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Tour de Firsts
July 23, 2011 2:10 PM   Subscribe

After weeks of crashes, injuries, and withdrawls (previously), the 2011 Tour de France will come to a close tomorrow with the largely ceremonial ride into the Champs-Elysees. Barring something highly unusual, this year's winner will be Cadel Evans of BMC, whose time trial performance today vaulted him over Andy and Frank Schleck and makes him the first Australian to win the Tour.

The Schlecks, however, will become the first brothers to share the podium. In another first, Yohann Gene became the first black cyclist to compete in the event.
Aside from the crashes, there have also been complaints this year about the amount of tactical riding and lack of attacks in the Tour (Armstrong, Evans himself), though the last few days of the race saw early attacking rides by a number of the favorites.
posted by Dr.Enormous (99 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is my first year watching the Tour, but the commentators I heard seemed surprised by the attacks in the Alps, and said that these attacks were unusual in modern cycling. I was wondering whether or not this was actually the case.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2011


I'm glad I watched my recording already, or I'd be a bit miffed at the front page spoiler.

Kind of a good tour after the crashy patch though, eh?
posted by Mngo at 2:15 PM on July 23, 2011


This is my first year watching the Tour, but the commentators I heard seemed surprised by the attacks in the Alps, and said that these attacks were unusual in modern cycling. I was wondering whether or not this was actually the case.

Lance Armstrong virtually perfected the technique of having a full team drill it halfway up the final mountain, with no room for his opponents to attack beforehand. Seeing Schleck and Contador attack from 60+ kilometres out is something I've never seen in the Tour before (been watching 10 years or so).
posted by afx237vi at 2:18 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Glad to see someone not Contador get it and Cadel rode a good race. Additionally:

Johnny Hoogerland
Thomas Voeckler
Team Garmin-Cervelo
Pierre Rolland
Sammy Sanchez

Should all be proud of their races.
posted by ghharr at 2:21 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sanchez is gonna be a great. Exciting race this year.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:33 PM on July 23, 2011


Everybody (including the man himself, as expressed in numerous media interviews) knew that Thomas Voeckler would not ultimately contest for the yellow jersey in Paris; Andy Schleck's huge attack on the penultimate climb of the stage two days ago was meant to distance Contador, and especially Evans.

The Schleck brothers knew Evans as an exceptional time trialer, in addition to being a formidable climber... and Contador, health and fitness permitting, has them beat in that discipline as well. To have any chance of wearing yellow into Paris, they knew they had to somehow open a pretty tremendous time gap.

Andy had nearly the perfect setup for his attack, since he had two domestiques up the road, and, in his brother, another dangerous GC competitor among the chasing group who could sit on the wheel of any counterattack and merely bide his time to ride away. The attack was only hindered, in fact, by the fact that at least one of the two domestiques was too drained to pace him at the necessary speed for any length of time.
posted by The Confessor at 2:40 PM on July 23, 2011


Hoogerland is our new hero here in the Netherlands.
posted by Pendragon at 2:41 PM on July 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was working in a bicycle shop when Cadel first started getting serious about ditching the MTB for a road career. One day the crusty old drug-fucked schmoadie mechanic bailed me up and said Cadel will win The Tour one day, had all the tools yada yada.

I mentally rated it pretty much "yeah, whatever" at the time. Even more so when his team didn't get a ride in The Tour that year.

So Steve, I retract that "yeah whatever." Awesome prediction, dude.

On a different note, it's a shame it has to be said but it has to be said. All the rumours that have come across my desk say Cadel is one of the cleanest riders going around. Little ol' halo floating above his head for years.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:41 PM on July 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Barring something highly unusual...

Jinx!
posted by R. Mutt at 2:54 PM on July 23, 2011


Can someone tell me what is wrong with the rider's leg in the twelfth photo of the "crashes, injuries, and withdrawals" link in the post?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:57 PM on July 23, 2011


I really wanted Andy to finally get it this year, but he just can't time trial on par with Evans. This was a great tour. Complaints about tactical riding? That's why I watch.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:57 PM on July 23, 2011


Wow, try not to the write name of the Tour winner before the tour is over on the front page of MeFi please. I saw "Tour de France" and purposefully diverted my eyes but not before they could absorb "this year's winner will be Cadel Evans." I hadn't been able to watch the latest stage yet and wasn't aware Evans had done so well in the TT.

Desperately needs a spoiler alert on this one.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 3:11 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can someone tell me what is wrong with the rider's leg in the twelfth photo of the "crashes, injuries, and withdrawals" link in the post?

I can't remember the name of the rider but he's a life-long competitive cyclist and multiple TdF veteran. His veins went haywire and grew too much from biking too hard and for too long.

The photo doesn't really belong in the accidents and crashes compilation. He's fine. His leg looks like that all the time, no crashes needed.
posted by loquacious at 3:14 PM on July 23, 2011


After Norway yesterday, and then waking up to read about Amy Winehouse and various other bad news this morning, it's damned nice to hear some good news for a change.

I'm not a cycling fanatic but a cycling fanatic friend got me interested in Cadel Evans about 3 years ago. He seems like a nice bloke, and I'm utterly thrilled for him and his team.

Obligatory Australian in-joke: Any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up tomorrow is a bum!
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:17 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


ghhrr,

I would add:

Philippe Gilbert
Ryder Hesjedal
Andre Greipel
Joaquin Rojas
and Edvald Boasson Hagen

Shame about Wiggens, Van den Broeck, Vinokurov, Horner, Kloden, et al.

