Congratulations to Cadel Evans. After all the effort he has put into the Tours of the past few years, this victory has got to be oh, so sweet. And it is well deserved.
Cadel's dominating performance in the time trial of stage 20, created a great enough margin over his second place rival, Andy Schleck, that the final stage 21 run into Paris would be muted in terms of the overall standings. A traditional finale was assured. But I was left wondering, as I think many people were; what if the margin between 1st and 2nd were a mere handful of seconds. Would tradition have been cast to the wind? Would the teams have battled for the Yellow Jersey all the way into Paris? In my mind, the 1989 Tour, remains the most exciting Tour of my lifetime. That year the claim to Yellow flipped back and forth throughout the three weeks, and was only settled on the final day. It was exciting all the way through. Two years earlier, 1987, there was a similar excitement throughout the Tour, as Stephen Roche and Pedro Delgado raced desperately hard. The 2011 Tour de France slots right up there in the top three.
But back to the 2011 Tour. What will be some of the lasting images for me:
1. The Garmin-Cervelo team bowing before mighty Thor at the team presentation. Over the top, odd. But, with three stage victories, and what was it, eight days in Yellow, I forgive them.
2. All those early crashes just seemed more dramatic this year.
3. Tyler Farrar, coming back after the loss of his friend Wouter Weylandt, winning a stage, plus victory in the team time trial.
4. Thomas Voeckler. This may go without saying. You have been reading the daily updates to the rider profile of him, have you not?
5. The emergence of Pierre Rolland. I believe he gives great hope to the future of French cycling. He is not the only quality rider from that country, but he sure stood out (excluding Tommy V., of course).
6. Cadel Evans, you proved me wrong. Considering the wealth of talent arrayed against you at the start I really did not think you could do it. But, riding with your trademark grit and determination, you did it. The oldest first time winner of the Tour ever. Good on ya, mate.
7. Andy and Frank Schleck. First time two brothers have shared spots on the podium. But, once again, not the top spot. So close, yet so far. To win Yellow after a brilliant ride in the mountains, and then lose it the next day in a time trial (shades of 1989) might devastate a lesser man. I suspect they will be back for more.
8. Mark Cavendish. We have always known of his sprinting prowess, but he proved himself again with another five stage wins, and capped them all by winning the Green Jersey as well.