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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. 😉

2012 Tour de France–Stage 20

22 Jul

Stage 20, the last stage of the 2012 Tour was part processional and part bike race. The last stage always is.

The first 50k or so is for pictures, offers of congratulations, conversation, and to give the guys time to soak up the final moments of this epic bike race. Just finishing the Tour is a remarkable feat, especially this year. Of the 198 riders who started the race this year, only 153 finished, the lowest number in many years. Most of them abandoned due to injuries suffered in the many crashes this Tour.

Today was a day for all the remaining riders to celebrate not just those that won 1 of the 4 jerseys or finished in one of the top 3 places on the podium.

In the Tour de France – to finish is to win.


4 jerseys getty images

The 4 jersey winners: Van Garderen, Wiggins, Sagan & Voeckler.

champagne getty

Champagne is always present on the last stage of ever Tour, hard to tell if Wiggins had any. 

sky team shot getty images

Winner Bradley Wiggins, 2nd place Christopher Froome and Sky teammates.

best eifel letour

The peloton making their way to Paris.

george goodbye ansel

George Hincapie riding in his last, a record-setting 17th Tour de France.

stage 20-gens roadcyclinguk

Jens Voight doing what he does – fighting for a stage win in a breakaway.

stage 20 racing christope ena ap

All the winning jerseys and the world champ, Cavendish.

the sprint stage 20 getty

Cavendish wins, Sagan 2nd, Goss 3rd

The last part of the race is all-out racing. This year the team of the yellow jersey was also racing to win the stage so  they had to stay at the front of the peloton more than is typical for the…. Sky also had to do most of the work initially to chase down the break, but eventually got Liquigas and Saxobank to pull. I never thought the break would make it even when it was getting down to the wire. It rarely happens on the Champs-Elysées and it certainly wasn’t going to happen this year – not with Cavendish going for a record-setting 4th win here.

With a lead-out of Tour winner Bradley Wiggins, then teammate Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Cavendish got the win he seemed destined for. Green jersey wearer Peter Sagan came from the pack to pass Matthew Goss from the winless GreenEdge team who got 3rd.


cav wins

Cavendish is the first to win 4 times on the Champs-Elysées

Everything today worked as planned for Sky just as the whole Tour has.

George Hincapie raced in his 17th and final Tour de France. He will be sorely missed, there aren’t many like him: loyal and devoted to his team and a leader to his younger teammates. Having Hincapie on the road is like having a director sportif on the road. I hope he stays involved with professional cycling. This was not a close Tour – the time gaps were the largest I can remember. More about that later.

Check back later this week when I post my thoughts on this year’s Tour – its winners and losers.

Final General Classification:

1. WIGGINS, Bradley (SKY PROCYCLING) 87:34:42
2. FROOME, Christopher (SKY PROCYCLING) + 3:21
5. VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (BMC RACING) + 11:04
7. EVANS, Cadel (BMC RACING) + 15:51
8. ROLLAND, Pierre (EUROPCAR) + 16:31
9. BRAJKOVIC, Janez (ASTANA) + 16:38
10. PINOT, Thibaut (FDJ-BIG MAT) + 17:17
11. KLÖDEN, Andreas (RADIOSHACK-NISSAN) + 17:54
12. ROCHE, Nicolas (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 19:33
13. HORNER, Christopher (RADIOSHACK-NISSAN) + 19:55
14. SÖRENSEN, Chris Anker (SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK) + 25:27
15. MENCHOV, Denis (KATUSHA) + 27:22
18. COSTA, Rui Alberto (MOVISTAR) + 37:03
19. VORGANOV, Eduard (KATUSHA) + 38:16
20. VALVERDE, Alejandro (MOVISTAR) + 42:26


Stage 20 Results:

1. Mark CAVENDISH, Sky, in 3:08:07

2. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 0
3. Matthew Harley GOSS, Orica-GreenEdge, at 0
4. Juan José HAEDO, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at 0
5. Kris BOECKMANS, Vacansoleil-DCM, at 0
6. Greg HENDERSON, Lotto-Belisol, at 0
7. Borut BOZIC, Astana, at 0
8. André GREIPEL, Lotto-Belisol, at 0
9. Edvald BOASSON HAGEN, Sky, at 0
10. Jimmy ENGOULVENT, Saur-Sojasun, at 0
11. Tyler FARRAR, Garmin-Sharp, at 0

