This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 2nd full tour
Manx Missile makes it 5, Contador makes it 3!
The 20th & final Stage of the TdF was from Longjumeau to Paris Champs-Élysées, a distance of 102.5km. The last stage in the three week long Grand Tour, it was almost a formality for the peleton to roll into the city of Paris and finish on the streets of Champs-Élysées. With only the Green jersey & the final stage winner to be decided upon, the whole of the peleton kept a steady pace till they entered the city streets, with the Astana team doing the honors of bringing in the Yellow jersey leader Alberto Contador to the finale. As predicted by me in yesterday’s post it was Mark “Manx Missile” Cavendish who blasted out every other sprinter at the finish to win the final stage of the Tour. Also, as predicted in the same post, Alessandro “Ale Jet” Petacchi did go on to win the Green jersey for this year’s Tour.
The start town of today, Longjumeau is hosting the tour for the first time. This town, with a population of around 20,000, is located less than 20 km away from Paris in the Essonne department. Almost like the last town between the town and country, Longjumeau is surrounded by fields and crops, making it a breath of fresh air, only a few km outside Paris. Along the banks of the Yvette River and its affluent the Rouillon River, the town is famous for the honey its bees produce and Longjumeau Honey is often gifted to newly-weds and new-born babies.
The end stage is set in Paris Champs-Élysées, the traditional finish spot for the TdF since the late 70’s. The street of Champs-Élysées, one of the busiest in Europe filled with the brand stores & cafes, thronged by millions of people daily closes down fully for traffic only twice in a year, once for the Bastille’s Day celebration on July 14th every year and then for the last stage of the tour. The peleton as usual makes its way into the city & then does 8 rounds on the streets before finishing on the straights of the Champs-Élysées.
The race started of with a delay, as the team RadioShack had come in an All Black jersey with 28 printed at the back for all nine riders to commemorate the 28 million people suffering from Cancer across the world and who are part of Livestrong. The race organisers did not allow them to start & they had to change into their team colours, while all the other teams waited at the start line.
Immediately on start, Contador made a false breakaway & was joined by Schleck and by the others all in the spirit of the sport. Soon thereafter the peleton started rolling steadily.
Once the peleton reached Paris, there were the usual moves by riders to try & breakaway. One such breakaway did form with Anthony Roux of Française des Jeux, Remy Pauriol of Cofidis, Nicki Sorensen of Saxo Bank, Sandy Casar of Française des Jeux, Christophe Riblon of AG2R-La Mondiale, Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia, Karsten Kroon of BMC Racing, Christian Knees of Milram, Alan Perez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Danilo Hondo of Lampre-Farnese Vini and Aitor Perez of Footon-Servetto. They did work together for a long time and stay out in the front, but their lead never got over 30secs on the peleton.
In the front of the peleton, HTC-Columbia was doing the hard work supported in some level by Team Sky. In the end, the breakaway was reeled in, and Cervalo Test team’s Burt Lancaster did set up Thor Hushovd for a final sprint. But as soon Hushovd started out, Ale Jet was on his wheel and broke away on his left. The Manx Missile, who was lead in by the HTC Columbia train, was on Ale Jet’s wheel and he immediately made his own move & flew away from the rest & won with several bike lengths to spare.
With this emphatic win, his 15th stage win in three tours, Cavendish has become the first sprinter to defend the final stage win on the Champs-Élysées. Ale Jet, having come second, defended his Green jersey and became the first rider ever to win the Green jersey in all the three Grand Tours (Italy, Spain & France).
Alberto Contador finished in the peleton along with all the other riders and ensured that he bags his 3rd TdF crown. He joins a group of 9 other riders who have won the TdF thrice. Though mention must be made that he never won a stage in the tour this time around!!
For several riders, Lance Armstrong of Team RadioShack, Christophe Moreau of Caisse D’Epargne, Koos Moerenhout of Rabobank,..etc it was a goodbye to the Tour, one last time. Many riders like Robbie McEwen, Robbie Hunter, Chris Horner, …etc. who have not officially said goodbye, but are surely going to be missed next year.
