2011 Tour de France – Winners

Pavé would like to thank Handspun, Clément, and Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Tour de France.

Fotoreporter Sirotti

 

1. For obvious reasons, BMC’s Cadel Evans is the big winner of the Tour de France, winning his first grand tour and most important race since switching from mountain to road over a decade ago. Consistency and tenacity are two words that come to mind when attempting to describe the Aussie’s win—he also remained cool under pressure, a characteristic often lacking during his previous grand tour assaults. Some interesting facts about Evans’ victory:

  1. At 34 years of age, Evans is one of the oldest riders ever to win the Tour de France. While 34 isn’t “old” by and normal standard, it is for Tour winners.
  2. Evans spent all but one day inside the top-3 on GC.
  3. Since winning the 2009 World Championship Road Race, Evans has enjoyed the most successful two seasons of his career including wins at the Tour de France, Fleche-Wallone, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour of Romandie (for the second time), and stage victories at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. The “destructive” powers of the rainbow jersey are well-documented, but for Evans that wasn’t the case.

While it’s anyone’s guess where Evans will head from here program-wise, he can rest easy knowing that he’s finally gotten the monkey off his back.

2. Given his team’s expectations, Leopard Trek’s Frank Schleck might easily be categorized as one of the “losers” of the 2011 Tour de France. But after a race in which he was consistently one of the event’s strongest riders, a spot on the podium is an improvement—and an achievement that the elder brother has long-deserved. In fact, I wonder what Frank might have done had he not been saddled with the responsibility of looking out for Andy as there several days in which he looked to be the stronger of the two. Now, about that time trial…

3. For American teams not sponsored by Radio Shack, the 2011 Tour de France was a tremendous success. Overall, riders from American squads won 11 stages, the team classification, and the yellow and green jerseys. Sure, Americans themselves only won one individual stage thanks to Tyler Farrar’s Stage 3 victory, but that’s not really what it’s about now is it? As cycling becomes more globalized, it should be painfully obvious to teams looking up at the podium that maintaining the nationalized status quo simply isn’t the best recipe for winning races—and lots of them. The Tour success enjoyed by HTC-HighRoad, Garmin-Cervelo, and BMC (and while we’re at it, Team Sky) is less a testament to the superiority of one particular nation than it is for an entire philosophy of how to build a winning program.

4. While still largely a national squad, Belgium’s Omega Pharma-Lotto won three stages at the 2011 Tour de France, salvaging a successful race despite the loss of GC-contender Jurgen Van den Broeck. While Philippe Gilbert deserves credit for trying his best to make the Tour a one-man show, credit also goes to Andre Greipel for getting the better of Mark Cavendish on Stage 10, and Tour-revelation Jelle Vanendert for winning Stage 14 atop the Plateau de Beille and wearing the polka dot jersey for several days. So while the future homes of Gilbert and Omega Pharma remain to be seen, three wins and a Tour’s-worth of spotlight should help give everyone a soft landing (even if the same wasn’t true for VDBke).

5. I don’t know about you, but I’d happily trade 2 places on GC for a stage win and the polka dot jersey. Look for Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez at the front this weekend in San Sebastian.

6. Like the American teams already mentioned, Great Britain’s Team Sky has taken a globalized approach to building one of the top teams in the sport. And like Omega Pharma-Lotto, Sky persevered to enjoy a banner Tour despite the loss of its most expensive commodity and best GC-contender, Bradley Wiggins. In the end, the loss of Wiggo seems to have freed-up other riders to reach new heights, as evidenced by Edvald Boassen Hagen’s two stage wins, Gerraint Thomas’ gutsy breakaways, and Rigoberto Uran’s days spent in the white jersey as Best Young Rider. As these young stars continue to develop, they should couple with Bradley Wiggins to bring Team Sky even more Tour success in the future—especially if the rumors prove to be true about them having signed…

7. Mark Cavendish won another 5 stages at the 2011 Tour de France, bringing his career total to 20 and putting him on track to break Eddy Merckx’s record (34) by the time he turns 30. Even better for Boy Racer: he finally won the green jersey (even though it took a rule change and a miraculous chase on Stage 14 to get it for him).

8. After a lackluster spring that saw the World Champion wait until June before taking his first victory, Garmin-Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd certainly made up for lost time at the Tour de France, winning two stages (in the mountains, no less) and wearing the yellow jersey for 7 days. While it remains to be seen if the success will repair the rumored rift between the Norwegian and his team, it will certainly go a long way toward helping him—and his new asking-price—find a new one.

9. After a terrible 2010, many were wondering if Team Sky’s Edvald Boassen Hagen was more a product of the system at HTC-HighRoad than of his own talent. Those questions should be put to rest after EBH won two stages in fine style at the 2011 Tour de France. Winning via a bunch sprint and a breakaway, the young star looked on track to win the final ITT at one point too, before tired legs and a mechanical ruined his chances.

