95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Stage 21
The final day of racing involved champagne, celebrations, a broken seat at a bad
time, one man’s redemption and another’s arrest. Who said the final day was a
stroll in the park?
By Tim Lee
The champagne was tasting pretty sweet in the CSC camp while Silence-Lotto
were swallowing a slightly bitter pill, but all is fair in love and in war as
the riders enjoyed the traditional procession into Paris today before the racing
got underway. Once Sastre was done shaking hands and thanking all the
well-wishers his CSC team escorted him to the first of eight laps of the
Parisian finishing circuit. As has been the norm more times than not, the field
came together for a final dash to the line where the Quickstep team scored
redemption in the finest possible way. A day of celebrations all round really;
so how did things wash up in le report card?
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 - Gert ‘Salvager’ Steegmans
helped his team leave le Tour with fond memories in the best possible way today
by winning where every sprinter wants to win. Quickstep had their backs to the
wall from the get go when Boonen was uninvited and Bettini did not have le Tour
in his Olympic preparation. Subsequently a lot of pressure fell towards
Steegmans; himself a Tour stage winner last year, to bring home the bacon this
time around as well. The big Belgian jumped early and got a gap on Chiolek and
Freire, holding it all the way to the line for an easier than expected victory.
Team manager Patrick Lefévére must have breathed a massive sigh of relief seeing
his charger lifting his arms in the air as he rolled over one of the most
revered cobbled finishes in world cycling.
B - Gerald ‘Nearly there’
Ciolek has only been given a free reign a couple of times in this
Tour because he has had to report 100% committed to Operation Cavendish but of
those times he has a third (stage two) and now a second place to show for it. If
any other 22 year old got such results in their first Tour it would be a dream
but unfortunately because of unfair comparisons the young German has not had the
level of credit given to him that he deserved. With a better train he may have
even snatched the win today but nevertheless he is bursting with talent and will
surely return to claim that elusive win in the not too distant future.
C - Christian ‘Innovator’
Prudhomme and his team also deserve a mention here for designing a
route that was very contemporary and imaginative this year. Obviously it is the
riders that make the race but the course this year was so different to other
years from start to finish that one cannot help but think this had something to
do with the great racing we witnessed. It is a bold move to have a course that
is such a depart from the norm but it has been the platform for some awesome
action that will keep le Tour at the forefront of world cycling for some time
yet. Monaco 2009 here we come!
D - Regular readers of le Tour report
card will be aware of the tense battle for le lanterne
rouge over the past few days. At the end of this seesawing battle
would you believe that both Wim ‘Master’ Vansevenant
and Bernhard ‘Apprentice’ Eisel crossed the
line together 1’08’’ behind the winner today! In what was getting to be a very
tactical battle of wit and cunning, veteran Vansevenant ensured he will get a
few post Tour criterium contracts with his third consecutive lanterne rouge.
After Evans narrowly missing out on yellow it would have been a shame for
Vansevenant to get second last as well…
E - Jens ‘Standing room only’
Voigt had the unfortunate and potentially unpleasant experience of
losing his saddle during the final lap today. No one knows how it actually
happened but the camera caught the aftermath of poor Jens having to ride to the
finish out of the (missing) saddle. Bad publicity for Cervélo and bad news for
Jens who is the consummate team player consequently rendered unable to ride over
the finish line in celebration with his victorious team and team leader Sastre.
OFE - If there is
one thing more certain than death and taxes, it is that French riders want to be
seen ahead of the bunch on the final stage of le Tour. The Frenchies must have
been itching to get off the front today when the rest of the bunch were taking
it easy before they hit the Parisian finishing circuits because once they did,
it was a game of spot the local in the break. Auge, Vogondy, Bichot, Brard,
Lefevere, Gerard, Chavanel and the rest of the usual suspects all had digs off
the front in vain but this did not deter them. One of these days they will
succeed and when they do there will be mass hysteria. For the time being though,
le Tour Farceur Imbécile Award
Goes to the Kazak rider Dimitriy ‘Party pooper’ Fofonov for being busted with a
stimulant in his corrupt system in stage 18. This is terrible news for Credit
Agricole who have done a wonderful job of winning two stages and finishing
second in the Points Classification in their bid to attract a new sponsor. They
were all set to kick their shoes off, let their hair down and have a party
tonight but now they have to deal with this news. The rider who was set to
finish le Tour in 19th spot claimed it was for his cramps which further
consolidates the widely held belief that Borat is in fact Kazakhstan’s smartest
and most respected export, especially when his ‘compatriots’ come out with these
sorts of excuses.
Look out for tomorrow’s report card for a whole Tour wrap up and plenty of