The last four stages have been unbelievable, especially the attacks on Galibier and the Alpe d'Huez. This edition easily compares to 1989. Fantastic riding.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:19 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


loquacious, foxy_hedgehog

George Hincapie.
posted by The Confessor at 3:20 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's Big George Hincapie to you.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:21 PM on July 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't know why this bothers me as much as it does, but nonetheless it does: the whole weird "let's all pretend it's not a team sport" thing.

It's so blatantly a team sport. Either start saying things like "Team Saxo Bank wins" instead of "Alberto Contador wins", or else make it an actual individual sport. Either way, drop the pretense.
posted by Flunkie at 3:29 PM on July 23, 2011


Add Geraint Thomas to the list of people who ought to be proud, for his cycling on the day of the Tourmalet, if nothing else. I'd never wish anything on Wiggins (no thanks to the ITV commentators, incidentally), but its been very, very interesting seeing who can come out of the woodwork without him to be supported.

And Tyler Farrar won my heart forever, incidentally.

(I'm a bit sad that Andy is in second *again*, and this year did feel less exciting than last, but I can't really complain. The Alps were wonderful.)
posted by kalimac at 3:42 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone denies that it is a team sport, but the team is dedicated to getting their lead rider better positions, stage wins or jersey points as the case may be (not to mention getting the sponsor's logo on TV). There will always be a negotiation for any rider between riding for the team and riding their own race, and there will always be different priorities for different teams. Some don't even try for the GC at all (*cough*HTC*cough*). Originally, the Tour was planned as an individual competition, and there was always a tension around using team tactics. It went back and forth between a pure team competition and team tactics being punished several times. Currently, there is actually a competition for overall best team, which awards yellow number cards. Garmin-Cervelo has secured it this year.

This year, I really enjoyed seeing big rolling stages and Classics-style riders/all-arounders doing so well this year. Breaks stayed out, non-climbers attacked in the hills, everyone challenged sprints, and the GC was only decided on the last day. Fun!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:42 PM on July 23, 2011


letour.fr is pretty good, especially compared to how all major US sports leagues allow the broadcasters to divide the profits and to hell with any fans on the internet.
posted by peeedro at 3:44 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone denies that it is a team sport
I don't literally mean that people actively deny that it's a team sport. It's just that the whole "Lance Armstrong has won the Tour de France" thing bothers me, given that he did so with the help of his team. And that's virtually always the way people say it. I don't think I've ever heard something like "US Postal has won"; at best you hear things like in this post - "Lance Armstrong of US Postal has won".

To be clear, I don't mind that the teams are dedicated to advancing a particular rider. "The team that has a rider with the lowest overall time wins" would be perfectly acceptable to me, and it would make sense under such a system for most riders to subordinate themselves, just as they do today.
posted by Flunkie at 3:54 PM on July 23, 2011


"It's so blatantly a team sport"

You obviously don't understand cycling; it's a (rare) hybrid of team and individual achievement. Which is one of the reasons its so interesting at times: fertile ground for game theorists with an empirical streak.

Anyway, too bad Cadel won. He's a coward on the bike and an especially despicable person off it.
posted by Bas at 3:57 PM on July 23, 2011


Bas, any cites for Cadel is a coward and despicable?
posted by thecjm at 4:01 PM on July 23, 2011


Congrats Cadel, you wheel-sucking prick.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:01 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cadel Evans is the fastest person to complete the Tour by virtue of his team helping him, but he is still the fastest person to complete the Tour. The rest of BMC is well back, but they've done their jobs.

I was surprised that after so many of Radio Shack's GC riders crashed out, younger Radio Shack riders didn't do more to get into breaks, stay out, or at least get the logo on camera and make a bit of a name for themselves. Teams likeVacansoleil, Rabobank, and Ag2r did a lot of work up front, without having much of a shot in most of the competitions. Just riding for glory.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2011


It's so blatantly a team sport.

Flunkie, as someone who wastes a lot of time taking interest in too many sports, I completely disagree. The TV broadcasts over here on SBS are aimed at the knowledgeable. There's no 5 minute "Road Cycling for Newbz" slot which really wouldn't go astray. I've never heard a commentator take a step back and walk us thru the nuances.

All the teamwork went completely over my head for years, until a fan explained it to me. Only took him a couple of minutes. The whole slaves, pacing your leader, breakaways, reeling in breakaways thang, amongst other titbits. My appreciation for the sport suddenly went all the way up to eleven. It had a team element? Who woulda thunk it?!

Like the time I explained to a NZer that if you caught the ball in Aussie Rules you were awarded a free kick, but most of the time the catcher would exercise his option to play on. Players are more likely to stop and take a free kick if they're within scoring range. And he's all "No. Farking. Way. Dude, I've been watching this game for five years and finally it makes sense." Then I think he kowtowed out the door as he continued to express his gratitude.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway, too bad Cadel won. He's a coward on the bike and an especially despicable person off it.

Having watched Evans' ride in the time trial last night - if that's how a coward rides then I would happily be classed as a coward.
posted by awfurby at 4:07 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you win the Tour, coming from behind in the final time trial, I don't think anyone can fairly describe you as a coward on the bike.
posted by robcorr at 4:08 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So wheel-sucking = drafting? And it's a bad thing? Unless you're doing it to your own teammates/domestiques?
posted by thecjm at 4:11 PM on July 23, 2011


I'm an avid bicycler, and a mild enthusiast of the various types of racing (prefer the track), but I can never get too excited about an event where (usually, iirc) the winner is already set before the final day of competition.

Anyway, too bad Cadel won. He's a coward on the bike and an especially despicable person off it.

...

Congrats Cadel, you wheel-sucking prick.


The lack of dramatic finishes likely inspires this sort of snottiness, which I do enjoy.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:11 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


A highly entertaining tour. I always love it when the time trial decides it.

Mad props to Thomas Voeckler, a man with giant steel balls.

