Saturday, July 23, 2011

Evans Blows Away the Schlecks

Cadel Evans is one of the world's best time-trialists. The Schleck brothers - not so much. It wasn't that they Schlecks rode badly - both finished in the top 20 to at least preserve the lower two steps on the podium in Paris tomorrow. But Evans rode like a man possessed. He started fast and stayed fast for the entire course, and came in second on the stage behind Tony Martin.

Evans will be Australia's first-ever GC winner, and he heartily deserves his yellow jersey. Often accused of riding too defensively in the past, this year he rode with finely controlled aggression and with the support of the strongest team he's ever had.  

Ultimately, the GC contest of  Tour de France tests all riding skills. The winner has to be able to climb well, descend well enough, TT with the best, and be careful and lucky enough to avoid the early-stage crashes. This year, the difference between Evans and the Schlecks really boiled down to the TT and, to a lesser extent, the descents. Unlike Contador and several of the other contenders, the three podium finalists avoided all the crashes. Some of that is luck, of course, but it's also an indication of good team management, placement in the peloton, and team work.

Two other contests were settled in today's TT. Yesterday's winner on the Alpe d'Huez, Pierre Rolland, confirmed for the white jersey (for best young rider), and Garmin-Cervelo wrapped up the team contest. At the end of yesterday's stage, Sammy Sanchez secured the polka-dot jersey for the best climber. All that remains for tomorrow's final is to see who wins the points contest for the green jersey. Mark Cavendish currently holds a fairly slim 15 point advantage over Jose Joaquin Rojas. Those two, and their teams, will duke it out on the Champs Elysee. HTC-High Road's well-tuned lead out train must give Cavendish the advantage, though Rojas will undoubtably be right on his wheel, hoping for any kind of miscue. If Cavendish wins, he will be the first citizen of the UK to win the green jersey.

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