Friday, 3 February 2012

Sporting Picks of 2011, Part 3 - July 23rd

Tour De France, Stage 20

Cadel Evans is all but certain to become Australia's first Tour de France winner after a stunning time trial-victory in the suburbs of Grenoble.  Evans recorded a time of 55 minutes 40 seconds to take the yellow jersey from Andy Schleck before Sunday's largely ceremonial final stage in Paris.  Germany's Tony Martin won the time-trial from Evans, who moved 1:34 ahead of Schleck in the overall standings.  Schleck began the day with a 53-second lead in the general classification.
Evans (right) with Green Jersey winner Mark Cavendish

So in the year that Cycling seems to have entered the British Sporting consciousness big style thanks to the Manx Missile’s Green Jersey win, I’ve not plumped for one of Cavendish’s wins but for the penultimate stage in what was a remarkably close Tour.

To recap, the defending champion, Alberto Contador was racing under the cloud of a doping ban.  This was rendered meaningless early on when Contador suffered a series of setbacks that put him all but out of the tour.  The surprise package of the tour was the French rider Thomas Voeckler who stayed in Yellow until Andy Scleck eventually overhauled him on stage 19 – which finished on the slopes of the iconic Alpe d’Huez.  Shleck had missed out on yellow the previous day by 15 seconds.  Neither Andy Schleck, nor his brother Frank, were renowned time trialists though, which meant that Cadel Evans, who had performed admirably to stay with the leading group throughout the mountain stages, was still within touching distance 57 seconds behind Andy Shleck.

The stage was set for an almighty tussle.  What unfolded was the most dramatic sporting spectacle of the year as Cadel Evans tore into the course, as both of the Shleck brothers dramatically collapsed.  By the first check point at 15 kilometres Evans had taken a huge chunk out of that 57 second lead, with Andy Shleck trailing (on this stage) by 36 seconds, by not long afterwards Evans had ridden himself into yellow.

Stage 20 was won by Tony Martin, but only finishing 7 seconds behind was Evans.  Andy Shleck had though conceded a total of 2 minutes and 31 seconds to Cadel Evans on this stage – more than enough for Evans to take Yellow and to hold it through Stage 21’s lap of honour through Paris.  This was one of the most remarkable turnaround’s this race had ever seen, in what proved to be the closest race for many years.

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