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The 2012 Tour de France, told in 12 analysis...

The 2012 Tour in 12 analysis pieces

We revisit some of the top storylines of the Tour de France, by way of our contributors' in-depth analysis

The 99th Tour de France is 18 days old on Tuesday. As riders spin their legs out and lounge in Pau during the race’s second and final rest day, the Pyrénées loom overhead. Sky’s tandem of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome sit atop the general classification with three decisive days of racing remaining. Much has been made on our website and in European newspapers of the inner conflict at Sky, but there have been so many storylines in this Tour.

From Peter Sagan’s unmatchable kick and paradoxical personality to the fall-out from the “Metz Massacre,” drama has been in high supply since the race kicked off in Liège, Belgium on June 30. To recount a few of the more memorable arcs in the 2012 Tour, we look back at the race, as told in 12 analysis pieces from VeloNews contributors.

Notes from the Scrum: Froome attacks on the road, in the bus

By Matthew Beaudin

Just a hunch, but I don’t think Chris Froome will be handing teammate Bradley Wiggins his bike if things go sideways for the maillot jaune in the Pyrénées this week. And it won’t be because the two aren’t the same size, though Froome would certainly say that.

Froome dropped Bradley Wiggins on a climb in the Alps. Now, he’s dropping him in the press. It’s a sophisticated plan by letting all of us see that he could drop his captain, then reaching further, putting pressure on Wiggins inside the bus far greater than any rival has been able, in saying he’d go with attacks in the mountains if Wiggins couldn’t.
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Commentary: Rare malice in an open sport

By Ryan Newill

Many fans saw stage 14’s tack incident, in which upholstery tacks were apparently spread along a portion of the Mur de Péguère, as a sign that cycling, and maybe humanity, are on the decline. After all, who would purposely sabotage a bicycle race and expose its riders to even more potential injury than they face from the inherent dangers of the sport? It was a despicable act, not to mention a pointless one. But the fact that yesterday’s sabotage is such news, that riders and fans alike are so surprised, is an indicator of how seldom similar incidents – malicious interference in the racing – happen in cycling. In fact, that road cycling still exists and thrives in the security era and current sports climate is no small miracle.
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Best young rider contest is complicated for Tejay van Garderen

By Ryan Newill

In theory, the Tour’s best young rider competition is a straightforward parallel to the race for the yellow jersey. Take the GC results, strip out all the riders over the age of 25, and what remains is your white jersey classification. Come Paris, the lowest time wins. Simple. Unless you’re Tejay van Garderen, the young American currently leading the competition.
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David Millar remembers his past as he celebrates the present

By Chris Case

Good things come to those who wait — even to an “ex-doper.”

After the longest stage of the 2012 Tour, over 226km and almost six hours of racing, the wait had come to an end for David Millar (Garmin-Sharp). He had himself another stage victory at the Tour de France, his fourth as an individual.
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Analysis: Do shorter stages make for more interesting racing?

By Andrew Hood

Last year, Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme liked what he saw in the short, but wildly exciting 109.5km 19th stage finishing atop Alpe d’Huez. With fierce debate over race radios grounding the UCI’s plan to ban them, is the real route to more exciting racing simply cutting distance out of big stages?

With three major climbs on tap for the 2011 Tour’s final day in the Alps, riders jumped right from the gun as the course turned onto the Col du Madeleine. Alberto Contador opened up a blistering attack, drawing out all the GC captains, who, instead of staying tucked inside the bunch, were quickly isolated in a desperate chase up the Galibier.

“That was a spectacular day in the Tour last year,” Prudhomme said. “The riders were not afraid to attack.”
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Analysis: Voigt and Voeckler lead the populist puncheurs

By Ryan Newill

It is difficult to imagine a breakaway more popular with the cycling cognoscenti than the one that contested the finish of Wednesday’s stage 10 to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.

