I spent about 20 minutes Sunday morning trying to explain the Stage Two Team Time Trial (TTT) to my four-year-old. There was really no parallel I could draw to anything within his frame of context (Transformers, Lego, Beyblades), so we ended in failure, him cheering every rider that came across the line first, at the head of a line of teammates.
The TTT had two winners, of course. One was Thor Hushovd who led the Garmin-Cervelos over the line to take the yellow jersey. I thought, on Stage One, that Philipe Gilbert had pulled off a good trick by getting to pull the maillot jaune over the Belgian National Champion’s jersey, but then the Bull of Grimstad one-upped him by pulling yellow over world champion stripes. In that one magical moment, all the disappointments of the Norwegian’s early season seemed to disappear. The order to let Hushovd cross the line first was a tactical masterwork by G-C management. A happy viking is a helpful viking (more on that in a minute).
The other big winner was Cadel Evans, whose BMC squad managed to take second place, and, because Garmin-Cervelo has no current threat for the general classification, Evans was able to add valuable seconds to his lead real candidates for the overall, for even though Hushovd wears yellow, everyone knows he isn’t a contender for GC. BMC’s performance was all the more impressive as none of their squad are world-class time trialists. It speaks to a level of organization and focus that, in a TTT, can overcome raw power, and it suggests that Evans finally has the team support he needs to make a credible tilt at the top podium step.
Stage three was your standard TdF sprint stage, except that the intermediate dash for green jersey points saw both Hushovd AND Mark Cavendish relegated for a brief tussle that barely registered on TV cameras. It was just another blow to Cavendish’s green jersey hopes, which were dented further in the run into the finish.
HTC-Highroad’s lead out seemed to come to the fore awfully early, with riders peeling off the front well in advance of the line. When things really got hot near the end, the blue helmets of Garmin-Cervelo suddenly appeared, and then cut the HTCs out entirely on a hard left-hander, Cavendish losing his line and leaving Hushovd in yellow to lead out Tyler Farrar for the win.
Yes. The sight of the yellow jersey on the back of the world champion leading out a sprint for a teammate is something you should try to remember. To my knowledge, it has not happened before, it may well not happen again. This is the fruit Garmin-Cervelo get to reap for taking care of Hushovd in the TTT the day before, and it allowed the big Norwegian to further burnish his reputation as an act of pure class.
Farrar winning on the 4th of July was a nice storyline for American fans. His ‘W’ victory salute in tribute to fallen friend Wouter Weylandt was a nice touch. Garmin-Cervelo are clearly the darlings of the 2011 Tour thus far.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International