The Curse Of The Yellow Jersey

Jul 13 2010

Cancellara in yellowIt seems the Yellow Jersey has been made of butter this year. Sure, last year’s race—in which a mere three riders each enjoyed at least six days in the fleece—was something of an aberration, but it’s beginning to get ridiculous out there.

Five lead changes in nine stages of racing is something the Tour hasn’t seen since the tumult of 1998, and even then, it took Chris Bordman’s rough introduction to an unfortunate bit of Irish landscaping to accomplish the feat. It’s all the more baffling that these changes in race lead have been accomplished without time bonuses and a GC battle between sprinters; historically speaking, that’s what causes games of musical maillot jaune

On rare occasions—the chaotic Tours of the late 80s come to mind—two or more GC favorites will waver back and forth, trading off the race lead, sometimes until the final day. But, even with the Cancellara-Chavanel-Cancellara-Chavanel exchange in the first week, there’s been nothing even resembling “trades” for the race leaders in 2010; it’s been acquisition, catastrophe.

Cancellara took the race lead in the prologue, and with time bonuses off the table, seemed a solid candidate to hold it to the mountains. Then, on Stage 2, a freak accident took out the entire field, prompting him to give it up to save his team’s GC chances. It fell to Sylvain Chavanel, a Frenchman from an ostensibly cobble-ready squad—ideal traits for a placeholder Yellow Jersey in this year’s course—who seemed even more likely to carry it to the mountains.

Seven Yellow JerseysBut the cobbles thought otherwise, and three punctures later, Cancellara found himself back in yellow, surely the favorite to hold it to the Tour’s first true mountaintop finish. But in the heat and Cat 2 climbs, Cancellara cracked, dropped a fat fifteen minutes on the overall, and ceded the jersey once again to Chavanel. Not to be outdone, the Frenchman rode under the pressure of the true contenders to the point of total implosion the next day, bequeathing the jersey to Cadel Evans.

While Cadel doesn’t have the best history of race leadership, riding with his best supporting cast ever and the confidence of a strong Giro campaign made his shoulders feel like a relatively safe place for the coveted maillot jaune. But on a day where the Tour guide insisted a big GC battle was “an unlikely scenario“, Evans lost nearly 10 minutes; an impressive performance given the broken elbow he’d concealed during the stage, but enough to all but eliminate him as an overall contender.

And the crazy thing is, the madness might not stop with Andy Schleck. Sure, SaxoBank has been an active, impressive squad thus far this Tour. But after today’s woodchipper, it seems unlikely that they’ll have much interest in pulling back wave after wave of patriotic Frenchman on tomorrow’s still-not-easy Bastille Day stage—especially with this descent featuring in the final kilometers.

With a mere 0:41 on Contador—one second less than the Luxembourger lost to the Spaniard over 9k in the prolgue—it’s unlikely Bjarne Riis will chose to completely shoulder the weight of the race for the next two weeks, especially not with this pancake chrono as the last GC word before Paris. Fobbing leadership off on another squad would be a good way for the team to sit back and plot their battle plan against Contador, who’s looking better by the day.

So how many more leaders will this race see? I shudder to even imagine. In theory, it could be none. But despite the widely accepted opinion that today marked a de facto reduction of this Tour to a two-man race, I think we’ll see at least two more wearers before the jersey’s true recipient is finally decided.

Let’s just hope that if Andy does decide to rid himself of this thing, it’s under less catastrophic circumstances than we’ve seen thus far.

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12 Responses to “The Curse Of The Yellow Jersey”

  1. Cillian Kelly 13 July 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Evans seems to be cursed altogether when it comes to leader’s jerseys. In the past 3 Grand Tours he’s ridden he’s held the leader’s jersey for one day and one day only.

  2. David White 13 July 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    Cadel, you’ve done your best; please stop apologizing.

  3. Roger 13 July 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    Cadel had a broken bone and rode in the top group on yesterdays stage but faltered today. So JUST WHAT is Lances’ excuse?

  4. brufus 13 July 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    He may not need as much time as many think. Consider the TT in the context of the 3rd week and after having to raced big mountain stages. When else would you see Contador beat Cancellara, Millar, Wiggins, et al in a TT? It seems Andy (yet to realize full potential) is going better this year compared to last while Alberto is not. We’ll see.

  5. Roger 13 July 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    …. And let’s not forget he was beaten over the line today by a much older man – MOREAU!! And day older man Voigt too. He can’t use age as an excuse EITHER.

  6. Tom 13 July 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Righto Roger, calm down son.

    I think Andy is going to have to pull out some serious time on Bertie in the mountains. Unless he’s been really concentrating on his TTing I don’t think he can beat Bertie in such a long, flat TT.

  7. Joe 14 July 2010 at 4:26 am #

    I am a proud aussie! Seeing Cadel ride like that really touched me today!

  8. Arjan Hulsebos 14 July 2010 at 6:27 am #

    I was a bit disappointed seeing Evans drop from the main group, and finish some 8 minutes behind Schleck and Contador. Then I heard he’d been cycling with a broken elbow, which put it all in a totally different perspective. Guys like Evans are a great asset to the sport, especially after being bombarded for a month or so by soccer’s sissies, cry babies, and drama queens.

  9. rainbow 14 July 2010 at 6:43 am #

    the Jen’s 1 day older 43 seconds faster!

  10. Big Mikey 14 July 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    While I think AS is capable of pulling out a good TT when necessary, he’s going to need a bit of a buffer to make is a sure thing. I think you’ll see AC bide his time and put in one serious attack to drop AS for yellow in the Pyrenees. If Astana let AS/Saxo have the yellow jersey on purpose, it was masterful. Let them do all the work for the race gets to the mountains again.

    Easy on LA there, Roger. Crashed 10km before a decisive climb just before things started to speed up, chased at full power to catch the group just as the climb started, was gassed already, and got dropped. Realized his race was over, and finished the stage conserving energy. Bad luck, and although he was never going to challenge for the win, shit happens. But congrats on the blind rage, hope that works out for you.

  11. rainbow 14 July 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    I don’t thing you are very familiar with the German concept of Schadenfreude big mike or the Australasian ‘piss take’ where the more obtuse obscure manner you can make the point the better humour you can derive from it, hence the greater Schadenfreude, enjoy it while you can Lance wont let it last.
    As for Lance chasing, the cobbles was the only time so far that he has seen air in front of his own wheel. Voigt2 chased on untill dismissed to ride up the field to try and help the real contenders on the team.

  12. rainbow 16 July 2010 at 1:06 am #

    Fränk Schleck announced in the media today that cobbles have no place in the tour,
    Andy Schleck wants time trials removed from the current format.
    Cancelllera wants to neutralize any descents (particularly wet ones)
    Canvendouche doesn’t want any hills what so ever
    Lance feels any route with traffic furniture and more than 9 riders (his team around him) are far too dangerous to participate in these days.
    Alberto Contador is up on having tours only on steep climbs.
    Deni don’t Menchov me, wants the race to be run at night so that he is even less visible
    Jens wants it hotter, colder, harder, longer, but on smoother roads.
    Mark Renshaw is willing to wear a softer outer layer on his helmet, but like fellow Australian Chopper Read he thinks all other sprinters should.
    Chris Horner is delighted to still be in one piece, upright and participating in a Grand Tour after day twelve, he has clearly taken Choppers advice. Cadel DOUBLE SO.
    Bernard H agrees with Chopper, but thinks only he needs to be on the tour podium, and occasionally prized cows off his farm.
    But lets not be fränk, the whole peloton should jump on Choppers bike, and become good all round bike handlers and riders not professional over paid poofs.

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