The Manx Missile, happy about his second straight win on the Champs-Élysées said, “I came around the last corner and I just jumped and started my sprint. It’s different on the Champs-Elysées to every other sprint in the Tour de France where you kind of have save as much energy as possible because every day is so hard. In Paris you’ve got nothing to save your energy for so you just go balls-out to the line and that’s kind of what I did today. I’m disappointed this year not to win the green jersey. I set out to do so – it was a target for this year – but I had some bad luck in the first days and was out of the running but the team fought back, did our best and I lost it by 11 points. But we won five stages and we’ve got to be happy with this year’s Tour. In the first week there was nothing that could be done about the bad luck but the team rode incredibly strongly throughout the early days and I was the weak link at the end of it. But they never gave up faith and they continued to lead me out and it takes a special group of guys to do that. It’s not just the riders but the soigneurs, the management, the mechanics… everyone in the team. I’m so lucky to part of a group of people who give 100 per cent whatever the outcome. It’s frustrating not to have the best out come when they’ve also done such a good job. It was just a case of trying to make amends. Finally I did and we just got on a roll after that. Obviously if you win, you get confidence. If you get confidence, you win… it rolls like that and it came out to be a pretty successful Tour so I’m pretty happy.”
Contador after winning the Tour said, “It is a Tour in which I had a lot of pressure, especially physically as I was not at my best level. It took a lot of confidence to face difficult situations. For example, everyone said I had already won the Tour after the stage to the Tourmalet. But we saw yesterday, in the race against the clock, that it was not fully played out. Today is therefore a great relief for me, it is a moment that I feel like I’ve been liberated from all the pressure. The three wins are all very different. The first, in 2007, had something special, precisely because that was the first. Last year, the context was difficult and this made it difficult. And this year I have had difficult moments, but I could count on a strong team. I realize that each year I gain in experience. I know better manage a team throughout the race. Now I am happy to enjoy this victory and I’ll take a good vacation.”
Andy Schleck, who fought long and hard all through this tour said, “It’s a completely different feeling to when I came second in 2009. I got up there and look at the yellow jersey now and I realize I was so close – but in the end it’s so far away. I almost had it. I wore yellow for six days and I’m more than sure that I want to do better. I have a meeting on the Champs-Elysées next year with the yellow jersey. I’ll be back to win it. Right now it’s a bit difficult to understand all that’s happened because I’m in the middle of it all. It’s better to see from the outside. The people I’ve spoken to who have looked on say it’s been a really beautiful Tour and now I really need some time in the next week to sit back and maybe take it all in. I’m not going to watch the replays. I don’t want to watch myself on TV – I’m not in love with myself. But I have to enjoy it a little bit. I’m not going to brew on the 39 seconds. I’m finished thinking about that. It’s behind me now. It’s pretty funny though because yesterday when I finished the time trial, I said to my room-mate Nicki, ‘If I lose, I hope it’s like 45 or 50 seconds.’ I told him that I hoped it wasn’t going to be 39 seconds. I get to the hotel at the end of the stage and he reminds me that it’s 39 seconds. Ah well, it’s over and it’s lost. Right now I don’t know what’s going to change but we’ll all find out soon enough.” That comment in the end tells me that we have seen the last of the Schleck brothers in the Saxo Bank team!!
At the end of Tour de France 2010 the overall race results are as follows. Alberto Contador of Team Astana wins the Tour & bags his third Yellow jersey. Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre wins his first Green jersey at the Tour de France. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank wins the White jersey for the third consecutive year. Anthony Charteau of Bbox Telecom wins the King of the Mountain jersey for TdF 2010. Team RadioShack wins the Best Team in the race award. Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step wins the “super-combatif” prize for being the most aggressive rider in Tour de France 2010.
With this post, my journey at TdF 2010 ends. Its been a fantastic three weeks of cycling & racing against the clock. The tour has given so many insights to so many, hopefully, I will be there next year too to cover another Grand Tour, maybe with more insights than this year….:)
So till next year…:)
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