Tour de France 2012: GC Assessment

Three weeks ago, after the prologue, I made some tentative predictions for the General classification. Now, In this uber long post, I’ve updated those with the verdict on the riders overall performance, before in the next one we look at the teams to see how well they measured up against each other and their goals.

GC Riders

The original placing of the rider in the prologue is before their name, with the number next to it the seconds they were behind the leader. Anything in Italics is what I said in the original post. I’ve added in Thibaut Pinot at the end, because I forgot about him. Sorry Thibaut!

2. (‘7)  Bradley Wiggins (Sky) – 1st. What can we say? Wiggins never dropped lower then 2nd in the race, which is a near perfect race. Only three men have done better then Wiggins -Ottavio Bottecchia in 1924, Nicolas Frantz in 1928 and Romain Maes in 1935 all wore the yellow jersey for the entire race. Wiggins’ 2012 effort instead becomes the 10th Tour to have just two yellow jersey wearers, the last having been the 1999 edition. Wiggins rode an essentially faultless race, playing to his strengths and forcing everyone else onto, as he termed it ‘desperate’ offensive moves.

4. (’10) Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) – 5th.  ‘A strong bet for white if he doesnt kill himself working for Evans. The ‘Next Lance’ tags will be out if he does.’ Not a bad prediction really.Van Garderen had white wrapped up after Rein Tarramme collapsed in the Alps, although Pinot gave him a run for his money. The bigger question is indeed how well he could have done if he hadn’t had to kill himself working for Evans and lost time early on. 4th place was surely up for grabs, and catching Evans for three minutes in the TT showed just how good the man is. But Evans claims he will be leader next year…will Van Garderen have other ideas, especially after a minor mutiny on the ‘tack’ stage and dropping his leader when trying to pace him clear?

8. (’13) Denis Menchov (Katusha) – 15th  ‘Whether or not he’ll be able to become the second current rider after Contador to complete the Grand Slam will depend on his climbing legs’ Indeed, the ‘Silent Assasin’, usually stealthily managing to get into the top 5 without appearing on screen, was this time unnoticeable because he was 14 minutes down the road on La Toussuire. No, I havent a clue what happenned either. A dissapointing effort from the past podium finisher, and now surely he is getting too far advanced age wise to have a serious chance of winning another Grand Tour.

11. (’16) Chris Froome (Sky) – 2nd ‘Still can’t see him winning unless Wiggins crashes out in the first week mind, and we don’t know how well he’s recovered from his illness.’ I think we can safely say he recovered from his illness, and if Wiggins had crashed out, Froome would have won easily despite the 90 seconds lost to a puncture in the first week. Whilst most saw him as the strongest climber in the race and where dissapointed he didn’t go on a gloriously muntinous rampage in the mountains to prove his strength, he lost two minutes to Wiggins in the time trials, and so would seem to have been the weaker of the two. Still, a podium in the Tour de France is nothing to be sniffed at and deserves plaudits equal to Wiggins – although with next years course for the climbers likely, whether the two will show any further signs of breaking apart will be interesting.

12. (’17) Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) – 27th: ‘Velits has been talked up as a contender… but to be honest, I can’t see it.‘ 27th place seems to be his limit. 3rd at the Vuelta looks more like an anomaly then the rule.

13. (’17) Cadel Evans (BMC) – 7th  ‘Evans looks good, and with a strong team, can only be on for a good one.’ A case of the commentators curse, as whilst Evans’ team was indeed strong, it was ultimately stronger then he was. The defending champion didn’t look like his old self in the final week, too often hunched over the bars instead of kicking away like last year. Were we expecting too much of the man who was already the oldest post-War winner of the race? Possibly. A top-10 at the Tour is still amazing for him though, yet whilst he claims he still has a chance of winning next year at age 36, it is a good job he has taken the malliot jaune already, else we’d be sighing once more at yet another opportunity gone for a man who should have won.