I have no opinion on Cadel but if the Schlecks ever want to win, they need to either magically get better at the TT or find a way to eat more time up in the mountains. Contador was weakened by the Giro and the doping allegations and he still managed to scare the shit out of them on the last Alps stage. (Loved watching that one BTW).
posted by selfnoise at 4:11 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to mention the time he took back from Andy on Galibier. He basically dragged the rest of the race along with him. I'm not the biggest Cadel fan, but he deserves the win.* Frandy just didn't have it this year.

*Approval conditional pending the results of all doping tests.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:11 PM on July 23, 2011


"Bas, any cites for Cadel is a coward and despicable?"

- he never attacks, waits for any other person to do the job, then simply hangs on. This, in cycling, is what's called cowardly behavior. (yes, he did finally do something on his own on the Galibier. But only because he simpy had to. Doesn't change the fact that he's a coward.)

- To corroborate the claim that he's a despicable person, you only have to ask any former teammate: he likes to order people around, has no respect for his helpers, and generally comes across as something of a sociopath. Everyone in the peloton knows this, by the way
posted by Bas at 4:13 PM on July 23, 2011


Ok so if we're going to hang shit on Evans maybe we can add some contextual info: http://m.theage.com.au/sport/cycling/high-anxiety-20110722-1ht39.html
posted by awfurby at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2011


This has been a great tour, largely because it's been so damn close and so unpredictable all the way through in all competitions. The crashes in the first week; Thor Hushovd being magnificent and loving every minute in yellow (and so glad he got a stage win, my heart goes out to the fat Norweigan with a heart of gold); Thomas Voeckler who tried his damndest to do it for France; The Schlecks for blitzing the alps; Contador for being a dark presence and a threat all the way through; Cavendish and his wonderful team HTC; The tourmalet! The Galibier twice! And alpe d'huez to finish; And, of course, Cadel Evans - yes, you can criticise him for not attacking, yes you can say that he can't properly respond to attacks - you know what? He got yellow on the stage before paris. That's really all that counts at the end of the day - big congratulations to him.
posted by BigCalm at 4:22 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've always thought guys who specifically prepare for The Tour and miss a lot of "the season" would fit into Bas' definition of coward. It doesn't seem fair.

Thanks for all the scuttlebutt, too. I never knew. He comes across to me as your typical modern professional sportsman no-personality ROBOT. Didn't realise he was a prick, and a lazy prick at that.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:22 PM on July 23, 2011


So wheel-sucking = drafting? And it's a bad thing? Unless you're doing it to your own teammates/domestiques?

There's a thing in cycling about honesty. For example: On the stage to Alpe d'Huez, Samuel Sanchez asked Pierre Rolland if Rolland could help the two of them bridge up to Contador. Rolland shook his head, no. He was on the limit. However, when they caught Contador, Rolland was able to attack, distance the two others, and win. Smart tactics, sure, but not the kind of move that will gain you the trust of your competitors. Cycling's a unique sport like that - you make and break temporary alliances (sort of like in the computer game Civilization).

There's also a thing about panache. The most remarkable victories are those where somebody is able to get a gap, increase it, and ride away from everybody else. Real last-rider-standing type of racing. Bold failures are rewarded with affection by fans, and with respect by other riders.

***

I think Evans' victory was incredible. Only on one stage was he outside of the Top 3 of the General Classification. He was duking it out with powerclimbers in the first week of racing. And then, when it became clear that the climbers were all having a hard time denting each other significantly, and his position became particularly strong, other teams looked to *him*, isolated and without teammates, to shoulder the chase on two Alpine stages. And what did he do? He ate the soap and asked for seconds, chasing all the way up the Galibier. Twice. And following the attacks of both Schlecks up the Alpe d'Huez.

I don't care what he's like off the bike. He's just an athlete, an entertainer, not a role model or anything. He's a damn fine athlete.

Ever since he won the World Championships in 2009, he's been a whole new type of rider - gritty, tough, and motivated. BMC seems to have no qualms laying it down for him (see his victory in Tirreno-Adriatico, courtesy of some difficult work by his team), and neither did John Van Summeren, the only teammate he *had* while riding Grand Tours for Silence-Lotto.
posted by entropone at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Awfurby:
"Evans is still very much the loner who misses the tranquillity of his former life. Born in Katherine in the Northern Territory, he was later raised in the Aboriginal community of Barunga where his parents - Helen and Paul - moved for ''adventure'' before travelling to Upper Corindi in northern New South Wales to live when he was four. His parents divorced when he was six."

Al right. Sociopathy explained. Still, a bastard in my book.
posted by Bas at 4:24 PM on July 23, 2011


You obviously don't understand cycling; it's a (rare) hybrid of team and individual achievement. Which is one of the reasons its so interesting at times: fertile ground for game theorists with an empirical streak.

Seems comparable to motorsport, then, where the driver gets to be the face who wins and loses, and is critical to that, but can achieve nothing without engineers, pit crews, race strategists, and so on.
posted by rodgerd at 4:24 PM on July 23, 2011


As a tactic and as a ride, I'm more impressed by a lone Evans shouldering the responsibility to chase Schleck up the Galibier, alone, when Europcar, Liquigas, and Euskaltel all refused ... than I am with a long-distance attack that ultimately is all but nullified by the end.
posted by entropone at 4:27 PM on July 23, 2011


Can someone tell me what is wrong with the rider's leg in the twelfth photo of the "crashes, injuries, and withdrawals" link in the post?

I didn't need to look at the picture to know what you're talking about. That's George Hincapie and he has varicose veins.
posted by entropone at 4:28 PM on July 23, 2011


When I say wheel sucking I am referring to his reputation amongst riders of not taking his fair share of pulls.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:29 PM on July 23, 2011


Seems comparable to motorsport, then, where the driver gets to be the face who wins and loses, and is critical to that, but can achieve nothing without engineers, pit crews, race strategists, and so on.