10. Norway had two riders in the 2011 Tour de France; they each won two stages and one spent 7 days in the yellow jersey. That’s a better winning percentage than even Charlie Sheen can boast.

11. Europcar was lucky just to exist heading into the 2011 season, but at the Tour de France they looked as if they were right where they belonged. Few were surprised to see Thomas Voeckler take the yellow jersey after Stage 9, but I think we were all a bit shocked to see him—and his more than able-bodied team—defend it for 10 stages (including all of the Pyrenees and more than half of the Alps). And even on the day in which it looked as if the team’s dream Tour was coming to an end, Pierre Rolland burst from a Voeckler-less lead group to take the win atop Alpe d’Huez, giving himself the white jersey to boot.

12. Young French GC contenders had a banner Tour de France, with Arnold Jeannesson of FDJ staking an early claim to the white jersey, Europcar’s Pierre Rolland winning it outright, and Saur’s Jerome Coppel finishing third in the competition. Cofidis fans might be quick to point-out Rein Taaramae’s second-place finish as well, but he’s Estonian—so that only half-counts. While it’s been said before with little to show for it, is it time to start taking Frenchmen seriously as Tour de France contenders?

13. Garmin-Cervelo riders used 4 different Cervélo framesets during the Tour: the P4, S5, R3, and R5ca. I’m not sure I can remember a time when that was the case. If cobbles return for 2012, maybe Specialized can equal the feat with their Tarmac, Venge, Roubaix, and Shiv?

14. Shimano won its first Tour de France since 2008, breaking SRAM’s two-year stranglehold. In addition, all three men on the final podium as well as both the green and polka dot jerseys rode the Japanese components. Perhaps more importantly, the 2011 Tour was the first grand tour win for the company’s electronic Di2 groupset.

15. And last but not least, Tahlia Chapman from Australia, you won our Velogames Fantasy TDF Cycling League. Send us an email so you can claim your prize!

As for you, who are your Winners from the 2011 Tour de France? Share them below—and come back tomorrow to see this year’s Losers.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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9 Responses to 2011 Tour de France – Winners

  1. grolby says:

    "9. After a terrible 2010, many were wondering if Team Sky’s Edvald Boassen Hagen was more a product of the system at HTC-HighRoad than of his own talent."

    Who were the "many" in this statement? I never saw (or had, myself) much doubt that he was an enormously talented rider, after the 2009 he had. The big question seemed to be – and, to some extent, remains – whether his apparent fragility would prevent him from making the most of that talent. 2010 was marked by constant injury for EBH, and poor fitness as a result. It is still possible, of course, for delicate riders to do well. Stephen Roche famously achieved spectacular successes bookended by years of injury and frustration. That's the worry for EBH. There are worse things, but Roche's injury problems first with his knee and then his back, undoubtedly shortened his professional peak. I think we all must hope that this is the end of significant injury/illness problems for EBH, and that this Tour has been a sign of many more great things still to come.

  2. michael says:

    winners – Tommy V, Thor, EBH, JV for doing it his way, Europcar and last but not least Cadel.

    on a more commercial note, for those of us living north of the border watching the TDF live every morning in Quebec on Canal Évasion (Serge Arseneault aka Mr. World Tour`s station), we got bombarded with Louis Garneau apparel spots – and what they came up with as Voekler continued to astound was great stuff. Chapeau to whichever add agency came up with those spots!

    Europcar, sincerely, 150000 euros in prize money? That is a bonanza for the pro-conti riders and staff. There are going to be some guys sporting some nice wrist watches in Quebec City and Montreal when they pop over for the fall races ;)

    Losers – Radioshack, through sheer dumb luck. Lampre for doing absolutely nothing whatsoever during this tour. Katusha, for not even getting a mention on most stages other than Karpets sandbagging AC. The Schleck`s, for not committing to working on their weaknesses year after year. Race your strength, train your weakness(es) boys. ASO for the traffic situation. A ten spot says the tour caravan is reduced by at least 15% next year, possibly 20%.

    • grolby says:

      Agreed, Radioshack was a disaster. I'm not ready to call it just dumb luck; going in with four leaders is simply stupid, as you have 1.25 riders to protect each of them. Given the craziness this year, that's unlikely to go well. Yeah, simple misfortune does play a role here, but I think it didn't help that they went in with such a ridiculous strategy for the race.

      Lampre, on the one hand, was anonymous. On the other hand, Cunego had his best GC finish in ages. They can probably be pretty happy with a top ten in the Tour; Garmin has had to "settle" for that in the past, and while they're certainly much happier to have the kind of outstanding success that they had this year, having at least one top-10 rider at least year kept their credibility alive. It will be a let down after last year, though, so it's hard to say for sure where the balance lies.

