1. For obvious reasons, BMCâ€™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 Aussieâ€™s winâ€”he also remained cool under pressure, a characteristic often lacking during his previous grand tour assaults. Some interesting facts about Evansâ€™ victory:
- At 34 years of age, Evans is one of the oldest riders ever to win the Tour de France. While 34 isnâ€™t â€œoldâ€ by and normal standard, it is for Tour winners.
- Evans spent all but one day inside the top-3 on GC.
- 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 dâ€™Italia and Tour de France. The â€œdestructiveâ€ powers of the rainbow jersey are well-documented, but for Evans that wasnâ€™t the case.
While itâ€™s anyoneâ€™s guess where Evans will head from here program-wise, he can rest easy knowing that heâ€™s finally gotten the monkey off his back.
2. Given his teamâ€™s expectations, Leopard Trekâ€™s Frank Schleck might easily be categorized as one of the â€œlosersâ€ of the 2011 Tour de France. But after a race in which he was consistently one of the eventâ€™s strongest riders, a spot on the podium is an improvementâ€”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 trialâ€¦
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 Farrarâ€™s Stage 3 victory, but thatâ€™s not really what itâ€™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 isnâ€™t the best recipe for winning racesâ€”and lots of them. The Tour success enjoyed by HTC-HighRoad, Garmin-Cervelo, and BMC (and while weâ€™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, Belgiumâ€™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 Tourâ€™s-worth of spotlight should help give everyone a soft landing (even if the same wasnâ€™t true for VDBke).
5. I donâ€™t know about you, but Iâ€™d happily trade 2 places on GC for a stage win and the polka dot jersey. Look for Euskaltelâ€™s Samuel Sanchez at the front this weekend in San Sebastian.
6. Like the American teams already mentioned, Great Britainâ€™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 Hagenâ€™s two stage wins, Gerraint Thomasâ€™ gutsy breakaways, and Rigoberto Uranâ€™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 futureâ€”especially if the rumors prove to be true about them having signedâ€¦
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 Merckxâ€™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-Cerveloâ€™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 himâ€”and his new asking-priceâ€”find a new one.
9. After a terrible 2010, many were wondering if Team Skyâ€™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. Thatâ€™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 himâ€”and his more than able-bodied teamâ€”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 teamâ€™s dream Tour was coming to an end, Pierre Rolland burst from a Voeckler-less lead group to take the win atop Alpe dâ€™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, Europcarâ€™s Pierre Rolland winning it outright, and Saurâ€™s Jerome Coppel finishing third in the competition. Cofidis fans might be quick to point-out Rein Taaramaeâ€™s second-place finish as well, but heâ€™s Estonianâ€”so that only half-counts. While itâ€™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 CervÃ©lo framesets during the Tour: the P4, S5, R3, and R5ca. Iâ€™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 SRAMâ€™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 companyâ€™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 belowâ€”and come back tomorrow to see this yearâ€™s Losers.