95th Tour de France- Stage 20: le Tour Report Card.
The final time trial produces a number of surprises and settles the General
Classification for once and for all.
With the race for overall honours so close today’s time trial was always
going to have a major impact on deciding the eventual winner of le Tour. Cadel
Evans checked out the course the day before this year’s Dauphiné Libéré and
reported it to be pretty straightforward and uninspiring but today’s race shows
how it really is the riders that make the race. There were surprises aplenty
today so lets try and make sense of it all with the second last report card from
le Tour de France 2008:
A- Outstanding achievement worthy of all superlatives known to mankind.
B- Damn fine effort but falling just short of stardom.
C- Middle-of-the-road performance but can hold head high.
D- Needs improving but a skerrick of hope remains.
E- Remedial classes required. No good can come from this.
• OFE- Obligatory French Escape. Nuff said
• le Tour Farceur Imbécile. Otherwise known as the ’tool’ award, this goes to
the rider that makes a decision that 99% of us can see is either wrong or futile
but they think there is merit to it.
• There will also be some honourable mentions to those that excel but just don’t
quite get the result they were after. Think Paolo Bettini at the Giro.
A - Carlos ‘Astra’ Sastre
rode without doubt the finest time trial of his career today. All fears of him
‘doing a Rasmussen’ (referring strictly to TT ability and nothing else) were
laid to rest by the first time check when the little Spaniard was only a handful
of seconds behind the Aussie. Much like on Alpe D’Huez Sastre never faded,
continuing with the same speed until the finish line where he had enough time in
the bank to give a modest salute and savour the greatest win of his career.
Having never been within a minute of Evans in a long Tour TT, he must have been
nervous; but to eventually only loose 29 seconds really is truly remarkable.
'Bernie' Kohl impresses. Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
B - Bernhard ‘Bernie’ Kohl
really pulled one out of the bag today given that he lost 1’47’’ in the stage
four TT. He too rode the time trial of all time trials, showing the world that
this Austrian super climber is also no slouch against the clock either when it
matters. With all the other GC hopefuls (except Sastre) playing musical chairs
with the high GC positions, the 26 year old was rock steady in preserving his
third place. Not since Virenque in 1997 has there been a KOM winner on the final
podium in Paris so little Bernie can feel very proud of what he has
accomplished. He has gone a long way to helping Hans-Michael Holzcer secure a
new sponsor for next season and now has the bargaining power to get himself a
big fat contract when this happens.
C - Stefan ‘Faster than
Michael’ Schumacher. Only one rider finished within a minute of the
German today and that was TT king Mr. Cancellara himself. With the rest of the
places being sorted by a matter of seconds this was another dominant display by
the Gerolsteiner rider. He was ahead at all the intermediate time checks and to
be honest did not really look like losing today. Now bound for Beijing with
newfound confidence, he may do the unthinkable and challenge Cancellara for
Olympic TT gold. Who would have thought that before le Tour started?
Tough guy, a banged up and bloodied Cadel Evans finishes stage 10.
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
D - Cadel ‘Rock star’ Evans
must have been feeling the weight of expectation today. It was almost a
unanimous conclusion drawn by all and sundry that he would be the logical winner
by virtue of his superior TT abilities. But le Tour does not always pan out
according to logic. This was the race of truth and sometimes the truth can hurt.
Whilst Cadel did not have a bad day, he was not quite as fluent as he normally
is in that crazy tuck position of his. Combined with Sastre doing the ride of
his life things did not turn out quite the way Cadel had planned but he can
still be satisfied with how he raced this Tour given the battering CSC have
given him. More team support next year please!
As nice a smile as any Aussie mate could give. Stage 11 podium: Cadel receives
his second Maillot Jaune, and the tough guy shows his other side fighting back
the tears of joy to be in yellow another day. Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
E - ‘Lanky’ ‘Frank Schleck
rode such a bad TT today that it had some wondering if there was some colluding
taking place to use him as a carrot to dangle in front of Sastre, who duly
caught and passed him. Not exactly the master of the chrono, Schleck senior lost
just over five and a half minutes today and will now ride to Paris in sixth
OFE - Obviously no such thing exists in a
TT but lets give Amaël Moinard a pat on the
back for beating current French national time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel. A
good effort by Moinard who is now ranked 15th, just one place behind best French
rider Sandy ‘Beaches’ Casar.
le Tour Farceur Imbécile Award
There could be a wisecrack in here about Cadel’s team but all jokes aside, there
were no fools or tools today and each and every single one of the 145 riders to
complete this stage all deserve a wrap because they are now just one day away
from finishing what has been one of the best Tours in many years.
‘Handy’ Andy Schleck survived an initial
onslaught from Roman Kreuziger to successfully defend his white jersey. There
was cause for concern after the first time check but thereafter junior Schleck
limited the damage and retained a comfortable margin back to the Liquigas rider
in the race for the best young rider.
Christian ‘V12’ Vande Velde was pumping
today and put in the best ride of all the heavyweights. He moved up to fifth
place overall, thanks in part to Frank Schleck doing his best impersonation of a
stationary object out on the course. Garmin Chipotle should be ecstatic about
the tour they have had and V12’s top place overall is the icing on the cake of a
project that just keeps growing and getting better. Long live the argyle!
Wim ‘Tail end’ Vansevenant showed today
that experience counts in the race for le lanterne rouge. He finished about a
minute and a half behind (in front?) of Eisel, which now gives him a comfortable
buffer of 53 seconds to the Austrian. Is this enough for Wim to finish his last
tour on a high (low?). We may see a super slow track sprint tomorrow where it
will be a battle of wits to see who can loose the most amount of time without
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