Late nights with the Tour de France

[caption id="attachment_952" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Atlantic Magazine: Tour de France 2011 - Part 1"]Cadel Evans in the Peloton[/caption]

I've spent the evenings of the last three weeks watching the late night rebroadcast of the Tour de France on Versus. It's been an epic struggle with lessons in persistence, perseverance and bravery.

Midway through it seemed like each day contained a major crash, with cyclists colliding or flying off the course. And bones breaking. Broken collar bone, broken wrist, broken pelvis, and on. A reminder of how cycling is a crazily dangerous sport.

The most spectacular crash came when a media car swerved to avoid a tree hanging over the road. The car missed the tree but took out two cyclists, Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland, sending Hoogerland onto a barbed wire fence.

Despite gashes that eventually required 33 stitches to close, he hopped back on his bike to finish the stage and win the King of the Mountains jersey that day.

From the gruesome to the gritty: French cyclist Thomas Voeckler held onto the leader's yellow jersey for 10 days of the 21 day race, only to give it up to Andy Schleck who lead two days of vicious attacks up the Col du Galibier and l'Alpe d'Huez. A stunning 60 km breakaway by Andy Schleck gave him a 2 minute lead on the Col de Galibier.

[caption id="attachment_955" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The Atlantic Magazine: Tour de France 2011 - Part 2"]Peleton - Tour de France 2011[/caption]

Not to be outdone, Cadel Evans gritted back about half that time with a shrewd ride on l'Alpe d'Huez. On the final racing stage of the Tour, a time trial in Grenbole, Cadel Evans put his head down and poured his heart out to gain a minute-and-a-half lead over Andy Schleck to win the Tour de France.

It was great to see two time runner up Evans ride smart and ride hard to take the yellow jersey on the last racing stage and become the first ever Aussie winner of the Tour de France.