Tour de France: Changing of the guard
Stage 11 of the Tour offered a great deal. A classic, dramatic Alpine day. A French winner. A champion fighting for his life. A team controlling like we haven’t seen in years. But most of all, it offered a glimpse of the future.
In time, we may go back to La Toussuire and mark in down as cycling’s red letter day. The moment that the peloton’s old guard got the tap on the shoulder.
Evans fought hard. He attacked. An audacious move, perfectly planned and executed, which could, and perhaps should, have gained him big time. But as the mind showed it was willing, the body failed. No fairytale Schleck-like attack.
“Not my best day” he said afterward. No Cadel, but you went down swinging. No surrender.
More of the races big names came and went. Frank Schleck looked comfortable in the lead group, before cracking close to the finish.
Valverde, Cobo, Menchov, Basso, Vino, Kloden, Horner, Scarponi tapped away behind the actual race.
Even Wiggins, he of the strongest team, best preparation, and pottiest mouth, seemed to feel the effects of the racing, holding onto wheels for grim death.
Instead we were treated to the young guns, Pinot, Rolland and Van Garderen. And the prime timers. Van den Broeck, Froome and Nibali. Exhilarating, dashing riders. Always eager to make their mark, take a chance. Have a go.
We knew of Rolland, from his victory on the Alpe last year. But this win cemented him in the new group.
Crashing at high speed, getting up and riding past the break to take the win. Guts, talent, panache. Call it what you will. I call it class.
Forget the theatrics of Voeckler. Rolland is the jewel in Europcar’s crown.
And Pinot. The youngest man in the bike race, now with two wins in a week. France have been yearning for a star for years. Now they have two.
Van Garderen was quite brillant too. Stronger than his captain Evans, who he laid himself on the line for, the 23-year old American looked in the kind of form to take the stage for BMC Racing.
As did Froome who bowed to team orders and dragged the Maillot Jaune across the line. In the last 5km, Froome was the strongest man, and Sky could’ve made a tactical gamble and let him go to seal a strong 1-2. Instead pragmatism reigned. Froome was a good boy, and Wiggins remains in control.
An era of Champions is coming to an end. The generational change may not be immediate but it is knocking loudly on the door.
The Vuelta a Espana will offer a peek at it, as Froome is expected to take on Schleck and Contador and Rodriguez. And maybe Van Garderen will be given the chance to ride GC for BMC. In the Sky camp, Uran and Porte are both top 10 material.
It’s an exciting prospect.