2012 Tour de France-Stage 18

20 Jul

The dominance of Team Sky continued today – this time with a different star – sprinter Mark Cavendish. Never has it been more clear why the world’s fastest man on a bike has the nickname “Manx Missile”. Cavendish looked like a short range missile when he shot from the peloton to take his 2nd stage win in this year’s Tour and 22nd overall. Cavendish rocketed past the two remaining riders in the front, Roche and Sanchez and made them appear like they were standing still – he was going so bloody fast – since the Brits are taking over the Tour I thought I would jump on the bandwagon.

Seriously though, it was amazing how fast Cavendish exploded from the pack and sprinted to the finish.

Stage 18 most believed, would be a stage that would be won by someone in a break and until fairly late it appeared that’s how it would be. The peloton didn’t even catch the remaining riders from the breaks until inside the last kilometer.

The break had 16 riders, many from the 13 teams without a stage win this Tour. The peloton was selective of who they let get away, there were numerous attacks at the gun, but a break wasn’t allowed to form until almost an hour into the stage. Their lead built up to as high as 3 minutes before different teams committed 1 or 2 riders to the front of the main group to chase them down. We saw Euskaltel-Euskadi, Quickstep, Ag2R, Rabobank, Sojasun and Liquigas all commit to chase the break down. As the gap was reduced to around 1 minute when the riders in the break started attacking each other. Vinokourov, Hansen, Paolini, Kloden, Roche and LL Sanchez tried to stay alive to battle for the win, but to no avail.

Nearing the finish with 3 kilometers to go, Sky made their plan known and went to the front to reel in the remaining 6 riders. Around the final kilometer yellow Jersey wearer Wiggins led out Cavendish with Boasson-Hagen between them. Once Wiggins peeled off Boasson-Hagen provided the final lead-out and at the 300 k mark Cavendish took matters into his own hands – make that legs. The charging peloton engulfed the remaining riders except for Roche and Sanchez, Cavendish ever so briefly hovered on their wheel before – BOOM he was gone and they wondered what the hell happened. Sagan and Goss managed to claim 2nd and 3rd, but no one was remotely close to Cavendish.

Truly amazing strength and speed!

cav passing sanchez roche stage 18 ap photo

stage 18 cav the telegraph

Cavendish has been bottled up this Tour as he and the team focused on getting and keeping the yellow jersey and 2nd place. How bottled up Cavendish has been was evident today in the way he rocketed to the finish. I’ve never seen anything like it. You must see the video shot from above to truly appreciate what he did – Manx (he’s from the Isle of Man) Missile (no explanation needed) – indeed.

There was no change in the overall classification, none was expected. It was obvious that all the jersey competitions are over – the green has been since Stage 1 really, yellow since Stage 7 and the polka-dot jersey for King of the Mountain was cemented yesterday. Apparently giving Mr. Voeckler, his team, and sponsors time to complete his ensemble for today’s stage.

In the words of Phil Liggett (tweaked), Thomas looked resplendent in polka-dots.

Voeckler stage 18 Voeckler FB page

Stage results

  • 1. Mark CAVENDISH, Sky, in 4:54:12
  • 2. Matthew Harley GOSS, Orica-GreenEdge, at 0
  • 3. Peter SAGAN, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 0
  • 4. Luis Leon SANCHEZ GIL, Rabobank, at 0
  • 5. Nicolas ROCHE, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0
  • 6. Tyler FARRAR, Garmin-Sharp, at 0
  • 7. Borut BOZIC, Astana, at 0
  • 8. Sébastien HINAULT, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0
  • 9. Daryl IMPEY, Orica-GreenEdge, at 0
  • 10. Samuel DUMOULIN, Cofidis, at 0

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 83:22:18
  • 2. Christopher FROOME, Sky, at 2:05
  • 3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 2:41
  • 4. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 5:53
  • 5. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing, at 8:30
  • 6. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at 9:57
  • 7. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan, at 10:11
  • 8. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar, at 10:17
  • 9. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana, at 11:00
  • 10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat, at 11:46

2012 Tour de France-Stage 16

18 Jul

Today was an exciting day of racing but not because of what transpired between those in the hunt for the final podium  – it was the breakaway that provided the exciting racing we are used to seeing in the Tour de France and which has been strangely absent this year – except for the riders in the breaks with no GC aspirations but determined to get a stage win.