14. (’18) Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) – 3rd  ‘Looks good to do well in a Tour that should suit him well.’ Nibali was certainly he most interesting man in the race, attacking the Froome-Wiggins monster up and down the mountains, however pointless the attack appeared. The Italian has now finished on the podium of all three Grand Tours – a feat currently only achieved by Menchov and Contador. With a move to Astana likely, which is a shame as their kit is abysmal, Nibali will surely move back to trying to take his home Tour, although the lure of the centenary race next year may to big to avoid.

15.  (’18) Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) – DNF  ‘He’ll probably make me eat my words based on the Giro mind.’ Luckily Ryder didn’t do this, instead coming to grief in the Metz Massacre and falling by the wayside. In hindsight, it’s tricky to seem him competing with the podium finishers of the race.

19. (’19) Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Nissan) –  11th. ‘You never know what’s going to happen with the enigmatic German’  And so it was for Kloden, who rode high up the standings for a while before falling back down to 11th. This is still strong however for a man who has podiumed in 2004, 8 years earlier, but sums up RadioShack somewhat – reliant on men who are getting on abit and not quite able to get the top 10 result.

21.  (’20) Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) –  110th. ‘I admit it’s a long shot…Albasini could crack the top 10 or 15 based on his season so far’ Yeah, ok, i got that one quite wrong.

28.  (’21) Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) –  DNF. Never had the opportunity to shine.

32. (’22)  Janez Brajkovic (Astana) –  9th ‘Has no hope of winning, but a top 10 would be a fantastic result for the mildly overhyped Slovenian’ Brajkovic has probably reached his limit in the top 10, but still, Astana will be happy with this despite the lack of stage win. They’ll be hoping to return to their Tour winning days in 2013 with Schleck of Nibali if the rumours are true.

36.  (’22) Richie Porte (Sky) – 34th ‘Probably just going to slay himself for Wiggins.’ And so it was.

37. (’22) Rein Taarame (Cofidis) – 36th: ‘It would be nice for Taarame to continue his development with a top 10′ It was looking good when Taarame was the suprise package at Le Planche de Belle Filles, and set everyone off start predicting his emergence as a GC contender as he had been hoping to prove. He made overtures about a high placing and the white jersey, but was ultimately a flash in the pan – dropped in the Alps, he had to make do with 36th place. Maybe he should start looking at stages?

65. (’26) Robert Gesink (Rabobank) –DNF ‘Still probably on route to a good Tour, but can he get on the podium?’ The Curse of Gesink struck once more, and once again, he has an awful Tour. Surely he is due some good luck in the event sooner rather then later however.

77.  (’28)Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) – 4th ‘I still have high hopes for him getting on the podium’ VDB lost 90 seconds to a puncture on the first mountain stage, then became it’s principal animator as he attempted to attack for the podium. An excellent ride, and whilst he was still just under 4 minutes off Nibali, he can be happy with Belgiums highest Tour finish in a while.

80. (’28) Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) – 32nd ‘Repeat of his 2007 podium looks unlikely though.’ Was it ever likely? Not really. Leipheimer is simply past it.

109. (’33) Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) – 26th ‘Coming off a knee injury, it’s probably going to be a while till we see what he can do.’ Voeckler’s knee almost caused his abandoment, but he battled on to take two stage wins and the King of the Mountains jersey. Arguably better then last years 4th place and stint in yellow.

136.  (’38) Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) – DNF. Oh dear.

145.  (’40) Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel) – DNF : Poor Sanchez broke a bone in his hand, and as well as losing the Tour, has lost the opportunity to defend his Olympic title. Still, a shot at an increasingly ominous looking Vuelta could save his season.

166.  (’45) Pierre Rolland (Europcar) – 8th. ‘His playground should be the mountains.’ Having seemingly been out of the race for the top 10, Rolland powered back with various allegiances with VDB to take a stage win set up by Europcar on La Toussuire as well as 8th overall. At this rate of improvement (10th, 8th), he’ll win the 2016 tour.

Thibaut Pinot  (FDJ-BigMatt) 10th The real suprise of the race, the 22 year old was attacking Wiggins by the end of the race, and proved no slouch in the TT either. Perhaps a better hope then Rolland for France given his age and all round ability.

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