Exactly, only now throw in a sub-category competition for fastest pit stops, oh, and your pit crew might get run over by opposing cars, and you can't replace them.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:30 PM on July 23, 2011


"Seems comparable to motorsport, then, where the driver gets to be the face who wins and loses, and is critical to that, but can achieve nothing without engineers, pit crews, race strategists, and so on."

Well yes, except that the 'helpers' in motorsport are not competitors at the same time - which was my point. Viz. the battle between Armstrong and his 'helper' Contador.

By the way, cyclists have entire crews of engineers, doctors and strategists behind them as well. Beside the point.
posted by Bas at 4:32 PM on July 23, 2011


You obviously don't understand cycling
Oh, obviously. Because I said that a sport in which there are teams is a team sport.
posted by Flunkie at 4:37 PM on July 23, 2011


It's a team sport. It's an individual sport. It's a team sport in which individuals excel.

Alexander Vinourov riding for T-Mobile? Individual sport.

Lance Armstrong's seven victories? Definitely team.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:39 PM on July 23, 2011


"Oh, obviously. Because I said that a sport in which there are teams is a team sport."

Correction: you don't understand the (rather diffuse, sometimes complex) nature of teams and the place of individuals within them
posted by Bas at 4:40 PM on July 23, 2011


Jesus, Bas. Is it so difficult for you to believe that I am fine with there being individuals within complex and diffuse teams, but still think that the team should get the credit? Because that's what I've been saying, and I have been trying to be clear.
posted by Flunkie at 4:43 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


All the riders were amazing, the GC contenders especially so. This year was full of rides with heart and drama.

Perhaps Bas is a pro rider and really does know Evans personally, but I think it's mainly net rumors from wannabees. I'm shocked, shocked to find cynical expert complainers on MeFi.

You have to respect the effort and willpower involved to compete in Le Tour. Most amateur enthusiasts would be wiped from one stage alone. Most pros couldn't even complete the Tour. It's only the best in the world that can complete the Tour, let alone fight for one of the jerseys.

If you are going slag Evans for having smart tactics, then start slagging Armstrong, Indurain, Lemond, Hinault, and Merckx. They won with smart tactics AND huge efforts, just like Cadel.

Perhaps we could just enjoy the sport and admire the efforts and dedication of all the riders rather than thread crapping.

To the interesting question of team vs. individual sports, I think you will find upon looking closely at several endurance type sports, the roles of team come into play, with star individuals still as winner. Long distance running often uses pacers to help top runners. Would you consider marathon running a team sport?

In the tour, there is a competition for the best team, this year it will be won by Garmin Cervelo, not BMC.
posted by Argyle at 4:43 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has this year's inevitable winner failed his drug test yet? Or does that happen after the ceremonies? I forget the protocol.
posted by xmutex at 4:48 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Jesus, Bas. Is it so difficult for you to believe that I am fine with there being individuals within complex and diffuse teams, but still think that the team should get the credit? Because that's what I've been saying, and I have been trying to be clear."

Dear Jesus and Flunkie too, what I've been trying to get through to you is that yes, there's a good team behind every great TdF winner, and yes, this team is indispensable to his victory, but still, it's HIS victory, not the team's. That's why teams actually compete for winning frontmen. It's also why the greatest winners exhibit extremely rare climbing, time trial and yes, people's skills - the latter of which Cadel sorely lacks.
posted by Bas at 4:51 PM on July 23, 2011


Has this year's inevitable winner failed his drug test yet? Or does that happen after the ceremonies? I forget the protocol.

This cynicism is cute and all, but there's a bunch of (admittedly speculative) evidence that this year's Tour was cleaner than preceeding ones. One is the performances of Thomas Voeckler and Phillipe Gilbert (among others) both of whom are pretty outspoken about riding clean. Another is data about the ascent speed of some of the climbs, which, this year, were climbed roughly 10% slower than in prior years (ie, the Armstrong era).

***

Bas and Flunkie, your bickering is tiring. You're doing the whole XKCD "somebody is being WRONG on the internet!" thing.
posted by entropone at 4:54 PM on July 23, 2011


OK, I'm going to try one last time, and then I'll shut up.

I would be completely unbothered by the Tour de France being exactly the way it is today, with exactly the same rules and the exact same behaviors of both teams and individuals, if I would just hear people say "Team Such-and-Such won" more often.

I would even be completely unbothered by it if I would just hear people say "Team Such-and-Such, which is led by So-and-So, won" more often.

Now, feel free to go back to your "you obviously don't understand" stuff. Goodbye.
posted by Flunkie at 4:56 PM on July 23, 2011


When I say wheel sucking I am referring to his reputation amongst riders of not taking his fair share of pulls.

He might have had that reputation before but I think he shed it pretty definitively Thursday and Friday in the Alps don't you?

He clawed those gaps back himself, towed huge groups of guys doing it, and his efforts put him in a position to win the Tour de France. What is there to criticize about that?

It's been a terrific Tour from the first week and the last two days in the Alps were legendary.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 5:11 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Flunkie, I think what you are missing is that cycling fans like the ambiguity. Cyclists in the break will literally negotiate money in exchange for not contesting the win. Team mates stab each other in the back for victories. All the ambiguity of drug use of course. And so so much more..

Bas: Anyway, too bad Cadel won. He's a coward on the bike and an especially despicable person off it.

This Cadel wheel-sucker shit is two years out of date. The guy has been a force since he won the world championship. Before then, sure, whatever. Since then he has been a disciple of Vino. I'm not a fan myself. I've heard some pretty crappy stuff about what he's like too, but you've got to respect his riding.

