Well it was the tour de France we had all been waiting for the last few years.
In 2009 the addition of Armstrong back into the pro peloton fired things up, but Contador was simply to strong and overall it had to rate as one of the more boring tours to date. Possibly second only to the 2010 edition. The inability of Andy Schleck to attack Contador, instead leaving it all to the final time trial where Contador could ride backwards and still beat Andy by 2 minutes.
Why was this tour so much better than other recent editions? Here my list of the top 3 reasons:
1. New attitude to the first week of the race.
Previously the first week of the race was a sprint fest, with the contenters sitting back and staying out of trouble. Not looking to make anytime, but equally confident that the chance of losing any was slim.
Well, did they turn that on it’s head this year. Cadel was in the thick of it from Day 1 and thats why he was on top of the podium in Paris. from the outset Cadel and his team were focused on winning the tour, while the Schlecks were simply trying not to lose it. Sure there were fewer opportunities for the pure sprinters, but how much more exciting was it for all of us watch Gilbert and Cadel toughing it out on a 20% incline to the finish line? The sprinters have had their day, this new format is here to stay if the organisers know what their doing. This shift will re-organise the peloton as the ingredients for a tour favourite change to meet these new demands. Personally, I like it, it puts the tour back into the hands of the really hard men who can go out there day-in-day-out like rolling gladiators fighting it out, as opposed to those are prepared to sit and wait to attack once in the Alpes and expect to walk away with cycling’s greatest prize.
2. Multiple real podium contenders, it’s not all about Alberto & Andy
We’ll have to hark back to the late 1990′s in between the reign of Indurian and Armstrong to remember a tour with this much potential. All the big teams had a podium chance: Wiggins, the Schlecks, Contador, Van De Brock, Basso, Cunego, Roche, Hesyadal, Evans, Sanchez, Martin, Gesink, Horner, Leipheimer. The depth was incredible. This mean’t the race was on in ernest and and seconds that cuold be gained on any stage would be crucial. Crucial not so much to the overall in terms of time, but in terms of mind set. This is where the Schlecks clearly failed. Coupled with Contador’s lack of form it opened the race wide open to unlikely champions like Voeckler.
3. Thomas Voeckler
He rode with the pride and determination of two men. They say the yellow jersey gives you super powers, this is evidence of it if ever we’ve seen it. An attack like his that would take the jersey was expected, even encouraged by the top contenders so as to keep the heat off their back for a few more days. But how he and his team worked to keep the jersey turned the race upside down, if riders wanted to win they had to attack. The Schleck watch and see tactic we’ve become accustomed to was not going to work this year.