Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blazin' Saddles Tour Awards 2011

From Yahoo UK Sports via Don:

Now the dust has settled on the Champs and FDJ have stopped attacking, Blazin' Saddles takes you through its official post-Tour awards.

Nice-guys-finish-first award: Cadel Evans won the Tour fair and square - he was the most consistent individual, the strongest mentally and, contrary to previous form, one of the most aggressive going forward. What's more, he's just a normal, fragile, shy guy who likes dogs and doesn't like being hampered by the media. Chapeau, Cadel.

The podium's-not-big-enough award: Tommy Voeckler encapsulated the spirit of the Tour with his remarkable 10-day ride in yellow - that he missed out on a podium place at the expense of a rider who did very little to put a smile on anyone's face is rather sad. It's safe to say Voeckler will never match the highs of this year's race, which is why he deserved more than just memories.

Justice-is-done award: Voeckler's team-mate Pierre Rolland taking victory on Alpe d'Huez after a selfless three weeks riding for his leader.

Must-be-more-like-the-Klitschkos award: Frank and Andy Schleck - come on guys, become individuals and race like champions and then maybe Saddles will stop calling you Frandy...

Stand-over-Jens-your-time-is-up award: Although there were some jokes about Jens Voigt knocking the Port de Lers climb out twice after he crashed on the Pyrenean descent, the time has come for the peloton to adopt a new hard man. And the obvious choice, after surviving a high-speed run-in with barbed wire and riding on with 33 stitches in his legs and backside, has to be Johnny Hoogerland. A star has been born.

Back-to-the-drawing-board award: Despite their excellent tactics the day Andy stormed the Galibier, Leopard Trek were found out during the Tour and are clearly hampered by having two brothers as their combined leaders. If only one of them could time trial... Bjarne Riis also has a lot of work to do at Saxo Bank, whichever way Alberto Contador's CAS hearing goes.

Best nickname: After securing yellow on the penultimate day, Evans earned the moniker 'Kangourroudoudou' from the French press, combining two facets of the Australian's personality - kangaroos and cuddly toys (or 'doudous' as they say in France).

Best-world-champion-since-Cadel-Evans award: Thor Hushovd, who won not one but two stages featuring big climbs.

Best-blog-headline award: 'Forlorn on the Fourth of July', 'Bak to the Future Pate II' and 'Bubbles for Cuddles' came near, but the best was 'Voeck 'n Roll'.

Best-country award: The host nation played a massive role in this extraordinary Tour, the Isle of Cavendish delivered everything it promised; but the prize must go to Norway, whose two representatives notched two stages apiece. Not bad for a small country often covered by snow.

Worst-Driving Award: While the motorbike which snagged Nicky Sorensen would usually have romped this category, there was, staggeringly, a worse incident involving a petrol-powered vehicle, namely the cretinous car swerve which floored Juan Antonio Flecha and sent Johnny Hoogerland sprawling into a barbed wire fence. If Saddles had his way, the driver of the France TV car would lose her licence for life.

The man-bites-dog award for getting equal: Germany's Tony Martin put his neck on the line (yes, a particularly large line it was too) when he almost ploughed into the back of a near-stationary Sky support car during the individual time trial. Martin's last-ditch avoidance was something to behold.

Best-tweeter-in-the-peloton award: Fabian Cancellara kept us entertained with his often incomprehensible tweets, delivered in the Swiss maestro's inimitable 'Fabianese' method of communication. But the winner has to be Mark Cavendish, who filled our timelines with tales of runny farts, room sharing with Bernie Eisel and the pains of mountain climbing. Oh, and the odd rant against rivals and race commissaires.

Worst-interview-technique award: He may have won the Tour fair and square, but Cadel Evans is always about as comfortable as a jagged stone sofa during his media appearances, which are often bookended with a shrill laugh so nervous it could have its own Seinfeld-style sitcom.

