Well the Tour is over – Alberto Contador won again, Cavendish won 5 stages and I feel a bit disappointed. I've taken down the yellow theme, the blog is back to it's normal look and Mrs GdL is going to be able to get access to the TV in the evenings again (until the Vuelta anyway).
For me, the Tour promised so much but didn't ultimately deliver. It was a tougher route this year and I'm grateful for the organisers trying a bit harder to shake things up and some of the big names couldn't cope – Armstrong, Evans and Wiggins to name three which was interesting but perhaps ultimately contributed to my sense of flatness at the end. The big budget Sky team had a bit of a howler right from the first stage and they weren't the only one (BMC was another). Even my favourite team Cervelo flattered to deceive. I respected Sastre's attacks in the mountains and to Thor Hushovd's fighting spirit even when his form wasn't really there.
I was delighted that Contador had to work much harder this year – but he was still the best rider and did only what he had too to win the bare minimum. The fact that it came down to the final time trial was a big disappointment to me – I hate time trials and think they are the dullest part of pro cycling and it seems like such a rubbish way to decide the final standings.
I'm certainly no expect on pro cycling but it seems that team strategies are all about playing the percentages and nullifying the breaks – i.e. they're always trying to play to the lowest level they can get away with. I don't blame them for this – but it dampens the spectacle and eliminates most of the real chances for heroic rides. Perhaps that's just not the world we live in now. The breaks are only allowed to stay away on stages which aren't ideal for a sprint and when those who've escaped aren't a real threat. Again I don't blame the teams for doing this but it's not great for the overall drama. How many times do you see HTC Columbia closing down the break to hand the moment to Cav? Yes it's effective – but it's dull.
In my opinion most of the teams didn't really have the depth they needed and so often they'd fallen apart before the crucial opportunities to drive big gaps into the field. Those teams that had a big GC or Jersey contender had their Tour ruined if that rider didn't perform as they didn't have a plan B. I was disappointed by team tactics on a number of occasions including Cancellara stopping the sprint and slowing the field near the beginning.
I'm not a big fan of Contador or Cavendish – they're both outstanding athletes but I just don't like either of them particularly. That's not helping me feel great about the outcome. I was definitely cheering on Andy Schleck but it was all over for him at the top of the Tourmalet and Contador had done the least he needed to – hung onto Andy's wheel. At least he'd had the good sense to let Schleck take the stage win and "chaingate". I felt Schleck had waited too many stages to try the big attack and each time he'd waited he'd cranked up the pressure on himself for the next day.
Overall I have to say for all the great work with the route – I preferred the Giro for the first time ever – so who knows maybe I'll actually enjoy the Vuelta this year as it's a year of firsts.
I still watched this one avidly and there were some parts I really enjoyed – I thought Quickstep and Chavanel were great as were Bbox Bouygues Telecom but overall I think it was oddly disappointing – perhaps next year will grab me more.
Thanks for reading.