Tour de France runner up Andy Schleck, winner Cadel Evans, and third place finisher Frank Schelck
The 2011 Tour de France finished last Sunday (July 24th) after three grueling weeks of riding. 34-year-old, Australian, Cadel Evans emerged the winner. I believe he's the second oldest winner since the Tour first started in 1903.
It turned out to be a very exciting race. There were a few main contenders for the GC (General Classification). Along with Cadel Evans, runner up in 2007 and 2008, there was three-time winner (2007, 2009, 2010) Spaniard, Alberto Contador, and two-time runner up (2009, 2010) Andy Schelck from Luxembourg.
In the Lance Armstrong era things had gotten a bit stale. He was so dominant that no one else was given a chance. But, after he retired things changed.
This year it was pretty much wide open. From day to day one ride would perform well, whilst another would falter. Andy Schleck seemed to have seized control of the race on the last day riding in the Alps taking a 57 second lead over Evans.
It all came down to the individual time trial on the penultimate day of the race. A 42.5 kilometre circuit around Grenoble, France. No teammates to rely on. Just you against the clock.
The bar was set high by Brit Tony Martin. He finished with a time of 55:33. No one challenged until the third last rider of the day, Cadel Evans. He went out guns a blazing. When the dust settled he had nearly bested Martin's ride finishing only 7 seconds in arrears.
That was far too quick for final rider of the day and yellow jersey wearer, Andy Schleck, to overcome. He finished in 17th place 2:38 behind Martin and, more importantly, 2:31 behind Evans. That wiped out his 57 second advantage of the day before and his dream of wearing yellow in Paris.
The Maillot Jaune wasn't the only jersey that was up for grabs in the final few days of the Tour. The Green (Points) jersey (for the best sprinter) was decided on the last day in Paris too. Brit, Mark Cavendish, nicknamed the Manx Missle because he hails from the Isle of Man and that's the language they speak there, took the honours.
Over the course of the race there were many different flat stage winners. But, Mark Cavendish, was the most dominant winning five. With 334 points total he bested Spanish rider, Jose Joaquin Rojas (272 points) and Belgium champ, Philippe Gilbert with 236.
A shout out goes to the 2008 Olympic road race champ, Samuel Sanchez, from Spain who won the Polka Dot jersey for best climber, and Pierre Rolland from France who won the White jersey for best young rider (under age 26).