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Soup of This Day #38: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

July 24, 2011

Grenoble
Grenoble, the capital of the department of Isère, at the foot of the French Alps – Photo: Anton Ikonnikov, 2005. Anton Ikonnikov is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

A while ago I wrote a post about Mark Webber. A guy for whom talent and grit were negated by bad luck and on occasion poor judgement. Until 2009. In 2009 he won a race and it was a beautiful moment in Australian sport. Fast forward to the Tour de France 2011 and for Mark Webber substitute Cadel Evans.

Twice the runner-up, to Contador by just 23s in 2007 and Sastre by just over 1min in 2008. He had a rep as a talented bike rider but there was always a reason he didn’t get it done. His team let him down, his bike let him down, he fell off the bike, he hit a dog. Don’t worry the dog was ok. In 2009 (Despite winning the World champs) and 2010 he slipped down the order and most commentators wrote him off going in to 2011.

Cadel however put in a near perfect preparation. He did an Armstrong and built his year around the Tour, skipping events that didn’t fit this goal. BMC Racing built a team around Cadel, focussed on the goal of winning the Tour. Crucially that team included one of the best domestiques of them all, Big George Hincapie had been the bodyguard on the road for Lance Armstrong. His expertise in shielding Evans from the crashes in the opening stages meant that whilst Contador lost time, Evans was always near the front of the peloton.

Through the Pyrenees he held the Schleck brothers, and kept Contador at bay, even eking out further leads over Andy Schleck and Contador going into the Alps. In Stages 18 and 19, the big showdowns in the Alps, he was heroic. Up the Galiber in 18 he singlehandedly pulled the other contenders up to limit the losses on an Andy Schleck breakaway. In 19 he came back from nearly 2mins down on a mechanical to cross the line at Alpe d’Huez level with Andy and just 57s down on yellow for the GC. Which brings us to tonight and the penultimate stage, the Race of Truth, the individual time trial. Experts were divided, it was split 50/50 on whether Evans could pull back those 57s. He was the better time trialer but the maillot jaune gives you wings they say and Andy had matched it with Alberto Contador in 2010 and Contador is good.

Here now then is my Twitter commentary of the final run (with assorted retweets from slightly more famous people than me). My own comments commencing from just before Cadel’s exit from the gate (Andy was 6 minutes later):

@lancearmstrong Made it to Grenoble. Gonna be one helluva a race today.

about 5 hours ago

@mattpav29 The tour has been amazing so far – looking forward to another gutsy Cadel effort tonight! All of Aus behind you mate!! #gocadel (Editor: The captain of the Dockers is backing you Cadel. Could go either way then.)

about 4 hours ago

@longworth72 It’s down to this: 41.6km TT at Grenoble. ASchleck has 57s on Cadel. C’mon mate.

about 2 hours ago

@longworth72 Cadel for yellow. Liverpool pre-season vs Hull. Red Sox took Mariners 7-4 in G1. Freo in Derby 34. Webber in German GP. Big 24hrs.

about 2 hours ago

@longworth72 First time check & Cadel=Contador, 21s down on Martin. 35s down now on ASchleck. Go on mate, go on!!

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 The gap is 27s now. FSchleck thru 1st check 30+ down on Cadel. (Editor: FSchleck is Frank, brother of Andy and ahead of Cadel in 2nd prior to the stage. He’s not really that good at time trialling.)

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 ASchleck at 1st check. He’s gone thru 36s down on Cadel. Lead on the road is 21s. Next section should suit ASchleck more but…

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Oh man! Gap now 13s says the computer. Freakin’ nerves on edge here. Go on Cadel… Don’t leave anything out there…

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Ok, SBS back from ad break with cover of Billy Ocean’s When the Going Gets Tough. That’s not necessary. (Don’t worry Billy, I’ll find out who was responsible. On the plus side you’ve given me a line for the title of this post and your last name is Ocean. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.)

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Gap on the road is 2s.

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Cadel Evans leads the Tour de France on the road. 4s the lead.

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Cadel Evans 18s to the good now. Has he spent too much early? Short answer from armchair expert: Nope.

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 2nd check: Cadel only 7s down on Martin. Flying. Abso-bloody-lutely flying. (Around 10s later commentator says that Evans is absolutely flying. I said it better. Probably less people noticed though.)

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Computer says 35s to Cadel.

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 2nd check for FSchleck and he is 1:47 down on Cadel. Contador almost 1:00 down on Martin at 3rd and…

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Contador finishes 1:05 down on Martin. At 2nd check ASchleck is 1:41 down on Cadel. So lead to Evans now is 44s.

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Evans is a handful of minutes from the finish.

about 1 hour ago

@lancearmstrong Congratulations to Cadel Evans. #thatwasademonstration

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 And the lead is now 59s.

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Armstrong is calling it. (Editor: Self-evident Longworth72 to anyone who has read say, 10 lines previous to this one.)

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Evans 2s down on Martin at last check. Can he win the stage?

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 Not quite. About 5s down on Martin. We await the Schlecks… (Editor: It was actually 7s but really who cares?)

about 1 hour ago

@longworth72 YYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Editor: I did not jump on the couch. I got off it and did the silent fist pump followed by the arms raised, Willem-Dafoe-in-Platoon-style. All done silently so as to avoid waking the wife and kid. Instant death that would be.)

43 minutes ago

@longworth72 ASchleck 2:31 down on Cadel. It’s done. The lead is 1:34 on GC. An Australian will win the Tour. You bloody legend Cadel! Well done mate!

41 minutes ago

Cadel Evans kisses lion after taking yellow in penultimate stage 2011

So with just the last stage to go Evans leads by 1:34 over Andy Schleck, who will finish 2nd for the 3rd time. By tradition there will be no attempt by Andy to overhaul Cadel on the last day. That would be extremely poor form and Andy seems like a nice bloke so it won’t happen. I do feel a touch of sorrow for Andy Schleck – Good, bordering on great, in the high mountains he just doesn’t have a time trial to match. Hats off to you Andy – Next year mate – You have time for at least another crack at it son.

And so I leave you tonight with an Australian in pole position to win the Tour tomorrow, something I never thought I’d see. On a night where I’m trying to comprehend the horror and monstrous evil in Norway and, in an unrelated matter, confront my own mortality, this has been something of a welcome distraction.

Tying this post up in a nice, let’s say, yellow bow, comes sporting news from the German GP. Fittingly on such a night Mark Webber came to the party as well, snagging pole for the German GP tomorrow night.

Brilliant.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

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