The 2012 Tour de France will be remembered as the year of the breakaway as the star of the race. It certainly was today. You’re not surprised I see it that way, are you.

A huge break of 38 riders formed early on in the race, before the climb of the Col d’Aubisque started. They stayed together more or less until a selection took place on the climb of the big mountain – the Col du Tourmalet (French for big mountain). Full-throttle or nothing, Dan Martin (Garmin) went to the front and most of the 38 fell off the back. Voeckler, Kessiakoff in the polka-dot jersey, Feillu and Sorensen were together for a while, then the 3 – Martin, Voeckler and Feillu and then Martin popped. Jonathon Vaughters told him to ease off earlier on, but Martin is young and hasn’t learned to pace himself yet. I’m sure today’s stage was a great lesson in that.

So then there were two in the lead break – two Frenchman – Voeckler and Feillu – which meant we saw little of the main group with Wiggins, Nibali and Evans while the French TV cameras rejoiced in their luck.

The group of favorites ascended the Tourmalet all together with the pace of Sky not hard enough to really splinter the main field. There was no reason for Sky to do anything other than set tempo at the front, they had what they wanted – the lead.

On the climb of the Col d’Aspin Liquigas for their leader Nibali went to the front to toughen the pace. Evans was dropped but had a teammate (not Van Garedern, he was allowed to stay with the main group of Wiggins and Nibali) to help pace him back and reduce the gap. The Aspin was the “easiest” of the climbs but it was the cumulative effort of the Aubisque and Tourmalet that did him in. On the descent of the Col d’Aspin Evans was able to rejoin the main group with one climb left to tackle.

Voeckler and Feillu worked together to keep their lead all the way to the final climb, the Col de Peyresourde until Voeckler proceeded to attack and drop his compatriot.

You have to love the crafty Voeckler. As he made his way along the Peyresourde and descended toward the finish he pushed fans away and directed fans to get out of his way with hand gestures that looked like a priest performing mass – and of course all the usual facial expressions with maybe a few new ones.


voeckler face st 16

As much as I enjoyed watching Voeckler win Stage 16, his 2nd of this Tour, I hated what happened to Evans. On the climb of the Peyresourde he was dropped again, this time permanently, losing over 4 minutes to Wiggins, Froome and Nibali. Nibali did attack on the final climb as was expected  but was never able to shake Wiggins or Froome. The three finished the stage together 7 minutes after Voeckler’s winning time.

Voeckler’s win today was reminiscent of his Stage 15 win in 2010 and his fight last year to keep the yellow jersey in Stage 18 last year. His style of racing epitomizes what I love about the Tour – and him – Vive la Voeckler!

voeckler finish st 16


Stage results

  • 1. Thomas VOECKLER, Europcar, in 5:35:02
  • 2. Chris Anker SÖRENSEN, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at 1:40
  • 3. Gorka IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 3:22
  • 4. Alexandr VINOKUROV, Astana, at 3:23
  • 5. Brice FEILLU, Saur-Sojasun, at 3:57
  • 6. Jens VOIGT, RadioShack-Nissan, at 4:17
  • 7. Daniel MARTIN, Garmin-Sharp, at 6:08
  • 8. Simone STORTONI, Lampre-ISD, at 6:08
  • 9. Giampaolo CARUSO, Katusha, at 6:08
  • 10. Laurens TEN DAM, Rabobank, at 6:08

General classification

  • 1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky, in 74:15:32
  • 2. Christopher FROOME, Sky, at 2:05
  • 3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 2:23
  • 4. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol, at 5:46
  • 5. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan, at 7:13
  • 6. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing, at 7:55
  • 7. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing, at 8:06
  • 8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana, at 9:09
  • 9. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar, at 10:10
  • 10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat, at 11:43
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