Tour de France Diary, Stage 20: Cavendish clinical on the Champs Élysées
Unlike last year, Australian Cadel Evans was not wearing the Yellow Jersey as the Tour de France reached its conclusion in Paris overnight. A year is a long time in cycling.
The good news is that the 35-year-old has vowed to return to the great race next year, for what he says will be his last Tour.
If speculation proves accurate, Evans will also target the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
He shares a deep connection with Italy – it is his wife’s homeland, he speaks the language and he knows the roads.
Oh, and needless to say, he also looks great in pink.
This time around, Evans finished in seventh place overall, 15’49” behind the Yellow Jersey of Bradley Wiggins (Sky Pro Cycling).
If this year’s edition of the Tour has proved anything – through the strength, consistency and unity of Team Sky – it is that success in road cycling hinges on teamwork.
Some pundits proclaimed that Chris Froome was the strongest member of the outfit, but Sky never wavered from their original aim to win the race for Wiggins.
These proclamations quickly morphed into something more like deafening cries for drama and cultivated an imaginary “leadership battle”.
Yeah…that did not even come close to happening.
Not that the addition of some extra flavour to the race would have gone astray.
Personally, I am hoping for more summit finishes next year. Three was just not enough – not for spectators and not for a Tour with so many time-trial kilometres. Replace some of the latter with the some more of the former.
But enough of that, I could go on forever.
Accumulating an impressive six stage wins, Tour 2012 was all about Sky: Wiggins securing Yellow, Froome finishing second overall and Mark Cavendish proving that he is as fast as ever, even without much assistance. They were clinical.
The contributions of Australia’s Richie Porte and Michael Rogers, two of Wiggins’ key workhorses both in the mountains and on flatter stages, were invaluable – the two most impressive performances by Australians at this year’s Tour.
In all, 198 men started this year’s race. 153 completed it. That leaves 45 who did not reach the Champs Élysées.
Many were eliminated as a result of the numerous crashes that marred the three-week, 3497km effort. Others fell victim to illness and fatigue.
Fabian Cancellara’s wife was having a baby – a perfectly valid excuse to leave early. He can make up for his early departure by winning the time-trial at the London Olympics.
As is customary, stage 20 started off as a fairly pedestrian affair with each of the jersey holders given their time in the sun at the head of the peloton.
Team Sky had the honour of leading the main field into the first of eight laps of the Champs Élysées – the moment when attacks are no longer faux pas.
But there would be no moves until George Hincapie (BMC Racing) was allowed to come to the front and salute the roaring crowd.
It was farewell for the great domestique, who has started in a remarkable 17 Tours and finished 16.
Frenchman Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) initiated the first meaningful attack, but was reeled in soon afterwards.
Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) and Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) took over at the head of the race, establishing a small advantage of around 15 seconds.
With 24km remaining, the breakaway had grown to 11 men, including Voigt, Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Rui Costa (Movistar) and Evans’ BMC Racing teammate Marcus Burghardt. Hondo was back in the fold.
The group’s 25-second lead demanded attention from Team Sky in the interests of sprint juggernaut Cavendish – still the fastest man in a bunch sprint situation.
When the time gap was reduced to less than 20 seconds, Voigt jumped again in the company of Costa and Sebastien Minard (Ag2r La Mondiale). “Shut up legs!”
This prompted Liquigas-Cannondale to move to the front of the peloton in the hope that Slovakian young gun Peter Sagan could do the business.
The field was one again with 2.5km remaining.
Wiggins moved to the front at around 1.1km to go, providing the initial lead out for the Manx Missile, who did the rest.
It was Cavendish’s fourth consecutive victory on the Champs Élysées.
I don’t know about you, but I am already counting down to Tour 2013 and the 100th running of the race. It will be huge.
Tour de France Stage 20 Results
Rider, Team, Points
1. CAVENDISH Mark, SKY PRO CYCLING, 03h 08′ 07″
2. SAGAN Peter, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
3. GOSS Matthew Harley, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
4. HAEDO Juan Jose, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
5. BOECKMANS Kris, VACANSOLEIS-DCM, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
6. HENDERSON Gregory, LOtime trialO-BELISOL, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
7. BOZIC Borut, ASTANA, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
8. GREIPEL Andre, LOtime trialO-BELISOL, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
9. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald, SKY PRO CYCLING, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
10. ENGOULVENT Jimmy, SAUR-SOJASUN, 03h 08′ 07″ + 00′ 00″
Tour de France Points Classification
Rider, Team, Points
1. SAGAN Peter, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 421
2. GREIPEL Andre, LOtime trialO-BELISOL, 280
3. GOSS Matthew Harley, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 268
4. CAVENDISH Mark, SKY PRO CYCLING, 220
5. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald, SKY PRO CYCLING, 160
Tour de France KOM Classification
Rider, Team, Points
1. VOECKLER Thomas, EUROPCAR, 135
2. KESSIAKOFF Fredrik, ASTANA, 123
3. SORENSEN Chris Anker, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 77
4. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 63
5. VALVERDE Alejandro, MOVISTAR, 51
Tour de France Best Young Rider Classification
Rider, Team, Time, Gaps
1. VAN GARDEREN Tejay, BMC Racing, 87h 45′ 51″
2. PINOT Thibaut, FDJ-BIG MAT, 87h 51′ 59″ + 06′ 13″
3. KRUIJSWIJK Steven, RABOBANK, 87h 45′ 51″ + 1h 05′ 48″
Tour de France Team Classification
Team, Time, Gaps
1. RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 263h 12′ 01″
2. SKY PRO CYCLING, 263h 17′ 55″ + 05′ 54″
3. BMC RACING, 263h 48′ 37″ + 36′ 36″
Tour de France “Most Combative” Rider Award: Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).
Tour de France Overall Standings
Rider, Team, Time, Gaps
1. WIGGINS Bradley, SKY PROCYCLING, 87h 34′ 47″
2. FROOME Christopher, SKY PRO CYCLING, 87h 38′ 08″ + 03′ 21″
3. NIBALI Vincenzo, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 87h 41′ 06″ + 06′ 19″
4. VAN DEN BROEK Jurgen, OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK-STEP, 87h 45′ 02″ + 10′ 15″
5. VAN GARDEREN Tejay, BMC RACING, 87h 45′ 51″ + 11′ 04″
6. ZUBELDIA Haimar, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 87h 50′ 28″ + 15′ 41″
7. EVANS Cadel, BMC RACING, 87h 50′ 36″ + 15′ 49″
8. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 87h 51′ 13″ + 16′ 26″
9. BRAJKOVIC Janez, ASTANA, 87h 51′ 20″ + 16′ 33″
10. PINOT Thibaut, FDJ-BIG MAT, 87h 52′ 04″ + 17′ 17″
Overall “Give Him the Game Ball” Award: Team Sky. Enough said.
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