Blazin' Saddles: Bubbles for Cuddles
After so many years of oh-so-nears, Cadel Evans will finally ride into Paris with the fabled maillot jaune as winner of the Tour de France.
It is a sentence that Saddles never thought he would have to write. This humble blogger will put up his arms and say he got it wrong about Evans. Prior to the Tour, Saddles had him down in tenth position in his (woefully inaccurate) predictions — and never before has it been so thoroughly enjoyable to be proven so remarkably wrong.
For Evans rode the Tour like a true champion — never giving up, always giving 100 per cent. Playing to his strengths, he knew that as long as he was in touch on the eve of the final time trial in Grenoble, he would be in with a shout. Many times he was on the ropes, every time he fought back.
As it was, he could have lost one and a half minutes to Frandy on Alpe d'Huez and still won the race.
And yet, and yet... it still won't sink in until Evans stands on the podium in Paris in yellow, with another one of those cuddly Credit Lyonnais teddy bears in his arms.
Knowing Evans' luck, who knows what might happen on the way to the Arc de Triomphe. He may fall and crack an elbow while toasting his win in the annual photo call on the outskirts of town. It's for that reason why Saddles reckons Evans, a renowned control freak, might even forego the bubbles opt for fizzy grape juice instead.
Even on Saturday when he was pressing Tony Martin, the most un-German sounding German, for victory, with the yellow jersey all but on his shoulders, Saddles was half expecting some kind of rogue mechanical problem requiring a change of bike.
Or what if, by some cruelly ironic twist of fate, Evans had been floored by a rogue Grenoblois dog called Moliere — or worse even, a crazed Luxembourgeois gentleman brandishing a "Frank & Andy 4eva" flag, dressed in nothing but a Leopard-print thong, some trekking shoes and a pair of Angel wings?
You see, the yellow jersey is meant to give you wings — or at least, that is what Andy said after Alpe d'Huez when he said he was confident or riding into Paris as the Tour champion.
But how confident was he really? He didn't even commit to a full yellow kit — choosing to ride with a standard regulation Leopard Trek helmet. If he could manage yellow gloves, surely it wasn't too much to ask to ask to go full yellow — unless in his head, he was worried that his wings may have been clipped.
Perhaps he was too confident, and metaphorically, like Icarus, flew too close to the yellow dream and got his flappers singed in the sun? One thing's certain — if those were Frandy time trials after an off-season of relentless ITT preparation then what would a turn-up-and-ride Frandy effort be? Something that would make even Damiano Cunego shudder, perhaps.
It's not all tears, though. The Schleck siblings become the first brothers to ever stand on the podium in Paris — although after his third consecutive runners-up berth, they may soon have to rename him Andy Schleckond.
Gaffe of the Day: Philippe Gilbert's chain lock — which reduced the Belgian to a crumpled mess upon his bike — could have won this one. But instead it goes to Tony Martin, who tried the novel tactic of trying to ride in the slipstream of a team car which was already driving slower than him, nearly resulting in the long-necked German ploughing into the back of the vehicle big style. Given the furore over the France TV car that took out Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland, Saddles wonders is the reverse incident — a rider recklessly shunting an innocent media car off the road — would have resulted in Martin's expulsion from the race?
Quote of the Day #1: "What can I say? Second again. But second is not a bad place and I'm quite happy." Even Saddles felt a little sorry for Andy Schleck, who was gracious in defeat (as well as pretty lacklustre in the Pyrenees).
Quote of the Day #2: "This is the victory of a complete rider. It is the consecration of a career." Tour director Christian Prudhomme on Evans.
Plat du jour: All the restaurants were shut because Saddles arrived in Grenoble too late owing to bad traffic.
Stage 21 prediction: The entire FDJ squad will go in time trial mode on the Champs Elysees, only to be reeled in by a later counter attack by unlikely pair Johnny Hoogerland and Alberto Contador, with Hoogie to take the win after getting in the slipstream of a motorbike. Cavendish to be disqualified after sprint irregularities, with Rojas taking enough points to take the green jersey. And in the real world... Cavendish will take green without any ado, but will narrowly miss out on making it a Paris treble after a late surge by Alessandro Petacchi, whose inhaler apparently arrived by post.