The must-have-accessory award for next year: Frandy could do with some mirrors fitted on to their handlebars to avoid getting cricks in their necks. Failing that, how about a tandem?
Making-men-come-out-of-the-closet award: Hushovd when beating his chest in celebration after riding down the back of a mountain faster than Jan Ullrich at the sound of an ice cream van.

No-more-Mr-Nice-Guy award: Next year - if he gets the chance - Saddles suggests Jurgen van de Walle concentrates more on himself and getting through the first week than looking after the wellbeing of his fellow riders in the peloton. The Belgian hit (or rather, hipped) the deck via a sleeping policeman in stage one after warning the bunch of some impending road furniture, becoming the first rider to quit the race for the second successive year.

Best-punch-of-the-year award: Alberto Contador's right hook into the face of that nutter in a green nurse uniform while riding up to Alpe d'Huez certainly won the Spaniard a lot of respect from fans all round the world.

Worst-punch-of-the-year award: Contador punching the sky when he crossed the line at Mur-de-Bretagne after wrongly thinking he'd pipped Evans for the stage four victory.
The hardly-as-good-as-Geox award: Sauj-Sojasun, whose inclusion deprived us of seeing more favourites crash out in the first week, namely Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov.

Maybe-skip-the-Giro-next-year award: Gadret, Kiryienka, Contador, Dupont... the list goes on and on.

See-you-at-the-Vuelta award: The close season suddenly takes a new shape for the likes of Wiggins, Van den Broeck, Brajkovic, Kern, Gesink and others who withdrew or failed to shine owing to injury.

Concentrate-on-the-Classics award: Tom Boonen - face it, Tommeke, this Tour malarkey isn't really working out too well for you any longer, is it?

Most-ominous-start-to-one's-Tour-career award: Andre Greipel, who crashed in the neutral zone before the opening stage had even got under way. Still, he did win one stage, making him by default one-fifth the rider that old foe Cavendish is.

Stick-to-making-vodka award: An all-Russian team at the Tour, really? Well, Katusha, it kind of backfired. The team's only positive was a dope test from Alexandre Kolobnev, whose punishment on returning to his homeland was a knighthood from President Medvedev for 'services to the motherland'.

Lonely-rider award: Euskaltel's Gorka Verdugo, the only rider in the peloton whose wheel Cadel Evans will never follow.

Send-him-to-the-Guillotine award for treachery: David Moncoutie, who put himself before la patrie when - heaven forbid - trying to chase a stage win at the expense of compatriot Jeremy Roy.

The Duracell Bunny award for most indefatigable rider: It's that man Roy again, who broke clear at virtually every occasion. He never won a stage, but he did pick up the prize for most aggressive rider.

Best-team award: Garmin-Cervelo may have picked up the official prize, while HTC may have notched six stage wins owing to a combination of its train, Cavendish's legs and Martin's ITT ability, but the prize must go to Europcar, a team which almost folded last winter, but delivered France's only stage victory, France's only yellow jersey, France's highest-placed rider, plus France's first white jersey in more than 20 years.

Yes-we-were-really-there-,-honest award: Robert Gesink, Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso, Yuri Trofimov and Alessandro Petacchi.

The at-least-I-rode-well-on-the-one-day-that-mattered award: Tyler Farrar, who became the first American to win on Independence Day, before seemingly taking on a sprinting internship with Alessandro Petacchi.

The 'Bunker' award: So good was Pierre Rolland's sandbagging of Samuel Sanchez on his way up to Alpe d'Huez, the Spaniard actually came and congratulated him at the finish.

The sequence-ending award: Jelle Vanendert's win atop Plateau de Beille brings an end to the times you'll hear commentators say, 'whoever wins on Plateau de Beille goes on to win the Tour in Paris'.

The Jerome Coppel award for one to look out for in the future: Pierre Rolland, who delivered France's only win on the biggest of stages - all after 10 days in stellar service of Thomas Voeckler. Saddles just hopes we're not spending future Tours simply looking out for him, as we seem to be doing for Coppel...

The apt-piece-of-commentary award: Irishman Sean Kelly describing Alessandro Petacchi's third-place finish in Montpellier as "turd".

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