2011 Tour de France – Stage 21 Wrap-up

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Stage 21 from Creteil to Paris marked the end of the Tour de France. Going in to the stage, every major classification – general, young rider, team and mountain – was finalized, save the points classification. HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish entered the stage 15 points ahead of Movistar’s JJ Rojas, which meant that while Cadel Evans was sipping champagne, Cavendish and crew would need to control the peloton heading in to both the intermediate and final sprints. HTC was able to avoid excess work by allowing a break of six to go up the road, eating up the major points available in the intermediate. Cavendish was first out of the peloton following the break, and grabbed 2 additional points over Rojas, who came in 9th. Apparently this was enough to discourage any further aggression from Movistar, who barely participated in the final sprint handily won by Cavendish.

Here’s what we noticed:

1) Usually, given the TV broadcast schedules, we join races where a break has often been established. Today’s broadcast started at the beginning of the stage, and we got to see the establishment of the break once they hit the Paris loop. It’s nice being able to see the break rather than just be told one happened prior to transmission starting.

2) Just as the breakaway was bring swallowed by the peloton on the final lap of the circuit, Ben Swift made a last ditch attempt to ride off, gaining a little time on the charging peloton. Lars Bak went up to join him, and actually ended up dropping him. For a second it looked like Bak might be making an attempt of his own to win the stage, before he sat up and went back in to the pack. It’s more likely he was sent up front to shut down Swift, as well as patrol the front end in case any team – like Movistar – attempted a last minute break that could have a detrimental affect on Cavendish’s jersey or stage win. That break never materialized.

3) After the intermediate sprint, JJ Rojas and all of Movistar must have decided that despite bold words in recent days, they were tired of fighting. The top-placed Movistar rider in the stage was Francisco Ventoso, who finished 15th. Rojas finished 21st.

4) Are baby national champion jerseys the next big thing? Frank Schleck’s daughter was decked out in a Champion of Luxembourg onesie on the podium today – very cute – and Champion of Belgium Philippe Gilbert’s son was seen sporting his father’s stripes yesterday. Maybe we should make some baby Pavé jerseys. Thoughts?

5) Garmin-Cervélo took the stage to receive their team classification prize with a cardboard Dave Zabriskie cutout. We can only assume we’ll be seeing a steady stream of pictures on Twitter from his teammates as they bring the cutout with them on their celebrations tonight. Hopefully nothing too sordid.

6) Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland made it to Paris. Someone buy this man a big magnum of De Zeezuiper – brewed in his home province of Zeeland. And someone buy Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha the drink of his choice too – while he avoided the barbed wire, he was the one actually hit by a car. Tough guys, the both of them.

In many ways, the Tour de France is a race of the underdogs, no matter who enters it a favorite. An ill-timed crash, a split failed to be covered – all can change the face of the race in a split second. This Tour was so much fun to watch because of its underdogs – Hushovd and Voeckler defending the Maillot Jaune despite everyone expecting them to lose it at any moment. Garmin, after 3 tours, finally getting their stage wins. Cavendish getting beaten in a sprint by Farrar and Greipel, but taking the green jersey. All said and done, the most important underdog in the race was two time runner-up Cadel Evans. Discounted by many heading in to the race as a B-contender against the likes of Contador and the Schlecks, Evans rode boldly, never falling below fourth on the leader board. In an age where overall wins have mostly come from establishing a lead and limiting loss, Evans broke the mold and took his win in a hard fought battle, in one of the most exciting Tours we’ve seen in years. Thanks, Cadel!

Today brings our last stage wrap-up. It’s been a long, exciting, and busy 3 weeks – thanks for choosing to spend some of your time with us. We’ll have a whole slew of post-race analysis in the upcoming week to close out our Tour coverage. Let us know in a comment below what you thought of today’s stage, and the Tour overall, as well as what you’d like to hear us expound on – we’ll gladly oblige in order to keep our Tour fever going for another few days.

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7 Responses to 2011 Tour de France – Stage 21 Wrap-up

  1. Matt Heppe says:

    Here were my favorite parts of this year's tour:

    1) Thor Hushovd is my favorite rider, so this was a great tour for me. The win on the Aubisque was fantastic to watch. Thor had a plan from the start and executed it perfectly.

    2) I am a fan of the Schleck brothers (both were on my fantasy team, as was Thor). I really enjoyed their tag-team efforts to break their competitors.

    3) I was inspired by the heart of both Pierre Roland and Jeremy Roy. What a terrific pair of young riders.

    4) Can't say enough about Voeckler and his defense of the Yellow. The guy has heart.

    5) Did team Europe rise to the occasion, or what? Very impressed.

    It was a great Tour. Had a lot of fun watching it. Thanks for the coverage, Pave!

  2. Jeremiah says:

    I was impressed with Fabian's 5th place finish in one of the most prestigious sprint victories a rider cold achieve. Could a green jersey be in his future? Unlikely with a team behind the Schleck brothers, but I would never count out Spartacus.

  3. Nom says:

    Did anybody else notice that Andy didn't wait for Cadel Evans when he had his mechanical? Double standards from Whiner Schleck in my view. Otherwise I agree with Matt's comments, Great Tour.

    • Adam says:

      Cadel wasn't in yellow – as Andy was – when he got the mechanical and it wasn't obvious at first that it was a mechanical that was holding him up.
      The fact of the matter is that it sucks to lose because of a mechanical, and Evans did his fair share of whining when he lost the 09 Vuelta due to a mechanical – can't say I wouldn't have either if I were in their position.

    • grolby says:

      I think that asking for perfect consistency (assuming, as Adam points out, that it's actually inconsistent) from riders with respect to complaints made a year ago in a race lost in part due to a frustrating response to a mechanical incident by Contador is asking for too much.

      I get it. You think Andy Schleck is a whiner. If you want to ding him on that, there's plenty of material from this year (see: descents) to use. For all we know, in the year since the chain-drop incident, Andy has realized that shit happens and mechanicals are a crappy but unavoidable possibility that just have to be dealt with, irrespective of how your opponents respond to them. Wouldn't that kind of personal growth (and hunger to win) be a more positive development than consistent but foolish and slavish adherence to some personal code of chivalrous riding?

      I have to admit that I do simply find some of these popular story lines from the last year-ish – "chaingate," "the Schlecks have no killer instinct," etc. etc. – boring in the extreme and would dearly love to stop hearing them repeated over and over in favor of some more interesting analysis, but I admit that that's my problem.

      • Matt Heppe says:

        If I see that someone has had a mechanical and I then launch an attack, well, I think that's a pretty lame move.

        If we are in the middle of some serious action with multiple parties involved and you get a mechanical I don't think you can expect us to stop for you.

        Sure, it gets complicated. Overall, I thought this was an honorable tour.

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