This year, the 98th Tour de France was full of drama and featured many unexpected heroes. There were too many first week crashes, and in it's last four days...fireworks, drama and grit were on display in the Alps before the first Australian ever donned the final maillot jaune and stood atop the podium in Paris. Good on ya, Cadel Evans!
I had lots of fun with my TdF Fantasy Teams this year. Of the four teams I played in two leagues, all my teams finished in the bottom third...better playing next year, I always say! Team CorduroyPlanet lost several riders during the first half crashfest: Lars Boom, Janez Brajkovič, Andreas Klöden, Juan Manual Garate, and David Zabriskie.
My teams had plenty of stage winners: Andy Schleck, Luis Leon Sánchez, Thor Hushovd-3 wins counting the Team Time Trial (TTT), Mark Cavendish-5 wins, and Tyler Farrar.
Team CorduroyPlanet is proud of our journeyman all-arounder Thomas Voekler, the unlikely Frenchman who thrilled France by first donning the yellow jersey, then grittily hanging onto the maillot jaune for 10 days. He's a National Hero for Life now, truly humble, and worthy of the adulation...just a great story plain and simple.
Team CorduroyPlanet's Juan Antonio Flecha was knocked down by a TV-France car while leading a breakaway in Stage 9 causing Dutch racer, Johnny Hoogerland to somersault into a barbwire fence! Either man could have finished as the eventual winner when the crash occurred just 36Km from the finish. Hoogerland soldiered on and finished before getting 33 stiches and finishing 74th overall in Paris! I'll be looking for Johnny Hoogerland when I choose my fantasy racers for the 2012 TdF!
American cycling did very well again at the Tour this year. Of the 22 teams that started Le Tour, four were American: BMC Racing Team, Garmin-Cervélo, HTC-Highroad, and Team RadioShack.
BMC Racing Team worked tirelessly for eventual winner Cadel Evans. Evans' American teammate in his 16th Tour, George Hincappie captained the squad for Evans. Next year will be Hincappie's 17th, and a new record for the Tour.
Garmin-Cervélo won the TTT and the Team Competition. Garmin-Cervélo's Thor Hushovd won two stages, Tyler Farrar won his first TdF stage- on the 4th of July to boot! Garmin-Cervélo rider Tom Danielson, in his first TdF finished 9th overall. Good work from the young team! Dave Zabriskie who abandoned with a broken wrist in Stage 9, was honored by the team in Paris. Directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters brought a life-size cardboard cutout of Zabriskie onto the podium with the team for their Team Award ceremony showing respect, and what a good-times team they are. That's a lot of success for the four year old team!
HTC-Highroad featured sprinter Mark Cavendish who won the Green Jersey and sprinted to win five stages. HTC-Highroad helped make this year's tour almost doping-free. (That's the Highroad part) Only one rider, on Russia's Team Katusha, tested positive this tour...for a "masking agent", not a banned performance enhancing substance.
Of the American teams, only Team RadioShack really came to grief. Injuries took their toll, early and often. Janez Brajkovič crashed out on Stage 5. Tour of California winner Chris Horner was forced to abandon with a concussion after a crash in Stage 7 after incdedibly finishing the stage. Trusty climber Yaroslav Popovych had enough and didn't start Stage 10. Lastly, Andreas Klöden abandoned during Stage 13. Levi Leipheimer suffered many crashes and finished well back of the leaders. Only five of the team's nine riders made it to Paris.
As always the Tour de France this year was more literature than sporting event. Le Tour ranges from Shakespearean farce to Greek Tragedy over it's three weeks and 21 acts. Two thousand, one hundred and thirty miles of racing over 23 days in July...that's a huge canvas to paint yet another Impressionist Masterpiece on. There is so much happening on so many levels during the tour, so much intrigue, so much passion and pain, it always captures my soul in a new way every July. The Tour is a lot like America's Pastime, they are the most Human of all sporting endeavors.