And, he really really likes those stuffed lions! I don't have any refs, but I can remember him really snatching one away from somebody a couple of years ago, and today you could see he was clinging tightly :)
posted by Chuckles at 5:15 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welcome to Hoogerland
posted by Chuckles at 5:25 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would be completely unbothered by the Tour de France being exactly the way it is today, with exactly the same rules and the exact same behaviors of both teams and individuals, if I would just hear people say "Team Such-and-Such won" more often.

I would even be completely unbothered by it if I would just hear people say "Team Such-and-Such, which is led by So-and-So, won" more often.


Have you raced a bike? You could have a Dream Team of Pro Bike Racing at your side, and that alone is not enough to sherpa you into a yellow jersey. Evans no doubt had the support of his team, but he also rode like a champion; many times he alone pulled the field to bring down a time gap and attacked at crucial moments. He fought back very hard yesterday after his mechanical and bike change. His riding has been the exact opposite of cowardly. But make no mistake, his victory is a big plus for BMC (and may I just add here that those are kits ugly!) and goes a long way toward helping pro American teams.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:38 PM on July 23, 2011


Er, um, I meant "ugly kits." Carry on.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:44 PM on July 23, 2011


You could have a Dream Team of Pro Bike Racing at your side, and that alone is not enough to sherpa you into a yellow jersey.

To wit, Leopard-Trek, which had way more experience than any other team in this year's Tour de France, and yet couldn't get Frandy higher than 2 and 3 in the GC.
posted by entropone at 5:48 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Flunkie: There is an award for fastest team. Wikipedia has a stage-by-stage breakdown of each stage's leaders, including the team category.
posted by ardgedee at 6:02 PM on July 23, 2011


I've been following Cadel since his mountain biking days, so I'll fully admit to my bias, but I've always thought the wheel-sucking criticisms were a bit unfair. Did he follow wheels in the mountains earlier in his carreer? Sure, but I always thought that was because he was at his limit. He would generally end up getting dropped by the pure climbers on the really big mountains.

More recently he has been riding much more agressively, and his Tour he has spent plenty of time in the front, but he still needs to be smart. The fact is he doesn't have the real acceleration in his climbing that a guy like Schleck, or Contador at his best has, he's much better when he treats the climb like a time trial and rides up at his own pace. However he put on a bunch of attacks in the mountains, including at the bottom of l'Alpe d'Huez, it's no one remembers because they were easily covered by the pure climbers.

No one has criticized the Schlecks for wheel sucking their way around the team time trial, not even taking a turn that I saw, while Evans drove his team from the front. And when he had to go in the mountains over the last few days, he did, with little or no help from other riders who were losing time too. Europcar wouldn't even help save the yellow jersey up Chevalier, instead letting Evans work while they had two riders there.

For mine the Schlecks lost this tour in the Pyrenees, Andy needed to take time there, but it would have meant dropping Frank, and obviously Leopard wanted two guys in contention for what it allowed them tactically. Then again Andy wouldn't have been allowed to go away over d'Izoard if he was already up on time.
posted by markr at 6:10 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


One other thing, I think fans need to get used the fact that the days of lots of explosive attacks in the mountains are gone. I won't say that the sport is clean, but it is definitely cleaner, and riders don't have the ability to just explode away from everyone like they did in the Armstrong days and take 5 minutes. Guys are getting a gap but then tend to hang out there with the initial 30 seconds or whatever they got.

Andy's ride from 60k out to take time was fantastic, but Evans got up the final climb two minutes faster than Andy after the work he'd need to do to stay away. On l'Alpe d'Huez no one chased Contador because they knew he was too far back.
posted by markr at 6:27 PM on July 23, 2011


Eddy Merckx on Contador, Schleck, Evans, and Voeckler. Evans obviously has respect in high places and, as has been said, he dragged a lot group of riders up Galibier and then attacked on d'Huez to keep the Schleck's lead down and give himself a chance today. That's good riding, independently and as a team member. And if a guy doesn't like to talk to the press and would rather spend time alone with his wife and his dog is that so bad. The guts to be honest in front of the press should be lauded. I'm not interested in a good interview, I'm interested in a good performance. Finally, from Canada: Ride on Ryder!
posted by kneecapped at 6:27 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Terrific tour, as much for the subplots as for the GC battle. Heroics from Gilbert, Hoogerland, Boasson Hagen, Hushovd, Voekler, Rolland; mostly clean sprints with a variety of winners; long breaks and epic chases all made for interesting sport over the course of three weeks. Evans might not be the most likable guy but he's no wheel-suck since he won the rainbow jersey, and he's a deserving champ this year.
I'll add that regardless of the way that the sport has evolved, there's more than a hundred years of tradition in naming the individual who leads the GC as the winner of the tour, and that's not likely to change. BMC didn't rip around grenoble after all those mountain miles, Cadel did, and Leopard Trek didn't fail to get enough time to make a difference in the end, Andy did.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:47 PM on July 23, 2011


Europcar wouldn't even help save the yellow jersey up Chevalier, instead letting Evans work while they had two riders there.

I thought this criticism was a little misplaced, since they were in a no-win situation. If they sit back, Schleck takes the lead. If they help, they're helping to tow Evans (who was clearly an equal threat) up the mountain. Their best strategy was to do exactly what they did: let Evans do all the work, then try to attack past him and make up time on Schleck near the end. It would have worked, too, if Voeckler were a slightly stronger rider.

