Tour de France: Last thoughts on the Tour

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The Tour de France is over for another year. Cadel Evans is taking Le Maillot Jaune back to Australia The first time any one from the Southern Hemisphere has done that. Mark Cavendish is taking the Le Maillot Vert back the Isle of Man. The first time any British qualified rider has won The Green Jersey. I was going to say Rider from the British Isles, but then remembered that Sean Kelly won the thing four times back in the Eighties. “Cav”is also the first rider since Robert Millar won the Polka-dot Jersey in 1984, to win a Jersey in the tour de France.

Le Maillot a Pois (Polka dot Jersey) for the King of the Mountains went back to Spain with Samuel Sánchez. This definitely not the first time this has happened. Pierre Rolland kept Le Maillot Blanc for the Best Young Rider in France. The Team Prize went to Team Garmin-Cérvelo. Jérémy Roy won the Super-Cambativity award, which was some sort of recompense for being in almost every break in the Tour, without any success save taking the Souvenir Jacques Goddet for being first over the Col du Tourmalet and coming third on the following stage to Lourdes.

So, what was good about this year’s Tour and what didn’t I like. Who good a Tour, who had a disappointing Tour, and who might as well have stayed at home?

Lets start with what I liked about this years Tour.

I liked the new Green Jersey format. Giving a greater emphasis to stage wins and having one higher scoring intermediate sprint produced what was generally considered to be the *correct* result. Christian Prudhomme received criticism in certain quarters when he said that he had changed the format because of Mark Cavendish. I think that he was right to do what he did. If the pre-eminent sprinter of his generation had ended his career having won more stages than any one else (Cavendish might not beat Merckx record of 34 but his normal five a year for the next three years would do it) but never having won the Green Jersey, then something was wrong with the format.

I also liked the revamp of the Mountains competition. The reduction in points awarded, especially for the lower category climbs ensured that a genuine climber won the completion. In the past few years it seems, to me at least, that breakaway specialists, hoovering up the points on the Cat. 2,3 and 4 climbs and on the early cols in the high mountains, have been the winners of the competition instead of pure climbers.

I liked that it wasn’t decided until the final time trial, even though I was sure that the eventual winner would be Cadel Evans. Not right from the start mind you, but as soon as saw that he was there to race.

I didn’t enjoy the many crashes that marred the first week. I especially did not enjoy the piece of idiotic driving by the French TV car that took out Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland on stage 9. I also thought that some of the racing in the Pyrenees was a tad boring

Good Tours

  • Cadel Evans – obviously – he won it
  • His BMC team – they were there when he needed them, and gave everything for the cause
  • Mark Cavendish – five stages including the Champs Élysée – the Green Jersey
  • Team HTC – as David Millar said – they make delivering “Cav” to the last 200m look far easier than it actually is – and Tony Martin won the time trial
  • Thomas Voeckler – guts and determination can take you a long way in cycling – almost to Paris in yellow.
  • Thor Hushovd – two stage wins in the world champions jersey and a week in Yellow plus the team time trial
  • Andy Schleck – he didn’t win overall, but he made the race with his attack on stage 18
  • Phillipe Gilbert – lived up to expectations winning the first stage, then enlivened things attacking at every opportunity and had a few days in the lead of the points competition.
  • Team Europecar – one of the lower budgets in the peleton – Voeckler’s yellow – Pierre Rolland won at Alpe d’Huez and won the White Jersey
  • Team Garmin-Cérvelo – managed all their stated goals and more – won the Team Time Trial and three more stages – Tom Danielson in the top ten – won the Team Competition – a week with the Yellow Jersey – and being an American team a win for an American (Tyler Farrar) on the 4th of July

Disappointing Tours

  • Alberto Contador – Winning the Giro took too much out of him and he didn’t have that extra 1% when he needed it. The crashes in the first week didn’t help
  • Italians – No stage wins or even coming close, Cunego and Basso finished 7th and 8th respectively, but apart from on short-lived attack from Basso were completely anonymous.
  • Thomas Voeckler – I know I’ve already said that he had a good tour, and he did. But if he hadn’t made one little error of judgement, it could have been even better. If he had only sat up and waited for his team mates when he couldn’t bridge to Contador on the Col du Telegraph. Instead he struggled on in no-man’s land, wasting energy that would be needed later in the day. If it wasn’t for that I think he would have been the third rider on the podium.
  • Radioshack – half the team had crashed out by the end of the first week; not really their fault, but disappointing, and it seemed to take all the fight out of the remainder of the team.

There are probably a few others who felt they underperformed, but I won’t add to my list because in reality every rider who makes it to Paris has overcome all sorts of obstacles and setbacks just to get there. Ultimately every finisher has had a Good Tour.

In many ways, the following quote from David Millar, via Twitter and Richard Williams in the Guardian last Friday, is what the Tour (and cycling) is about, as much as winning Yellow Jerseys. During the last week David Millar was suffering from bronchitis the after-effects of the Giro d’Italia and possibly too many book signing sessions:

David Millar justifies the existence of Twitter by reassembling his experience of the day’s Telegraphe-Galibier-Alpe d’Huez stage – in which he finished last – in four instalments, each of 140 characters or fewer. 1: “Bernie Eisel and I formed an eternal bond today. We were off the back on our own within the first few kms of Telegraph. Seemed Game Over.” 2: “We’d each have good & bad patches. During one of my bad patches I told Bernie just to go. ‘Davie, we go home together or we go to Paris.'” 3: “Camaraderie transcends teams on occasions. That was one of them.” 4: “Mind you, he scared the bejesus out of me on the descent of the Galibier.”

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