27 July 2014

An Outsider Wears The Yellow Jersey

The Tour de France ended a few hours ago.  Vincenzo Nabali won.

That result doesn't seem so surprising now.  But, before the race began. I don't think very many people were picking him as anything more than a dark horse to ascend the podium at the end of the Champs-Elysees

He is a talented rider, but he had a bit of luck:  Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, two of the favorites, both pulled out of the race after crashing.    Also, this year's route played to his strenghts:  three of his four stage victories were in the mountains.  In fact, he won a stage in each of the ranges the Tour visited:  the Vosges, Alps and Pyrenees.  

Moreover, his other stage victory came on the Tour's second day, at the end of the 201km from York to Sheffield.  That made Nibali the first Tour winner since Eddy Mercx to win four non-time trial stages.  For the record, there was only one such stage in this year's race, which was a good thing for Nibali, as that is not one of his strenghts.

Although, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was not rooting for anyone in particular, I am glad to see Nibali win.  He hails from Sicily, as some of my family does.  One of the reasons, I believe, that there haven't been--until recently--many Italian-American competitive cyclists is that most Italians who emigrated to the US came from Sicily or the southern part of the mainland (from places such as Naples).  Most of Italy's racing cmmunity and infrastructure (as well as most of its bicycle industry) is found in the northern part of the country.  There isn't even as much recreational cycling in, say, Palermo or Bari as there is in the Tuscan and Ligurian regions, or in some northern European countries.  

Nibali on the Champs-Elysees

So, congratulations to Vincenzo Nabali.

Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinod took the other two positions on the podium.  This is the best showing for French cyclists in three decades.  Next year will mark 30 years since Bernard Hinault took the most recent overall Tour victory for a French rider.  Could it be the time the French take back their own Tour?  Or will Nibali repeat--or will Froome or Contador return to form?   

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