Personally I don't much care for Evans, I think got the least support from his team of the serious contenders, and that's worth noting.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 6:49 PM on July 23, 2011


Oh yeah....on more thing...front page spoilers suck.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:14 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


This one was exciting to the end. Yay.
posted by caddis at 7:28 PM on July 23, 2011


I thought this criticism was a little misplaced, since they were in a no-win situation.

I think that's fair, and probably more importantly I doubt Voeckler would have stayed in the group if he had allowed Rolland to work with Evans, so I'm not really too critical of that. The only thing against that is by that point Voeckler had held yellow through some big stages and for a long time, at some point you stop being the plucky breakaway rider who is lucky to be in yellow and you start being a contender and you and your team need to take some responsibility.

As far back as the Pyrenees Europcar was letting BMC do all the work on the front, which was fair enough back then when no one thought Voeckler would ride as well as he did, but by the last few stages it was time to at least try to defend a podium spot if not the jersey.
posted by markr at 7:44 PM on July 23, 2011


Colour me sceptical that anyone who can call Cadel a "wheel sucker" and/or "gutless" even watched the last 3 or 4 days of this year's tour. He *sucked* half a dozen or more riders up the slopes for large chunks of the last two days in the Alps.

[[Most impressive aspect of Evans' win? The incredible pace at which he finished the final time trial after the monumental efforts clawing back Andy Schleck in the Alps: finishing a full minute ahead of all but one rider in the field was simply astonishing.]]
posted by pjm at 8:51 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


A terrific tour. By far the best I've seen.
posted by joannemullen at 8:59 PM on July 23, 2011


This was the first time I have ever watched hours and hours of the tour live and I have to say I got totally hooked. I will now say this, I don't think highlights packages can convey the essence of the event. If you only watch the coverage on news or in a wrap on a sports show I don't think you will get IT.

The race isn't won by a slick play that can be summarized in short clips. It is won in a war of attrition on body and mind over thousands of kilometers. These guys are strong but they are human and how they manage their own reserves while taking chunks out of the other man is played out minute to minute and you can witness it. The cost of effort involved in attacking and defending waxes and wanes and as far as strategy and teamwork are elements of intention, they are at the mercy of events and conditions that unfold. I think what I liked is seeing the race emerge and a champion emerge.

Cadel Evans is an absolutely worthy winner and it should go without saying that anyone who finishes the race by surviving the cutoff has achieved something amazing. Anyone who finishes with stitches, broken bones and gravel rash - wow.
posted by vicx at 9:54 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I went into this rooting for the Schleck brothers (and against Contador) but from early on I noticed that Evans and the rest of BMC were riding from the beginning like they were preparing and protecting a race leader. They worked hard, pulling at the front, and Evans was always visible. Andy and Fränk were safely near the front, but I thought they rode conservatively. Not an unwise move, with so much that could happen (and especially after Fränk's injury last year). But for a week it was always BMC's Hincapie I'd spot up there; it wasn't until the mountains that I started to really notice Jens Voigt and Stuart O'Grady leading the way.

Anyway, I think Evans rode like a champion. He fought hard over and over again, keeping up with the Schlecks, Contador, Sanchez, and the rest, chasing after Voeckler and others, and staying within a minute of the lead after crazy rides up mountain after mountain. In a release on Leopard Trek's site, Andy Schleck was quoted thusly:
"Cadel did the time trial of his life, and he deserves to win the Tour. We know we did everything we could do in the mountains and today. Both Fränk and I probably did the best time trials we have ever done, but it wasn’t good enough. We don’t have any regrets in this perspective."
I had a lot of fun watching this year with my son. The crashes and injuries were awful. I even felt for Vinokourov, a man I did not want to see succeed, but hated seeing in such pain, borne out of the woods by his teammates. I had to turn off the footage of poor Chris Horner, unsure whether he'd finished the stage (I really hope he's ok). But Thor Hushovd amazed us (a mountain stage, Thor?); Thomas Voeckler won our hearts; Pierre Rolland, always there for Voeckler, blew us away when left alone in front; Cavendish and his team played their game perfectly over and over again; and Hoogerland and Flecha's courage was matched only by Voeckler's.

I don't mind seeing Evans up there in the slightest. I was hoping for Andy or Fränk but Evans god-damned earned it this year, and it's the Schlecks who'll be standing beside him (with Voeckler just off the podium ahead of Contador). Perhaps next year the order will be different.

One question: have any of you seen a followup identifying the driver and passenger in the TV car that flattened Flecha and sent Hoogerland into the fence? All I've seen is speculation, and vague reports that no direct personal apology was delivered.
posted by Songdog at 9:54 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been away from the media (camping/traveling) so I've had to rely on occasional hotel wifi and iPad apps to follow the tour. I was also simultaneously watching the good tour documentary "Hell on Wheels" which has a lot of Vino time, making his crash in this tour all the more sad. Nice to see the doping rolled back somewhat. It will be nice to have a clean winner for a change.
posted by mecran01 at 11:13 PM on July 23, 2011


Nice to see the doping rolled back somewhat.

Yes, the last couple of years of reduced doping has been refreshing.

It will be nice to have a clean winner for a change.

Assuming I understand what you mean by it, there is no "clean" in professional sport.
posted by Chuckles at 12:32 AM on July 24, 2011


Evans love's lions.
posted by Chuckles at 1:14 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I must come here to say that, even if I am a Spaniard, I quite dislike Contador, not just because the "tainted steak" story was the most outrageous BS I've heard in a long time, but also because he generally sounds like an arrogant bastard.
This said, his ride up the Alpe d'Huez was epic, and I'm genuinely sorry that he couldn't at least win that stage. He deserved it.
posted by Skeptic at 1:56 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chuckles is a wheel-sucking, stupid high-pitched laugh, claustrophobic, grumpy nerdy freak.
I've totally grown to love him this year.