What started as a 25-man move was gradually winnowed down, first by the passing of the sprint point at Béon that was the raison d’être for the presence of riders like Peter Sagan, Matt Goss, and Yauheni Hutarovich, and then by the fearsome 12-percent slopes of the 17km Col du Grand Colombier. Once the Colombier did its work, what remained was a five-man move consisting of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). The combination was enough to set TV commentators, online coverage and Twitter aflutter.
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It’s official now: Defending Tour de France champ Cadel Evans is now the challenger

By Matthew Beaudin

Cadel Evans seemed like an underdog before this Tour de France even started. Now, the defending champion really is.

Evans bled 1:43 to Wiggins over the 41.5km time trial from Arc-et-Senans to Bensançon, much of it before the first check. It wasn’t that Evans rode a bad time trial — it’s that Wiggins’ was just that good, as he blasted general classification contenders and specialists alike.
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‘Metz Massacre’ rips through the Tour’s GC ranks

By Andrew Hood

There are always crashes in the first week of the Tour de France, but this year seemed a little more forgiving.

Going into Friday’s stage, most of the major GC riders had avoided a disastrous crash, accident or mishap that would torpedo his yellow jersey dreams.

Just as the Tour was poised to shift gears with a tidy little sprint into Metz before turning into the first climbing stages of the 99th edition, disaster struck just 25km from the finish line.

No one quite knows who caused it, but the reasons were the same and the aftermath cruel.
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The Paradox of Peter Sagan

By Matthew Beaudin

All he does is win. But there is a startling polarity in Peter Sagan, who’s already lit this Tour de France on fire.

Sagan (Liqguigas-Cannondale) refused to pull through during his stage 1 win, when maillot jaune Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) implored him not once but twice. After his stage 3 victory, Sagan said, when asked about his chances to be a world champion: “I want to win everything.” He means it.
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Commentary: Trial and Tribulation for USADA five

By Ryan Newill

By dawn on Thursday morning, it was clear that the five former U.S. Postal team riders named by three European papers as having testified to USADA against Lance Armstrong were in for a rough day at the Tour de France.

Hemmed in by the race’s predictable location and schedule and housed cheek-by-jowl with the bulk of the world cycling press corps, that much was a given.

But how the rest of the Tour and the days beyond might play out for them is anyone’s guess. Much has been made of what their testimony means to Armstrong and the case USADA has built against him, but what will it mean for them?
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Commentary: Handing Sagan the Cannibal curse

By Ryan Newill

It isn’t entirely fair to blame Phil Liggett, really, because the curse had already been bandied about on group rides, in coffee shops, on Twitter and elsewhere as soon as Peter Sagan started becoming a majority owner of short stage races. But it was Liggett who formally unleashed the curse on Sagan on Tuesday’s NBC coverage of the Tour de France, declaring to the world seconds after Sagan’s stage 3 victory that “(Sagan) is the new Eddy Merckx in cycling, for sure.”

Nearly 35 years after “The Cannibal’s” 1978 retirement, the “next Merckx” label, a curse both intended and disguised as compliment, remains one of the heaviest albatrosses that can be slung around a professional cyclist’s neck. If we’re honest, the next-Merckx curse is more symptom than a disease of its own.
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Swiss Timepiece: Fabian’s return is right on time

By Chris Case

On April 1, Fabian Cancellara hit an errant water bottle in a feed zone during the Tour of Flanders and went down. Hard. He broke a collarbone and the crack, it could be said, was heard ’round the world. His Flanders was certainly over. In fact, the part of the season he most looks forward to — the part of the season when, if he’s on form, he singlehandedly changes the tactics and spirit of every competitor around him — was finished.

As quickly as his season turned, though, Cancellara said he would be back, with new goals. The pressure never subsides for “Spartacus.” Yet it’s a long and arduous return from the depths of a triple fracture, and when June 30 finally rolled around, there was a collective sigh of relief when he was able to take the yellow jersey at the prologue in Liége. It was as if he was entitled to it.
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