Cadel Evans was victorious in Paris last Sunday and Australia has been celebrating ever since. Cadel Evans is the first Australian to ever win the Tour de France which makes the moment that little bit extra special. Aside from Evans’ triumph, Mark Cavendish’s victory in the point’s classification was achieved with a total of five stage wins across the Tour. Impressive performances from Samuel Sanchez, Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler to name just a few, all made this year’s Tour a real nail biter right up until the champagne flowed.
There’s some impressive statistics from the Tour de France this year. A total of 167 riders crossed the line in Paris, after having completed 21 stages and racing for over 86 hours – not to mention that over 20 million calories were burned across the duration of the Tour by all the finishing riders. While we locate some more big numbers for you, we’ll get under way with our round-up of the winners and losers at this year’s Tour…
The Winners and Losers.
The Yellow Jersey:
With all the hype surrounding the Schlecks and Contador coming in to the Tour de France this year, Cadel Evans was something of an underdog from the outset. Cadel was right at the front of the general classification throughout the Tour this year, never dropping below 4th. The Schlecks heaped the pressure on through the Alps where they strode ahead into what many thought would be an unassailable lead. Nevertheless, Cadel’s amazing performance in the time trial provided him with enough of a buffer to ensure he carried the yellow jersey all the way across the line in Paris last Sunday. Prize money of €450,000 will certainly help Cadel get the party started.
As I’m sure every Australian is aware – Cadel Evans is the first rider from the Southern Hemisphere to ever win the Tour de France. Crossing the line in Paris, Cadel struggled to comprehend the magnitude of his achievement and was quick to admit that he couldn’t even fathom how big an impact his win would have in Australia.
Well, with Australia now having a few days to let the news sink in, Cadel fever is still going strong. Politicians and celebrities alike are all jumping on the Cadel bandwagon and without a doubt, Australians across the globe will remember this victory for many, many years to come – and quite right too!
Perhaps we should have known Cadel was going to have a good year at the Tour right from the start. After all, his victory on Stage 4, with Contador biting at his heels, revealed just how much form he was in early on.
Before we move on, it’s also worth mentioning the valiant effort of Thomas Voeckler. Clinging on to the yellow jersey for 10 days, the Schlecks were simply too much for the native Frenchman through the Alps. However, 4th place was still an incredible result for the Frenchman who typically finishes Grand Tours in around 80th place.
The weight of expectation on French riders is bound to be substantial when the Tour comes around again next year. This probably won’t outweigh the expectation on Cadel Evans’ shoulders though! Australia’s appetite for strong Grand Tour performances has certainly been whet!
The Green Jersey:
Britain’s hopes of success in the Tour this year were significantly dashed when Bradley Wiggins broke his collar bone on stage 7. However, Mark Cavendish stepped up to the plate, at least in terms of the point’s classification, taking stage win after stage win, holding the green jersey from stage 11 until the Tour’s finale in Paris.
Cavendish has been in fine form at the Tour de France for several years now but this was the year that it all came together for him. It was a tough battle though, with Jose Joaquin Rojas and Philippe Gilbert pushing right up to the line. In the end, Cavendish secured his fifth stage win of 2011 in Paris on the final day. Similar to Cadel Evans, Cavendish also made history by becoming the first British rider to ever claim the green jersey overall.
King of the Mountains classification:
Samuel Sanchez won the Mountains Classification this year, despite a strong performance from Andy Schleck as was to be expected. The final classification for this jersey was decided at the last possible moment as Sanchez was able to secure 2nd place on the Alpe d’Huez and therefore finish a mere 10 points ahead of Andy Schleck.
Jelle Vanendert’s performance was the biggest surprise, whose strong riding earned him 3rd place in the Mountains classification.
Sanchez will undoubtedly be upset that he was not able to challenge for the General Classification to a greater extent, but he’s certainly going to be one to watch for next year.
Contador was only able to manage 6th overall in the Mountains classification. His victories in competitions before the Tour encouraged many that he would be back with a vengeance at the Tour this year. However, after getting caught up in multiple crashes early on and complaining of a knee injury, he was not on his best form. It’s also just been revealed that he won’t be riding the Vuelta later this year as he’s simply too tired. We suspect he’s probably preparing himself for another kind of pain cave in the form of a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport following his positive test result for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour.
Young Riders’ classification:
Amid preparations for the 2011 Tour, Europcar’s director asked Pierre Rolland about his goals for the Tour de France. Rolland simply replied that he wanted to win the white jersey. His director told him he was probably aiming to high. Regardless, Rolland went on to take the white jersey in style, taking a great stage win on the Alpe d’Huez.
