Carlos Sastre is this year’s Tour de France Champion after today’s grand finale into Paris. The Spaniard sipped champagne and exchanged back pats in the 89-mile stage that started as a parading fraternity party– a fitting end to a hard-fought Tour. When the peloton arrived to cheering crowds on the Champs-Élysées, riders put on race faces and attacked each other relentlessly. The pack was stretched out coming into the finish line. Quick Step’s Gert Steegmans won the field sprint.
Three weeks ago, 180 riders started the Tour. Only 145 of them made it to Paris. Some quit. Three were kicked out for doping. Several suffered injuries. All endured pain. Sastre covered 2,200 miles in less than 88 hours. Some riders took longer to finish the 21 stages. Australian Cadel Evans finished the Tour in second place for a second year in a row. Perhaps the pressure of wearing the number one was too great. Perhaps he just didn’t have a strong enough team. Evans goes home the bridesmaid and may have missed his only chance to be the bride.
Gerolsteiner’s Bernard “Burn Hard” Kohl was the big surprise. He finished in third and wins the King of the Mountains jersey. His name was hardly mentioned until he earned polka dots. We will see big things from him in the future.
Denis Menchov’s fall in a mountain stage and overly cautious descending cost him the yellow jersey. The shy Russian on team Rabobank was one of the race favorites. He deserves his fourth place finish, just missing the podium, because he is one of the few strong riders who makes cycling dull.
America’s new Tour hopeful Christian Vandevelde raced an impressive time trial that pushed him up to fifth place overall. VdV was the underdog with nothing to lose going into this year’s Tour. His consistent top-ten mountain finishes gave him confidence to be crowned team leader. VdV put Garmin Chipotle in the spotlight. Argyle is back in fashion.
Twenty-two riders under the age of 25 will likely return to challenge the French countryside. Veteran riders such as Columbia’s anchorman George Hincapie and CSC caboose Jens Voigt may return as well. The Tour is over for these strong men. But it’s not the end of their season. Quadruple stage winner Mark Cavendish and others will go to the Beijing Olympics next month. Fans will watch, cheer and remember the amazing performances in this unpredictable Tour. This was an incredible race. Now, I must get back to work. Until next year, au revoir!
-Le Tour Babe