Cadel the Victor & Cavendish Takes Green

Tour de FranceAfter three weeks, 21 stages and more crashed than are almost possible to count – one of the most spectacular being on the Le Mans to Châteauroux stretch which dramatically ended Bradley Wiggins contention – the 2011 Tour de France has rolled to an end.


Clearly time zones meant nothing to Australians as they stayed up through the night to watch their new national hero cycle to victory in Paris. Although the final stage was little more than ceremonial with Cadel Evans having all but been guaranteed Tour de France success by the end of the previous day’s Individual Time Trials it didn’t stop the land down under partying through the small hours in celebration of the first Australian ever to take the Tour crown – the victory also marks only the third occasion that a non-European has taken the prize. The live final broadcast by SBS Television clocked up its highest figures for the year with almost 2.5 million viewers across the country (which represented more than 10 percent of the population.) In addition almost every newspaper front page and sports section featured Evans despite going to press some considerable time before the Champs-Élysées-set win.


The question of how to commemorate the historic occasion is already being hotly debated; statues, monuments and parades have already been mooted, whilst it has been rumoured that Evans himself is in favour of a national day of holiday (unsurprising after the last three weeks of hard work) which some have suggested will be known as “Yellow Day”. Missing either the joke or the national mood, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was quick to rule out the possibility of a national holiday, but still praised Evans for his efforts. Meanwhile the citizens in Barwon Heads outside Melbourn have pitched the idea of naming a bridge near the town in honour of their new favourite citizen.


But whilst Evans relaxed into his ride on Sunday, Mark Cavendish certainly did not.


The moment that Cavendish appeared from behind his HTC-Highroad team mate Mark Renshaw on the Champs-Elysees, was a true Tour de France moment of certainty. The moment it became clear that the Manx Missile would bag the final stage, the moment it became obvious he would take the green jersey and the moment that Cavendish would fulfil a lifetime ambition and prove himself the greatest sprinter of his generation. If that alone were not enough, the occasion also marked the first rider ever to take three consecutive Paris finish wins – indeed until last year’s success in the French capital no one before him had achieved two consecutive wins. Speaking after the race his wonderfully succinct “I am super, super happy!” seemed to be the perfectly judged understatement; the kind of remark that makes the rider such an heroic role model not only on his native Isle of Man, but across the UK and beyond.


Although Cavendish went into this year’s Tour with high hopes, the first real glimpse of the genius that was to unfold came on Stage 5 (164.5km Carhaix – Cap Frehel), where, against expectations, Cavendish managed a masterful uphill finish – arguably the most impressive of his Tour career to date. Despite some setbacks he continued to accumulate the points through to the pivotal 167.5km Stage 11 (Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur) where he took green before consolidating things in the speed stakes with his fourth stage win on Limoux – Montpellier (Stage 15). His only major setback during the three weeks came on Stage 18 when he failed to complete the day’s work within the set time limit, but was fortunately deducted points (20 of them) rather than being disqualified.


Whether Cavendish will return in 2012 with full conviction in defending the green jersey will depend in large part on his plan of attack for the London Olympic Games which start less than two weeks after the Tour ends. But for now, Cavendish can relish his incredible victory and might well like to suggest to the good people of the Isle of Man that they kick celebrations on with a local holiday – “Green Day” would seem an appropriate name.


Final 2011 Tour de France General Classifications


1 Cadel Evans, BMC 86h 12’22”

2 Andy Schleck, Leopard Trek +1’34”

3 Frank Schleck, Leopard Trek +2’30”

4 Thomas Voeckler, Europcar +3’20”

5 Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank Sungard +3’57”

6  Samuel Gonzalez, Euskaltel-Euskadi +4’55”

7 Damiano Cunego (It) Lampre – ISD +6’5”

8 Ivan Basso (It) Liquigas-Cannondale +7’23”

9 Tom Danielson (US) Team Garmin-Cervelo +8’15”

10 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fr) AG2R La Mondiale +10’11”


For further results and analysis see:



Evans Takes le Tour?

It’s all over bar the shouting at the Tour de France with BMC’s Cadel Evans looking certain to be crowned king of the event at tomorrow’s Champs-Élysées finish in Paris – making him the first Australian ever to take the prestigious title. The 34 year old rider completed the rather hilly 42.5km Grenoble-Grenoble Individual Time Trial seven seconds down on the Stage 20 winner Tony Martin of HTC-Highroad (55min 34s) but an all-important 2min 30s faster than the overnight Yellow Jersey (and potential Tour champ) Andy Schleck. Reigning champion Alberto Contador of Saxo Bank took third place on the ITT, but it was too little, too late for the trouble Spanish rider who seems to have struggled at almost every stage of this year’s Tour.


Evans – who has taken second place in the event in both 2007 and 2008 – was wearing his 2009 World Champion shoes for this penultimate stage and commented after the finish: “I get an incredible amount of support and encouragement (from Australia) and to be able to fly the flag over this side of the world is incredible. Twenty years I’ve been cycling and there are some really great people who have believed in me all this time.”



Thomas in Combative Mood

Geraint ThomasSky’s Welsh wonder Geraint Thomas served up one of the most impressive and determined rides of the Tour de France yesterday (July 14) on the 211km Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden Stage 12. Although ultimately the big prize of the day went to Spaniard Samuel Sánchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi (thus robbing French riders of a Bastille Day victory) Thomas was the rightful winner of the “Combative” award for his blistering display of leg work across two major peeks and a climb finish.  At one point he looked certain to be the first Brit to bag a High Mountain stage since Robert Millar back in 1989, with Tour commentator Chris Boardman succinctly putting it: “This was the day when he discovered what he is capable of and what he can do.” As if he had set out to prove that pride really does come after and not before a fall, Thomas had twice lost control of the bike on descents and careered off the road, on one occasion leaping clear of his bike to avoid an unfavourable looking plummet over the edge.