Although Thomas Voeckler was the man at the receiving end of the affections of most of the French, Pierre Rolland’s triumph brought him in a close second. Young Rolland was heralded as the next Bernard Hinault or Laurent Fignon when he arrived on the scene four years ago, only for the weight of expectation to prove too much. Nevertheless, he’s been quietly plugging away and he’s now beginning to reap the rewards.
Further down the classification, Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran and Geraint Thomas both held the white jersey for a stint, eventually finishing in 6th and 7th place respectively.
In terms of the team classification this year, it was Garmin-Cervelo who came in with over an 11 minute lead from closest rivals Leopard-Trek. The team classification is decided by accumulating the final times of each team’s first 3 riders each day. The consistency of Thor Hushovd, Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesejedal, among others, all helped bring home the bacon for Garmin-Cervelo.
AG2R La Mondiale were 3rd, just behind Leopard-Trek, while Europcar were 4th and Euskaltel a solid 5th.
The ‘Lanterne Rouge’:
The infamous ‘Lanterne Rouge’ is awarded to the rider who finishes last in the general classification. Movistar’s Andrey Amador held this position for most of the Tour until a burst of speed on Stage 16 saw him push Liquigas’ Fabio Sabatini down into last place.
While he came in last, just finishing the Tour is a massive achievement that only an elite few could ever manage. It was almost the case that this year’s number of 167 finishers was significantly less when 89 riders missed the time cut on stage 18 to the Galibier. The riders were quickly reinstated by the race jury. If they had been left out, many teams would of seen only 1 of their riders cross the line in Paris!
There’s been plenty of crashes in the Tour this year. For instance, Andre Greipel crashed in the neutral zone before the opening stage of the Tour had even got under way.
One of the first major crashes occurred when Astana’s Maxim Iglinskiy clipped an unsuspecting spectator who wandered into the road during the first stage.
The crash significantly delayed the likes of Alberto Contador and as a matter of fact, he never really recovered.
On stage 5, a motorcycle rider clipped Nicky Sorenson as he tried to squeeze past the edge of the peloton. Approximately 77km from the end of the stage, Sorenson was dragged off his bike, falling heavily to the ground. Luckily, Sorenson wasn’t seriously hurt and was fit to fight another day, receiving a new bike and catching back up to the peloton. The same can’t be said for the motorbike rider who was subsequently excluded from playing any further part in this year’s Tour.
Finally, we thought Dutch rider Laurens Ten Dam was worth a mention after his gruesome crash in the Pyrenees last week. Apparently, “you don’t quit the Tour because of a fat lip” was the response from the rider when questioned about his injuries.
Now that’s dedication for you.
Bertie the Boxer.
The Tour de France attracts around 14 million fans onto the roads of France during the month of July. Fancy dress and fanatical fans has become a trade mark of the Tour especially during the mountain stages. This year was no exception although for some riders the fans are seen to hinder rather than help them on tough climbs. Alberto Contador’s Tour didn’t exactly go to plan and his frustrations seemed to spill over onto an unsuspecting fan as he climbed the slopes of the Alpe d’Huez during stage 19. Having earlier punched the air in celebration at an earlier stage after rather embarrassingly thinking he had won the stage, Bertie reacted to an overzealous fan with a right jab that any boxer would be proud of. The fan who, appeared to be dressed as a surgeon, looked to strike a chord with the Spanish rider who is still awaiting a hearing into his positive doping test after last year’s Tour. Rumour has it that Bertie’s publicist had asked the Saxo Bank rider to attempt to make a connection with fans which he may have taken too literally.
Well those Dutch certainly know how to throw a party and this year on the Alpe d’Huez the celebrations were in full swing. Being a rather flat country it’s surprising that Dutch riders have had such success on this mountain claiming 8 of the first 14 finishes up the alpe incline adopting d’Huez as their own and christening it the Dutch mountain. A sea of orange and a river of beer greeted the riders on switchback number 7 of the famous alpe with thousands of fans camping out on the side of the road, some turning up 2 weeks before to ensure they get the best spot!
Salvador from Los Angeles followed the Tour for the full three weeks and could be seen at various spots around France wielding his double ended Mexican and US flag. In an interview Salvador admitted his costume was inspired by lucha libre, Mexican free wrestling, and was looking to entertain and spur on the riders during difficult stages of the Tour. There’s nothing like being chased by a naked man in a mask to ‘spur’ you on.
Farmers in France have too much time on their hands.
There was various arrangements in fields at this year’s Tour. The creativity shown using some hay bales and a bit of farming equipment was quite impressive although it does suggest that French farmers may have a bit of time on their hands. Here we see a group of farmers make a bike out of hay bales and moving tractors for the wheels/chainring. As pointed out by someone the cranks aren’t actually moving (some people are never satisfied) but nevertheless it’s still quite a feat.
