In Conclusion: Tour de France

So, after all the hype the Tour has finally finished for another year. It's mad. Since March I've been looking forward to the Tour, watching all the Spring classics and the past three weeks have just whizzed by.

Well my prediction was right, Alberto Contador scooped up a second Tour De France victory, and he did so with relative ease. It is credit to him, that he has improved from simply being a good climber in the mountains, to now being unstoppable in the time trial. Other than Fabian Cancellara, no-one could touch him in the time trials and then when it came to the mountains, he launched a legendary attack which left everyone for dead, gaining twenty seconds on his rivals - most importantly killing off the Armstrong threat.

Away from there it was down to Andy Schleck to try and take some time away from Contador. He couldn't do it in the time trial, and he found out that even with the help of his brother Frank, he still couldn't get rid of Contador off his wheel in the mountains. Contador simply sat there, bobbing around, letting Andy do all the work. All the while you just knew he had lots left in the tank. It was a fantastic ride by Contador, especially when you consider the pressure he was under from Astana and Lance Armstrong. That attack in the Alps was the turning point, even Armstrong held his hands up and said I can't compete with that.

Credit to Andy Schleck though, although he couldn't shake off Alberto Contador, he lead up all the major climbs, made attacks and rode well. He can't be disappointed with a second place. I think people will have a new found respect for him.

I'll hold my hands up, I didn't think Lance Armstrong would be as good as he was. He was mixing it up with the big guys and finished a credible third. There was no way he could beat Contador and Schleck on the climbs but he hung in there right to the end. He has said he will be back next year, with a new team sponsored by RadioShack. If he keeps up the fitness over Winter and has a good Spring in his legs, it will be very interesting next year, especially with a team surrounding just him.

The Winners

For me there are two big winners of the Tour, and they are both Brits. Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were nothing short of sensational.

For Bradley Wiggins, to turn from the track to the road and stick it in the climbs with the likes of Contador, Schleck and Armstrong was awesome. I predicted before the Tour he would be one to watch. Many disagreed. Many said he couldn't do it. Many suggested he had doped. If you follow cycling closely you will know Bradley Wiggins is totally against people who dope, his autobiography has many references to his thoughts against doping, so those accusations were uneducated. His determination is second to none. Infact to say his nearest competitor was Armstrong is a credit. His team Garmin didn't let him down, heroic efforts from VandeVelde and David Millar made sure he was always well placed. Bradley finished an incredible 4th and has since hinted he may quit the track for the road. I hope he does because I would love to see him win the Tour.

And then Mark Cavendish. 6 sprint wins including winning in Paris on the Champs-Elysees was awesome. He didn't get the green jersey, a moment of stupidity cost him that. Many claimed the barriers weren't set up correctly, Cav said he was deliberately going slow to allow his team-mate George Hincapie get the yellow jersey. Either way, he was judged to have blocked rival Thor Hushovd and lost all his points for the stage. Lets face it, there wasn't much of an arguement from his team Columbia-HTC too!

Each opportunity to win was executed flawlessly. Needless to say his team worked fantastically to drive the peloton, with Mark Renshaw leading him out perfectly every time. The thing about Mark Cavendish is that he is sharp, he notices movements, and will go early if needs be. His climbing has improved and it will only be time before he becomes a more all rounded sprinter like Thor Hushovd.

Mark's Columbia-HTC team mate Tony Martin and Cervelo's Heinrich Haussler are also worthy mentions. Tony only missing the young rider's jersey to an impressive Andy Schleck, but was in a two man breakaway up Mont Ventoux having lead out Mark Cavendish the day before. Henrich Haussler's breakway in the rain to win alone will remembered for years to come, his tears over the line showed how much it meant to him.

Another shout has to go to Sylvain Chavanel, was there a breakaway he wasn't in?! And Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara - where did he come from? After a disappointing Spring, he had the yellow jersey for the opening days after an incredible time trial in Monaco. He fought well and throughout the Tour could be seen on the front too.

The losers

Cadel Evans and the Silence Lotto team. Non-existant and his Tour was over after the team time trial. Once again his weak team let him down.

Carlos Sastre. The former champion was lost in the shadows, non-existant throughout much of the Tour and struggled badly. Sore point for another wise fantastic first year Cervelo performance.

Denis Menchov and the Rabobank team. Did they actually turn up? The Giro D' Italia champion fell off more times than I've hot dinners.

Tom Boonen. Last minute entry having got himself into trouble for snorting Cocaine. Could have won fans back over but left early feeling ill.

No comments: