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95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Overall wrap
 
By Staff
Date: 7/30/2008
95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Overall wrap
 

95th Tour de France - le Tour Report Card: Overall wrap
An overall look at what was a fantastic Tour this year. Brand new winners in all individual classifications graced the final podium but the action started right from the very first stage and kept all enthralled until the very end…

By Tim Lee

Le Tour started with five main favourites. Four of these finished in the top ten while the others did not finish so the tipsters were fairly well on the money.

The Points Classification winner has been threatening a performance like this for a while and finally made it to Paris to realize a dream.

The Mountains Classification winner was most definitely an accomplished climber; but a big surprise all the same in his breakout performance this year. And he took a podium position overall to boot.

The Youth Classification winner has been tipped by every man and his dog to one day dominate the sport in the not too distant future and confirmed that he is bang on track to do just this as witnessed by his ride in the mountains this year.

Britain found themselves a new hero while the sport has getting newfound attention and respect in Australia, along with the Americans who continue their tradition of putting someone new in the top ten overall in the post Lance era.

No one likes to dwell on the negatives in life or focus the spotlight on those who had less than ideal performances, so here is the final definitive report card for all the ‘winners’ in this years Tour:

A+++ - Carlos ‘Astra’ Sastre rode a very smart race to take home the ultimate prize. The power of momentum shifted firstly from Valverde, then to Evans, onto senior Schleck and finally landed with the veteran Sastre who just got stronger and stronger as le Tour went on. For a rider in the twilight of his career who has been so close so many times in the grand tours this victory must still be hard to believe. Among all the speculation of who exactly would lead the CSC team, Sastre bided his time and only really launched one attack but boy did he make it count! He then rode a final time trial that his world champion team mate Cancellara would be proud of and the fairytale was complete. One of the most respected riders in the peloton, you could count the number of his victories on two hands. Prior to this win most remember him for his 2003 stage win atop the Plateau de Bonascre where he crossed the line with his daughter’s dummie in his mouth. (pacifier for some) Something tells me his legacy will be vastly different following his latest success…

A++ - Bernhard ‘Bernie’ Kohl rode out of his polka dot-clad skin to claim a place of the podium in Paris as well as a 48 point victory in the Mountains Classification. A truly impressive performance from a man that finished 31st in his first and only other Tour appearance last year. The Austrian was super strong on Hautacam in stage ten and never ever faded, even in his Achilles, the time trial. It was a magnificent Tour for the German water boys who also got two stage wins thanks to Stefan ‘Schuey’ Schumacher but Bernie was the star of the Gerolsteiner show. Kohl stormed to third overall in the 2006 Dauphine Libere and promptly transferred to Gerolsteiner and has been a little quiet since, but this Tour he has exploded and shown the world the extent of his talent. At 26 he is at least two years younger than anyone else in the top ten and seven years younger than Sastre so time is definitely on his side.

A+ - Cadel ‘Rock star’ Evans was justifiably one of the heavy favourites as he was bringing his form to the boil just in time for le Tour. In reality he rode a phenomenal Tour considering he was isolated against a formidable trio (and sometimes more!) of CSC riders that were starting to resemble a pack of hyenas at times. When it is one versus three, the result is not normally too difficult to predict… But the little Aussie scored five days in yellow and put up a valiant fight. He single handedly took the fight all the way to the final TT and can be super proud of his accomplishments this Tour. He still has a couple of years at the top of the sport in him so it will be interesting to see if Silence-Lotto further reinforces the team around him or he finds a new team capable of adequately supporting him. And do not forget that after finishing second last year, he went on to have a very strong second half of the season, so watch out Beijing because Cadel is still on a mission!

A+ - Mark 'Speed of sound’ Cavendish came to this Tour after learning many lessons in a very humbling first Tour last year. This year was a very different story. Four sprints, four wins! For a rider so young to win is one thing, but for him to look so devastatingly unbeatable is another all together. Whilst the Manxman was in the race, no other sprinter even looked like beating him. This is perhaps even more amazing given he still has some positioning issues in the kilometres leading up to the sprints where he is wasting energy. Once he gets this sorted he will be unstoppable. Hang on he kind of already is… What’s the bet the likes of Freire, McEwen, Hushovd and co. get together and start a “more hills in le Tour” campaign for next year because if Cav brings this kind of form again he will swap his Columbia jersey for a green one without raising much of a sweat at all.

A - Christian ‘V12’ Vandevelde rode a solid and consistent Tour this year. The American outperformed more fancied riders like Valverde and Cunego, helping to warrant Garmin Chipotle’s wildcard invitation to the race. He hung tough in the high mountains and stormed home with a blistering final TT that elevated him to a final possie of fifth on General Classification. After wearing the first Maglia Rosa in this year’s Giro the American can look back at a great season and in particular two very successful grand tours. Previously counting 24th as his best Tour performance, it is amazing what a change of teams and positive attitude can do. Of course having the form of your life also helps!

A - Oscar ‘Houdini’ Freire rarely comes to le Tour without having an impact and this year was no different. He won a stage and held a comfortable margin in the Points Classification all the way to Paris over former winners Hushovd and Zabel. It is not too often that the word ‘consistent’ is mentioned in the same sentence as the Spaniard’s name but it has to be said that he was solid from start to finish of this year’s Tour. Perhaps made even more impressive by the fact that Rabobank were heavily weighted to help Menchov in the overall classification. Oscar will now go to the Olympics with realistic ambitions to add an Olympic gold to his three Rainbow jerseys.

A - ‘Handy’ Andy Schleck rose to the expectations of everyone who witnessed his ride in last year’s Giro d’Italia. Despite unselfishly riding for his older brother and eventual winner Sastre, junior Schleck looked so comfortable on the climbs (Hautacam excluded) that it was quite scary. The Luxembourg star has talent seeping from virtually every crevice of his insanely lean body, and if he can convert this potential into what most people think he is capable of this guy has got a future filled with fast cars, island mansions and supermodels. That is, provided he keeps his head in check. Anyone remember Jan Ullrich? He certainly seems destined to reach the top of the sport and there would be few pundits willing to bet against him doing it in the next couple of years.

 

 
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