And he deserves this win purely for riding the Tour de France with a broken collarbone even before his his epic terminator/dawn of the dead style pursuit of Andy up the mountains.

It's been a very weird year, even the steak-loving Contador gained some respect. I wonder if so many GC contenders crashing out early took the pressure off a bit.
posted by fullerine at 2:27 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


On l'Alpe d'Huez no one chased Contador because they knew he was too far back.

This made me think: when did the team radios start? I wonder if that has as much of an effect on the likelihood of seeing riders carve out massive leads as the drugs?

It has been a great tour to keep half an eye on this year. I would have liked Andy Schleck to win it but you can't argue with Evans' performance in the TT. Reading all the comments above about Evans - the chippy, boring, selfish Evans vs the gutsy, driven, ultra-competitive Evans - is making me think about why I watch sport and what I expect from athletes and I think I now understand a little about why I've been happier since I switched my allegiance from Manchester United to Charlton Athletic.

Watching the tour also makes me think that people who call for boxing to be banned because it's inhumane to the participants have just never bothered to understand professional cycling properly, or they'd be making some changes to their campaigns.
posted by calico at 2:30 AM on July 24, 2011


This was a fabulous tour. Just watching Voeckler ride his heart out was practically enough.

I was very impressed by Evans. His riding over the two big Alp days was really impressive. It wasn't flashy, but it was good. Good enough to win him the tour. It was Schelck's job to take too much time off him for Evans to win during the TT, and he was unable to do it. Evans made it impossible, and mostly without the support of his team.

For mine the Schlecks lost this tour in the Pyrenees

The Schleck's weren't on form this year. Andy attacked a couple of times in the Pyrenees, and was unable to open up time. His attack on Thursday was stupendous, but he was unable to complete like he need to do, even with two riders in the tactical break. Frank had an "easy" ride on Thursday, but was unable to help Andy on Alpe d'Huez when he needed it, so Evans pulled himself back in. The Schleck's rode very well, but not well enough, which is why Evans won. (I wanted Andy.)
posted by OmieWise at 4:28 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Doping Free TdF? (NYT)
posted by OmieWise at 6:34 AM on July 24, 2011


I would like to believe that OmieWise, and perhaps that is partly what made this an enjoyable tour for me.
posted by caddis at 7:23 AM on July 24, 2011


Andy attacked a couple of times in the Pyrenees, and was unable to open up time.

Of course it is impossible to know, but my feeling was that Andy had okay form, certainly enough to attack harder than he did, but the Frank didn't, and for tactical reasons Leopard wanted both to be in contention for longer. If Andy had gone hard and Frank had lost 3 or 4 minutes, the other riders wouldn't have needed to watch both in the Alpes.
posted by markr at 8:14 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's also worth adding Jeremy Roy to the roll of honor, as the guy who worked the hardest for essentially no tangible results.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 8:33 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a thing in cycling about honesty. For example: On the stage to Alpe d'Huez, Samuel Sanchez asked Pierre Rolland if Rolland could help the two of them bridge up to Contador. Rolland shook his head, no. He was on the limit. However, when they caught Contador, Rolland was able to attack, distance the two others, and win. Smart tactics, sure, but not the kind of move that will gain you the trust of your competitors.

Rolland was not trying to deceive Sanchez. Sanchez needed to gain time on the chasing riders to improve his position in the standings. Rolland had no incentive to help him reach Contador and his shook his to show that, not to say that he was gassed. Roland knew that Sanchez and Contador were overall stronger riders, and that he (Rolland would have a better chance of winning if the others expended themselves by leading out.
This happens all the time in pro cycling.
posted by TDIpod at 8:38 AM on July 24, 2011


A good article OmieWise, I think anyone who has watched the tour over the last 10 years or so has seen the change in the way the big mountain stages have been raced.

And on preview, Roy had no tangible results, but the 20,000 Euros for most combatitive rider will buy a few beers tonight to ease his pain.
posted by markr at 9:12 AM on July 24, 2011


Put the Evans-is-a-wheelsucker label in its historical context, please.

He 'earned' the label 5-6 years ago, getting towed then dropped by riders like Armstrong, Vinokurov, Ullrich, Rassmussen, Mancebo, Landis. Impressive riders with an equally impressive list of doping offences and allegations, producing performances that were flat-out unbelievable in some cases.

This year there haven't been any of the freak mountain performances of the last 20 years. The Alpe d'Huez climb was significantly slower than Pantani's record or Armstrong's sprints. Several signs point to less doping in the Tour this year (not clean, just cleaner). Over the last couple of years Evans now has the legs to attack in big races, his grinding style can stay with the climbers in the high mountains, the other elite riders aren't dancing away when the slopes hit 10%. Evans also has a reputation as one of the cleaner riders. Evans winning is one of the best things I've seen in pro cycling for years.
posted by N-stoff at 9:54 AM on July 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you win the Tour, coming from behind in the final time trial, I don't think anyone can fairly describe you as a coward on the bike.

Agreed. Fignon vs LeMond, 1989.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:19 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are going slag Evans for having smart tactics, then start slagging Armstrong, Indurain, Lemond, Hinault, and Merckx. They won with smart tactics AND huge efforts, just like Cadel.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. No putting Cadel in the same league as the Badger or Armstrong, please. He may have won the tour today, and congratulations all around, but this wasn't the ride of a champion. He was the last man standing after everyone else -- the Schlecks, Contador, Voeckler -- lost.
posted by docgonzo at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2011


docgonzo, Evans is no Hinault but that was a tactically perfect race. He did an excellent job of taking time in the stages that suited him - the early Classics-style finishes, the descent on Stage 16, the ITT. He fought brilliantly to minimize losses in the Alps, dragging the chase along with him with minimal help. He timed his efforts perfectly to never overcook his legs and kept enough in reserve to dominate when it mattered. That was not a win by default, it was a win by design.
posted by N-stoff at 10:55 AM on July 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of course it is impossible to know, but my feeling was that Andy had okay form, certainly enough to attack harder than he did, but the Frank didn't, and for tactical reasons Leopard wanted both to be in contention for longer. If Andy had gone hard and Frank had lost 3 or 4 minutes, the other riders wouldn't have needed to watch both in the Alpes.

