantastic these last two and a half weeks,” said Wiggins, who will also ride in the London 2012 time-trial on August 1.

“He’s been so committed to my cause, to the yellow jersey, and he’s a great champion and a great friend. Obviously there is still the stage to Paris for him.”

Wiggins knows his place on the top of the podium on Sunday is not yet secure, with the 197-kilometre 16th stage from Pau to Bagners-de-Luchon followed by another gruelling day of climbing.

Saturday’s penultimate day 53.5km time-trial to Chartres will also be of key importance.