|The Tour de France is over so it's time to look back. DP's reporter Podofdonny already graded the different teams as you can see in the article here. The Belgians didn't do all too well this year and the best Belgian team, Lotto-Adecco, received a score of 8.5 due to the two stage wins and the green jersey of a foreigner. Mario Aerts also helped out a bit by his magnificent performance in two mountainstages where he finished second. No Belgian has won a stage this year and it's been since the Tour of 1997 that this occured. It is time to give an overview of the results of the Belgians. We didn't too a great job, but we can't say we did a terrible job either.
The Belgian rider that showed the best result is Mario Aerts. He finished second on two occasions. The first time he bumped into the Spanish hunchback of notre dame (as was mentioned in the live report stage 15) Santiago Botero, the second time to Frigo (see here for live report stage 17) in the sprint. He fought and lost and he still dreams about it every night. "The last kms in Cluses have been replayed in my mind oh so many times. Actually, I am sprinting against Frigo and Guerini every night again and again, but I can't turn back the clock. With the two Italian neighbours, I only had a 15 percent chance of winning. But someday I will make it."
Mario Aerts (Lotto-Adecoo) had always been classified as someone to go for the overall but the Pyrenees destroyed all hopes. He had some problems with his saddle that was too low so he had to let go of all GC-hopes. "Looking back, it was actually for the best that I had those problems with my saddle. Since I was so far down the GC I was able to try winning a stage. I tried twice, but that bit of luck wasn't there. I felt that I matured this Tour, more experienced. Finishing second twice is painful, but with those long raids (in total over 300 km) I each time managed to get the prize for being the most combative and I was second in the KOM-classification. I can do it in mountain stages, that's the lesson of this Tour."
Another rider that tried and lost was Axel Merckx. He finished 28th at 45min39sec from Lance Armstrong, the yellow rose of Texas. Finishing third in stage 15 to Les Deux Alpes was his best result. He worked very hard during the entire stage and picked up all KOM points in that stage to help out Richard Virenque is his quest for the polka dot jersey. In the last time trial he didn't go full out anymore like most of the others (except the ones high in the GC and the ones to go for the stage win). "What's it worth if you're not going for the GC? I was there when I needed to be. The team did very well. We were present in almost every break. Just that little bit of luck. I tried myself about 2 or 3 times, but without succeeding in finishing it off. I did all I could."
But Axel and Mario weren't the only Belgians high up the stage classifications. Ludo Dierckxens (Lampre-Daikin) was third in the stage to Rouen (Stage 5) and fourth in Stage 10 to Pau. "I was one of the better Belgians this Tour. That's why I have mixed feelings about it. In general, I'm quite satisfied with it, but I'm going home empty handed. A third and fourth place is forgotten soon. I only needed to look for the big bus at the back once in the mountains, the other stages, I was always in the group of Zabel and co. I never really needed to push it to make it to the finish. I was very regular, I could have won. But I missed that little luck necessary to win a stage in a race like the Tour de France. Just ask Mario Aerts."
Christophe Brandt (Lotto-Adecco) discovered himself. 42nd in his first Giro and 35th in his Tourdebut. A new stageracer might have appeared in Belgium. Third in the youth-classification is definitely a good sign although he still has his doubts. "I don't know yet, I have discovered myself in the mountains. I didn't know tha tI could still climb with the better riders after 7 km of climbing."
Last year's yellow-jersey-for-a-day Marc Wauters (Rabobank) was in a very good form even though the results weren't there. It would have been pretty impressive if he would have repeated it, as he had surprisingly taken the stage win in Antwerp to pass through his home town Geel in the yellow jersey. "I was going very well even though I didn't have the results to show it. I understand if people think that I didn't do a very good Tour, but Rabobank won two stages and finished in the top 10 with Leipheimer and I have surely contributed to this."
(reactions taken partly from De Standaard)