That may well be, but Andy still didn't have the form he needed or he would have put Evans in the ground on Thursday and Friday. I think the Leopard Trek tactics were very good, I just don' think either of the Schlecks had the extra something that would allow Andy to win this year. I think it's too bad.
posted by OmieWise at 11:42 AM on July 24, 2011


Whoa, whoa, whoa. No putting Cadel in the same league as the Badger or Armstrong, please.
Pot, kettle's on the phone.
posted by fullerine at 12:01 PM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Flunkie, you really don't seem to grok cycling, which is ok, but you should probably refrain from deploying your righteous tone in your ignorance.
To quote to classic cycling documentary Stars and Watercarriers:

"To be a professional rider is to find a solution to the conflict between ambition and loyalty."
posted by OmieWise at 7:03 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cadel Evans certainly doesn't have the charm of an Andy Schleck, but I wonder whether the 'new' Cadel appears to be happier because, win or lose, he no longer feels he's competing with cheats.

I don't know that he is not a drug cheat. And I don't know that the peleton as a whole is cleaner than it was just a few years ago. But certainly lots of followers of cycling accept these two propositions. And if we do accept them then it might shed some light on a few of the criticisms levelled at Cadel.

Firstly, as N-stoff and others have pointed out, it certainly helps explain his earlier reputation as a 'wheel sucker'. (As pjm pointed out, you surely can't have actually watched the Alps if you're levelling that accusation at Evans today.)

And secondly it might help give some further insight into his at times cranky personality. He's clearly not somebody who enjoys being in the limelight (and for those Americans on the blue you might be surprised at how differently many sporting greats outside of the United States conduct themselves). But if he has always been 'clean', and had good reason to strongly suspect most of his main competitors were not, then I imagine that would really get you down. You could keep that frustration concealed most of the time, but when a microphone is shoved in your face right after six hours of gruelling riding in the third week when you suspect the guy that rode away from you on the climb has just 'stolen' your Tour…
posted by puffmoike at 5:54 AM on July 25, 2011


This was arguably the most interesting tour since 2003 when the conclusion was up for grabs right down to the final time trial. If Contador had not lost two minutes in the first week due to crashes it may well have been a 4 person toss up on the final time trial. *That* would have been amazing.
posted by dgran at 7:53 AM on July 25, 2011


95 comments and no love for the first British green jersey or the first person to ever record a hat trick of back to back victories on the final stage? For shame....

Mark Cavendish, fastest man on two wheels. Fact
posted by fatfrank at 8:39 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


fatfrank, in the aim on prolonging the team/individual aspect I'll see your Mark Cavendish and raise you a Renshaw, who has to be one of the better lead out riders. Will be interesting to see if Cavendish can take the record for most stage wins by a sprinter next year.

Re: Aspersions on Evans character as an elite racer which seem to be somewhat backwards looking. In addition to the point N-stoff raised above concerning his earlier opponents alleged and in some cases proven chemical advantages, keep in mind that this is also the first time he has had a team dedicated to taking him to Paris in yellow, something he had to work without in previous years. Knowing he was isolated as such, is it possible that his tactics were intelligent, rather than cowardly, an attempt to counteract the advantages of his competitors having team support?

And sure, personality wise he is a bit of a weird, nerdy, personal guy (which I kind of like to be honest), who in the past has been somewhat prickly and brittle when things weren't going his way, but for a rider with no 'people' skills, that sure was a lot of team mates embracing him on the finish line of the Champs Elysees!

Finally, also in the category of firsts/records, Evans is also the oldest rider to win since the war.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:45 PM on July 25, 2011


I wanted Andy, too, but Cadel rode the Time Trial like a champion and deserved to win. I wish the Schlecks had been more aggressive earlier on. Andy had an incredible couple later stages in the mountains, but it wasn't enough.

I gained respect for Voeckler, whose determination won me over. He held that yellow jersey far longer than I imagined he could.

Cavendish is amazing. He has this fantastic train leading him out, and I'm glad he gives them credit (in the past, sprinter Robby McEwan's arrogance when he won a stage was off-putting), but the way he'd come up out of nowhere and fly past the other sprinters was just unbelievable.

That said, I was thrilled when humble, soft-spoken Andre Greipel took a stage from Cavendish, because he couldn't even enter the Tour when he was on Cavendish's team. It took finding another Team for him to showcase his sprinting skills the way he deserved.

Not a fan of Contador, who I feel is not the best sportsman, but in the end he rode superbly.

Thor Hushovd had a great race, too. I was saddened by his Time Trial run, which didn't go well, no surprise after Norway's tragic happenings the day before.

Yay, America: Well done to "I'm so happy!" Tommy Danielson, the highest placed American in the Tour (ninth place, not too shoddy). And BMC, Cadel's team, is American, too, as is Garmin-Cervelo, who won the Team category (I enjoyed the cardboard cutout of Dave Zabriskie that "stood up" with Team Garmin-Cervelo after he was injured and had to withdraw from the race). Tyler Farrar even won on the fourth of July.
posted by misha at 12:53 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I really hope that George Hincapie breaks the record next Tour, which will be his 17th year riding in the Tour de France.
posted by misha at 12:56 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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