The small Scandinavian country had lots to celebrate this Tour with a total of four stage victories. The Norwegian contingent seemed to be everywhere cheering on their mighty god of thunder who mustered two spectacular wins with new kid on the block Edvald Boassan Hagen showing just what he is capable of also taking acouple.
For those 2.5 million Aussies who stayed up to watch Cadel take victory on the last day of the Tour the excitement must have been intense. For those Aussies who ventured to the other side of the world to watch the Tour on the French road ride the experience must have been something else. A country steeped in sporting prowess, you can always count on the fans to get behind their athletes in any sport and cycling is no exception. Particular highlights was am intrepid fan in a crocodile costume. Even during the baking hot days this dedicated fan could be seen at the side of the road and he even managed to get a few photos with Cadel in Paris. I’m sure the party in Oz will continue for a while yet.
Strange tour moments.
This year’s Tour wasn’t short of its peculiar moments with the greatest show on earth kicking off in a spectacularly strange fashion. Riders from the 22 teams entered the faux Roman Arena of Puy du Fou near the Vendee Coast in front of a crowd of 7,000 strong for the official team presentations. The teams entered stage left in a variety of different ways which included various armoured chariots, sword wielding enthusiasts and young maidens in what was a very gladiator-esque occasion. One of the more surreal entrances was by Thor Hushovd. The Norwegian rider along with the Garmin Cervelo team rose from the ground with the world champ stripe clad rider wielding a giant hammer while his team knelt before him supposedly worshiping the God of Thunder. The majority of the teams were met with cheers from the crowd although last year’s winner, Alberto Contador, felt the raft of the general public with a wall of ‘boos’ greeting the announcement of his name.
Andy Schleck’s unfair advantage?
It’s not unusual for the fans in the mountain stages to get a bit rowdy but on stage 18 it was a different breed of super fan that was getting riled up. What first appeared to be a Tour official shouting at fans running alongside Schleck soon turned out to be the cycling
legend god Eddy Merckx shouting words of encouragement to the Luxembourg rider. The aggressive attack by Schleck was reminiscent of a young Eddy Merckx style of attack which got the 66 year old Belgium’s blood pumping so much that he was hanging out the sun roof of an officials car. I’m not quite sure if the rule book covers this but surely that’s got to be some sort of unfair advantage? Having a former great of cycling like Merckx screaming encouragement at you must help you dig that little bit deeper. I wonder if he’s available for early morning commutes…
Detour de France.
During the steep decent of stage 17 the French housewives favourite, Thomas Voeckler took a little ‘detour de France’ (see what we did there) and ended up in a near by drive way. The Europcar rider appeared to drop off the side of the rode after underestimating a corner before rejoining the race after a little help from some nearby spectators.
Even in Paris the oddities continued as they had throughout the Tour. The team work of Team Garmin Cervelo had been demonstrated earlier in month when they took victory at the stage 2 team time trial. However the American team celebrated the winning the overall team classification in Paris a rider short, well that’s what it said on paper. David Zabriskie had taken a tumble in the ninth stage and was unable to rejoin the Tour due to injury, despite this the time trial specialist was present on the podium with his team mates in the form of a life-size card board cut out. The deceptively realistic 6ft figure stood with hands on hips on the presentation podium in Paris while the real David Zabriskie was being treated for his injuries back home in LA. The cardboard cut out was even presented with a winners medal.
TdF 2011 in numbers.
Finally we take a look at the Tour de France’s vital statistics:
The number of riders who finished this year’s Tour.
Estimated amount of fans that lined the streets for the 2011 TdF.
The amount Geraint Thomas could have won if he had beat Jeremy Roy over the Tournmalet summit. The young Welshmen was quoted as saying “You could buy a lot of beer with €5,000” We like his style.
The average amount of calories burnt by a rider who completed the Tour burnt.
The number of winning TdF teams George Hincapie has been apart of.
Riders who missed the cut off time on Stage 18 to the Galibier before being quickly reinstated by the race jury.
An estimate of the Australian population who stayed up to watch Cadel take victory at this year’s Tour.
Stitches that Johnny Hoogerland received after his run in with a barbed wire fence.
Team BMC’s total prize money for the 2011 Tour.
Radio Shack’s total prize money for the 2011 Tour.
The number of days Thomas Voeckler wore the yellow jersey for.
The amount of girls who apply to be a podium girl each year.
The total number of hours spent in the saddle by a cyclist who completed this year’s TdF.