But as Thomas’s star continues to rise, Alberto Contador’s certainly appears to be in retrograde – cracking under the mounting pressure from the likes of the Schleck brothers and Cadel Evans, he seemed to pretty much give up the ghost in the final few kilometres on a stage that, in previous years, he would have made his own.



More Tour de Crash

Tour de FranceEven for a Tour de France thus far marred by such carnage, yesterday (Sunday, July 10) witnessed something of a new low in terms of crashes. With around 36km left of Stage 9 (208km Issoire to Saint-Flour) an overtaking French TV car hit Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha and also spectacularly cart-wheeled Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling) into a barbed wire fence. Although both riders, bloody and bruised, managed to retake the saddle the mayhem left them a good 16minutes off pace. Organisers expelled the car from the event with Tour Director Christian Prudhomme commenting, “They caused the crash of both riders. This behaviour is intolerable.” Hoogerland, clearly with the memory of Wouter Weylandt’s death in May’s Giro d’Italia still fresh in the mind, said at the finish that he was happy just to be alive, but in typically Dutch fashion succinctly described the event thus: “It was shit.”



Tour Over For Wiggins

Wiggins Tour de FranceThe Tour de France, it’s often said, can be won in the mountains but lost of the flat – a race-ending truism that became painfully evident to Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins yesterday (July 8). With around 40km left of the 218km Stage 7 (Le Mans to Châteauroux) a spectacular peloton pile-up decimated the pack and left the Sky Rider, who had been widely tipped for a final podium place this year, with a fractured collarbone. Somewhat ironically, given the recent days of twists, turns and rainfall (not to mention an almost unprecedented number of collisions) Wiggin’s downfall took place in near perfect conditions on an arrow-straight section.


In brighter news for British riders  Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad, who had been unaffected by the earlier crash, went on to claim victory  in Chateauroux, a poignant moment for the Manx  sprinter as this is where he won his first ever Tour stage win back in 2008. The success brings his total Tour de France stage wins to 17, edging him ever closer to André Darrigade’s record of 22.


Overall standings now see Garmin Thor Hushovd leading on a time of 22hr50’34” with Australia’s Cadel Evans (BMC) a second behind.



Tour de Force for “Cav”

Mark CavendishIt was the most gripping climax to a stage thus far in the Tour de France yesterday (Wednesday, July 6) when, with a steep final kilometre left to go, HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish looked out of contention only to explode with a final flourish to take his 16th stage win since 2008. With close to a dozen crashes marring stage 5 – the 164.5km fast and furious Carhaix to Cap Fréhel route – “Cav” was still languishing in 10th place with less than 100m left to fly when he made his break to bag the win in 3h38’32”. The victory saw less than a bike’s length between him and second place Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto.


Speaking after the stage Cavendish admitted the reserve he had found in the dying minutes had surprised even him, “Normally I try to win by a small margin to save my strength, but there I had to give it everything I had. It took a lot out of me.”


With this 16th stage win Cavendish is already marked as the second most successful sprinter in the Tours 100+ year history; only Frenchman André Darrigade currently beats him with a record 22 stages although that feat took him 11years to achieve compared with the three that it has so far taken the “Manx Missile”.



TdF Fantasy Team

MilltagMilltag – designers of arguably the coolest UK cycling jerseys – are set to have more than a little fun whilst the cyclists do all the hard work on the Tour de France. Their “Peleton Price is Right” promotion assigns 10 different Milltag jerseys to their pick of this year’s favourite Tour riders (made up of 4 GC contenders, 4 all-rounders and time trial specialists, 2 sprinters and 2 “super domestiques”) to form a fantasy Milltag team. The price of those jerseys will then depend on a day to day basis on how well those riders perform, with promotions based on various criteria such as £5 off the jersey any for a stage winner, £5 off for wearer of the yellow jersey on any single day, £2.50 off for a GC podium position on any single day…


Milltag’s team consists of:


Wiggins Wiggo II (GC)

Cavendish Manx Missile (Sprinter)

Contador Tommy (GC)

Hushovd McHoy (Sprinter)

Andy Schleck McFaul (GC)

Gilbert Leinz (GC)

Voeckler Rich Mich (AR / TT)

Cancellara Will Manville ( AR / TT)

Voigt Rob Trigg  (Super Dom)

Martin MWM ( AR / TT)

Thomas Waste (Super Dom)

Boasson Hagen Piascik ( AR / TT)


For terms and conditions and further information on Milltag visit:


Fourth of July Fireworks

Tour de FranceStage 3 of the Tour de France (Monday July 4) has seen an historic win for Garmin-Cervelo’s Tyler Farrar as he begame the first American ever to bag a win on Independence Day. Crossing the finish line in a time of 4h40’21” Farrar made a poignant “W” hand signal in remembrance of his close friend Wouter Weylandt of Leopard-Trek who was killed two months ago in a crash on Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia.


Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad, who was widely tipped as a potential winner of the 198km Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon, finished in fifth place after being delayed by a crash involving French rider Samuel Dumoulin (Team Cofidis) on the final bend of the day. Cavendish’s efforts though still see him sitting high in the overall rankings at 17th with a time of 9h46’51”, with fellow Brits Bradley Wiggins of Sky at 10th (9h46’50”), Geraint Thomas 4th (also Sky 9h46’50”) and David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo, 9h46’46”) sitting just one place below Tour leader and team-mate Thor Hushovd. All of which means that the only British rider currently sitting outside of the top-20 is Ben Swift of Team Sky, although he too is enjoying a more than respectable 23rd position.