North Americans at the 2011 Tour de France: 11 start, 10 finish (kind of)
PARIS (VN) — Eleven North Americans started the 2011 Tour de France and 10 of them made it to Paris — although one of them used a body double.
Dave Zabriskie crashed out in stage nine, but Garmin-Cervélo manager Jonathan Vaughters carried a full-sized cardboard photo of him to the final podium ceremony in Paris on Sunday as Garmin-Cervélo was awarded the best team prize.
It was a fitting salute at the end of a hard-fought race that had the fair share of ups and downs for the North Americans lining up for the 98th Tour.
Here’s a recap of how they fared:
• 9th at 8:15 — Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo), 33: Danielson rode like a veteran after finally earning a long sought-after start in the Tour. He helped Garmin win the team time trial and avoided crashes in the first week that affected many of the GC favorites. He arrived to the Pryénées in good shape, where he climbed into the top 10. Best moment: Scoring the fourth-best Tour debut by an American cyclist with ninth place overall.
• 17th at 27:12 — Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo), 35: “VdV” came to the Tour with high hopes after an injury-free run into the Vendée, but his hopes of a top-10 finish came tumbling down with five falls during the frenetic first half of the Tour. He later recovered in the Alps and helped secure Garmin’s team GC prize. Best moment: Helping to power Garmin to team time trial victory in stage 2.
• 18th at 27:14 — Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervélo), 30: Hesjedal came to the Tour motivated to improve on his seventh place overall in last year’s Tour, the best Canadian result since Steve Bauer was fourth in 1988. A first-week fall knocked him out of GC contention, but he never gave up and rode with panache in the Alps to help secure Garmin’s team classification victory. Best moment: Riding to third into Gap to help set up Thor Hushovd’s second stage victory.
• 32nd at 1:03:58 — Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), 37: Leipheimer was the only one of RadioShack’s “Four Musketeers” to make it to Paris, but it was a bumpy road for the three-time Tour of California champion. A string of early-race mishaps derailed his GC hopes and he switched gears to try to win a stage. 32nd overall is his worst Tour result in nine starts. Best moment: Riding to fifth in the team time trial in stage 2.
• 56th at 1:45:16 — George Hincapie (BMC), 38: Hincapie made history with a record-tying 16th Tour, but he really left his mark by guiding Cadel Evans unscathed through the first half of the crash-marred race. Best moment: Helping Evans to win first Tour, a ninth for Hincapie as a teammate.
• 82nd at 2:25:49 — Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), 22: Van Garderen came to the Tour to soak up the ambiance and intensity of the “grande boucle,” but showed his class when he was given wings to attack. “TGV” snuck into the winning breakaway in stage 8 and came close to winning the stage. Best moment: Becoming the first American to wear the polka-dot jersey after his breakaway ride in stage 8.
• 114th at 3:03:47 — Brent Bookwalter (BMC), 27: A working man’s rider, Bookwalter proved his worth by riding in the trenches for Evans. He was often right on Evans’ wheel, helping to protect him from crashes and other mishaps through the first half of the Tour. Best moment: Delivering Evans to the Pyrénées with nary a scratch.
• 159th at 3:38:32 — Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo), 27: Farrar earned a breakthrough Tour victory in stage 3 to become just the second American to win stages in all three grand tours (Dave Zabriskie is the other). He battled through the mountains to finish second in Montpellier and fourth in Paris. Best moment: His victory salute for Wouter Weylandt.
• 165th at 3:45:26 — Danny Pate (HTC-Highroad), 32: An exemplary domestique, Pate got his fair share of TV time by being one of the key pieces of the HTC train that delivered Mark Cavendish to five stage victories. Along with Lars Bak, Pate was often the one doing the heavy lifting to close down breakaways in the final hour of racing. Best moment: Cavendish earns first green jersey.
• DNS, stage 8 — Chris Horner (RadioShack), 39: Horner came to the Tour as a legitimate outsider for the podium. Hot off his Tour of California win and second at the Vuelta a País Vasco, Horner said he had the best form of his career. All those hopes came tumbling down in a horrific crash in stage 7 that saw him suffer a minor concussion. Best moment: Arriving at the Tour with legs to fight for the podium, though no one will ever know how far he could have gone.
• DNF, stage 9 — David Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervélo), 32: “Captain America” came to the Tour to work and to ride time trials. He more than delivered on both fronts, working hard to set up the sprints and contributing to the team’s huge TTT win. Zabriskie crashed out in stage 9 with a broken wrist, but is expected to be back for Colorado’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage race. Best moment: Helping to power Garmin-Cervélo to the team time trial victory and putting Thor Hushovd in the yellow jersey.