BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, France — For Bradley Wiggins, it's time to bestow gifts at the Tour de France.
With the title in sight, Wiggins made it a point Friday to acknowledge the work of unsung teammate Mark Cavendish, helping to lead him to a stage victory.
Wiggins, Cavendish and their British Sky team did more than underline their authority in Stage 18. They also put their Olympic rivals on notice: Britain may well be a force in the road race at the London Games, which begin next week.
Wiggins is intent on becoming Britain's first Tour winner, and that is Sky's priority. Cavendish has made plenty of sacrifices, even leading his team leader over the climbs he often dreads.
Once Wiggins got through Thursday's mountain finale with his lead secure, he could cede some limelight to Cavendish as the race began heading toward Paris for Sunday's finish.
Friday's ride along four small hills over 138 miles from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde was a transitional stage before today's time trial. With less than a mile to go, Wiggins took the head of the pack and chased down six breakaway riders, then peeled away.
The Sky train motored ahead, and Cavendish whirred around the remaining escapees in the last few hundred yards to win.
"(Friday) morning we decided to put the train in place and help Mark in the final," said Wiggins, who hugged Cavendish at the finish. "It's my gift to him."
"It would have been easy for the team to just ride into Paris now after the mountains," Cavendish said. "But we spoke on the bus before (Friday's) start, and I stuck my hand up and said, 'Please, give me a chance.' "