2012 Tour de France Wrap-up

29 Jul

    alljerseys win letour cropWaiting to write the final post on the 2012 Tour de France was wise. A few days to reflect and to view the Tour as a whole and in parts – individual stages – has improved the view.

    The Tour de France is more than just the fight for the yellow jersey. Every day there are multiple races occurring. Besides the race for overall GC, there is the race to win the stage, the race for sprint points for the green jersey, the race for points on climbs for the polka-dot jersey, racing for the best young rider’s white jersey, and the team classification – all occurring every day in every stage for three weeks.

    So, when comments are made that the 2012 Tour was boring – what most of us are complaining about is the race for yellow and the supremacy of Bradley Wiggins and team Sky.

    The race for yellow was completely dominated by Wiggins and his teammates. Once Wiggins captured the yellow jersey in the 7th stage it was never relinquished. Capturing it in the first week of the Tour set the tone for weeks two and three – controlled racing by Sky. No wasted effort, no reactive racing, just a methodical execution of their plan to win the Tour.

    Wearing the yellow jersey with the expectation of keeping it isn’t just about being the strongest, it also requires riding defensively, preserving energy, taking calculated chances with the biggest chance of payoff, and not taking any unnecessary risks – Wiggins and Sky did that better than anyone else.

    The biggest difference between Wiggins, Evans and even Vincenzo Nibali although to a lesser extent than Evans – was the difference between their teams. BMC brought a team designed for the spring classics more than a grand tour and it hurt him.

    Did it cost Evans the Tour – no, but it might have cost him a place on the podium. Evans is a guy that needs his team around him, as much for moral support as anything else. Although Tejay Van Garderen was there and supported him, he was also concerned with keeping his white jersey and high overall GC place.

    As far as Nibali, he seemed happy to have a spot on the podium. For all the talking and dissing of Wiggins he did in the first week, he really didn’t do much to show he was capable of winning the Tour.

    It might not have been the most exciting Tour in terms of surprises and changes in the general classification but it was a Tour filled with many remarkable moments.

    The Highs:

    • For starters, the yellow jersey contest wasn’t the only lopsided jersey competition – so was the green jersey thanks to Peter Sagan. Sagan was a highlight of the Tour winning the green jersey by the widest margin in almost 30 years. He is the real deal, immensely talented, and fun to watch, especially with the victory salutes. He isn’t “just” a sprinter, the guy can climb – and he’s only 22. Sagan has what looks to be a brilliant future ahead of him, imagine him in the spring classic races.

    • The daily breakaways – for a change we had breakaways succeed. Some of the best moments of the Tour came from breakaways – Europcar’s wins, David Millar for Garmin winning and salvaging their Tour, LL Sanchez doing the same for Rabobank. The action in the breaks made for much of the excitement in this year’s Tour. Chris Anker Sorensen winner of the most combative rider was in numerous breakaways as was Fredrik Kessiakoff who battled Voeckler for the climber’s jersey.

    • The little team that could – Europcar. In the current climate of the super-teams like RadioShack-Nissan, Sky, and others it’s nice to see a continental caliber team do so much with seemingly so little. Big heart = big payoff for the team and Tour fans.

    • The old guys, George Hincapie, Jens Voigt, Chris Horner all had great Tours. Jens Voigt was an animal, getting in numerous breaks throughout the Tour and setting the pace at the front for the first week of the race while his teammate Fabian Cancellara had the yellow jersey. Chris Horner finished a very respectable 13th overall in the Tour and George Hincapie was just Big George. He protected his team leader Cadel Evans in the flats and shepherded him to the finish when the Tour was unofficially over for Evans. Sky provided Hincapie with a great show of respect as they had him ride at the front as the peloton rode onto the Champs.

    • The young guys – Van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot, Pierre Rolland, Sagan, all provide us with much hope for the future of cycling and Tours to come.

    • The true grit and extraordinary toughness shown by many riders in this Tour: Tom Danielson rode for days with a separated shoulder, only dropping out of the Tour when he got a 2nd shoulder separation in the worst crash of this Tour on Stage 6; Giro winner and Tour GC contender Ryder Hesjedal finished stage 6 after injuring his hip and leg then having to be helped off his bike – he had to abandon; Johan van Summeren crashed in stage 6 and finished not only the stage but the Tour – as did Tyler Farrar who crashed 4 times yet fought through it and finished the Tour.

    The Lows:

    • The parcours – too many time-trials not enough high mountains.

    • Lack of attacks within GC – but given the circumstances understandable – but still disappointing.

    • The carnage of the first week, so many crashes with serious results to the GC.

    • Frank Shleck’s positive test for a banned substance but also his lackluster performance this year.

    • Evans difficulties, not only in the Tour but the year as a whole. He just never had the form he had last year, but he continued to battle hard throughout and stay positive – which he has had trouble doing in the past. Evans handled himself like a champ and I believe we will see him compete again.

    • Denis Menchov, great form but still the disappearing assassin of recent Tours, Philippe Gilbert.

    • Horner horning in on Big George’s moment on the Champs. Horner has been asked why he did it, but has yet to answer. BMC didn’t ask him too, I think he just did it to get in the spotlight. Poor judgment by Horner.

    What we witnessed in the 2012 Tour de France was a systematic undoing of all other GC hopefuls by Wiggins and Sky. It may not have had the fireworks of previous Tours, but the way Wiggins and Sky pulled it off was masterful and impressive.

    In years past, we had become used to seeing beyond-human feats – tireless climbing and relentless attacking – this Tour didn’t offer that. What generated many of those memorable performances of the past whether we want to admit it or not were banned substances – and although I’m not naïve enough to believe this was a clean Tour, I do believe it was a cleaner Tour. Future Tours may look similar to this year’s Tour only with an improved parcours. 😉

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2 Responses to “2012 Tour de France Wrap-up”

  1. Mark July 29, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    An ecxellent summary of a complex sporting event that stretches out over a three week period. As you say, there are many different things going on everyday and you captured them very well.

    Thanks for this summary post and all the individual posts you do for each stage of the Tour. Keep up the good work… it is much appreciated.

    Mark

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