Garmin-Sharp sports director Charlie Wegelius gave his post-Tour assessment of their Tour de France: 8 of 10 overall and 10 of 10 for effort.
Then again, his boss Jonathan Vaughters, who popped into France after the second rest day, said they’d “had some good performances, winning with Dan and some mediocre ones.” He was probably referencing the team time trial in Nice that would have put David Millar in yellow.
Dan Martin’s monster win on stage 9 into Bagnères-de-Bigorre took the pressure off the Boulder, Colorado-based squad. It was the first Tour de France for the Irishman and later American Andrew Talansky, also riding his first Grand Shindig, fought his way to 10th overall.
On the downside, they endured a significant amount of bad luck. Team captain Ryder Hesjedal fractured a rib early in the race and struggled just to play a team role. In Paris, I saw Hesjedal ride around the Champs Elysees almost dead last, at the back of the peloton. It was symbolic of his Tour: high hopes that came crashing down.
Veteran Christian Vande Velde was riding his final Tour de France and the end came faster than he anticipated. Multiple crashes forced him to finally withdraw and head home to Girona, Spain. However we saw Vande Velde at the Garmin team bus twice later in the race, as he dropped in for moral support. We’ll give him a 10 out of 10 for the rah-rah factor.
Meanwhile climber Tom Danielson injured his left calf in the first week of the Tour. He never recovered and his ride to Paris was agonizing and slow, especially whenever he got out of the saddle. He said he felt out-of-sorts about his role in the squad. The little green dinosaur his son gave him to glue on his stem was a constant reminder of home and priorities but it didn’t help his calf heal. We’ll give Danielson a 10 out of 10 for gutting it out in a brutal grand tour.
After the second week, both Martin and Talansky was just one or two places off a top ten finish. However Martin picked up a chill coming off Ventoux and that iced his chances of a high GC finish. He’d tumble down the standings and then all the poker chips were on Talansky.
The American delivered with a consistent and steady third week and an impressive ride up to Annecy-Semnoz where he finished with Alberto Contador and Sky’s Richie Porte to lock down his 10th overall. The next day in Paris, he got his reward — several quality smooches from his girlfriend Kate.
The hard luck award goes to the irrepressible New Zealander Jack Bauer who had several nasty crashes before ripping his face apart on barbed, possibly electrified, wire. We saw his face in Paris and his lips and mouth were so scarred that when he spoke, he sounded like he had a speech impediment. We’ll give Bauer a 12 out of 10 for pain threshold and relentless optimism.
Let’s not forget the nearly hopeless but bold attempt by David Millar, perhaps riding his final tour, to steal a win from the sprinters with his breakaway on the Champs Elysees. If nothing else, it was quality sponsor time on the global TV screen.
So where does that leave us with the final numbers? Given the number of injuries and general misfortune, yeah, 8 out of 10 for overall performance sounds about right. If Talansky hadn’t mis-timed his sprint (his assessment) from the breakaway in stage 14 into Lyon, Garmin might have had two stage wins and a top ten.
On a personal note, we’re also giving our Garmin GPS unit a 10 out of 10 because we’d still be in Nice lost and spewing obscenities if it hadn’t been for that technological miracle. I marvel that any journalist or photographer ever survived a Tour de France without one.
And finally, an apology for those who wondered why Twisted SPoke suddenly went dead for three weeks during the biggest, grandest race of the year. We were writing and shooting some great candids every day for Garmin-Sponsor Clif Bar. (That content is still on site if you want to catch up with my journey.) Such is the exhaustion of driving 6 to 7 hours day, then uploading a dozen photos with short descriptions and writing a Clif blog post that it was impossible to also write for my own website.
But we’re back now and almost on California time and ready to re-launch Twisted Spoke. Over the next few weeks I’ll try to post some of those photos and maybe some behind the scenes experiences of three weeks chasing the race around France.