      As for training weaknesses, I think a lot of very respectable coaches would point out that training your weaknesses and not focusing on your strengths tends to make you mediocre in your strong points and your weak points. The Schlecks have been spending a lot more time on their TT bikes in the last couple of years, and in fact, turned in what I think were very respectable performances in the time trial on Saturday based on past performances. I would argue that they didn't lose the Tour de France in the time trial, they lost it in the mountains by not being able or willing to build a sufficient advantage there. It is certainly true that they have the power to be better time trialists than they are – you don't do what Andy did on the Galibier without having serious power in your legs – but they do seem to lack a mental inclination toward time trialing, with the attention to detail and ability to make a steady effort that it requires. It's not clear how simply spending more time on their time trial bikes is going to fix that problem.

      I think I would advise the Schlecks, who I consider to be simultaneously winners and losers this race, to go and race one of the other Grand Tours with a parcours and a field more suited to their abilities and actually win the damn thing, get a taste for what that feels like. Andy could absolutely crush the Giro d'Italia, there is absolutely no doubt that he is capable of winning that race. Same for the Vuelta. Go out and figure out what you need to do to put big time into your opponents in the mountains, so that being slower in the TT doesn't cost you the whole show. Emphasizing one's strengths makes one's weaknesses less of a problem. And for crying out loud, if you don't want to be the next Poulidor or, in Andy's own words, the next Zoetemelk, go build yourself a palmarès in other big stage races to both silence those critics and build some confidence for the Big Show.

      • Whit says:

        Great comments, everyone! I'll be sharing my Losers tomorrow–many of you are already on the right track!

        W.

      • AMO says:

        @grolby –

        I had the exact thought re: each of the Radioshack GC men having only 1.25 teammates per man for protection in the early stages, but yours is the first comment I've seen (in cycling press or blogs) to articulate it. I daresay the same can be said for Team Sky and Omega Pharma-Lotto in the loss of their GC men, insofar as a team going into TdF with multiple serious goals (Sky = Swift, EBH, GT for sprint/classics finishes; Lotto = PhilGil for classics finishes, Griepel for sprints) will have to pay in manpower that would otherwise be spent solely protecting their GC man (à la BMC). While I'm not advocating that teams should not focus on multiple goals (sprints, breakaways, GC), they should be cognizant that each additional goal may necessarily deplete reserves to "cushion" the other goals. Just ask "poster-GC" men Peter Velits & Tony Martin from HTC-Highroad… a team cannot (fully) serve two masters.

        The exception to this observation would be Garmin-Cérvelo, which "played its cards" beautifully with sprint/mountain stage wins, TTT win, Maillot Jaune, best-placed American GC riders, and Team Prize. It sounds corny and obvious, but I believe it was their selfless team spirit & the versatility/experience of their riders that made the difference. And as JV always contends, "I know my riders".

        Nice writeups on the TdF winners & losers, Pavéblog!

  3. Steve in Duluth says:

    Winner: The philosophy of focusing your whole season on the TdF. For a couple of years several prominent riders rode the Giro prior to the Tour (Armstrong, Basso, Evans) while harboring hopes of winning in Paris, but in past years it hasn't been clear whether or not it hurt their ability to win. Lance was old and couldn't keep up with Contador or the Schlecks in '09, and in-form Evans was injured last year.

    This season, though, the best GT rider of the generation tore up the Giro and came to France to win, and could only manage a top five place. Basso, Sanchez, the Schlecks, and of course Evans all rode for the TdF alone. Contador has been quoted blaming fatigue from the Giro for his poor form and swore never to race it again (ouch!). We won't be seeing TdF contenders racing the Giro any time soon.

    Correlated winner: The Tour of California, if it can keep operating, and other minor events in May. Their gambled move looks a lot better now that there will be top riders available to race.

    • michael says:

      oooooh good one steve. i had not even mulled over that possible ramification. that being said, I am pretty certain that top GC contenders will continue to use the tried and tested route – the Dauphiné. Adding the transatlantic crossing in the middle of a training block prior to the Dauphiné somehow just doesn`t make any sense to my eyes, at least for anyone harboring dreams of a top-10 GC placing.

      • Steve in Duluth says:

        @michael, Maybe, but I don't think the trip was the reason Andy got roasted in the time trial or couldn't break away on Luz Ardiden.

  4. Julius says:

    VDBroeck and Vanendert already signed for the "new" Lotto team.

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/van-den-broeck-vanendert-to-new-lotto-team

    Gilbert is one of the hottest commodities right now, and I'm sure he's negotiating with everybody and their aunts. Look for small-scale soap opera to be played on the pages of De Standaard / Sportwereld, Het Nieuwsblad, and Le Soir, starring Marc Sargeant, Marc Coucke, Patrick Lefevere, and possibly even Marc Madiot. Or, other teams like BMC, who is rumored to be very interested.

    What Would the Marc Triumvirate Do?

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