This is really all you need to know about the Tour de France this year. Here's current yellow jersey holder Bradley Wiggins with his closest (and only) remaining competition for the top prize, Vincenzo Nibali, together at the summit of the final climb of a day of tough climbing. Hugging it out, so to speak, after Wiggins supposedly dishonored Nibali on the previous stage. Now they're "friends" again, no ill will to speak of. And no one is going to beat fucking Wiggins this year.
Team Sky has made a mockery of the Tour this year, much in the way that USPS used to make a mockery of the competition during Lance Armstrong's 7-year reign of terror. The immediate questions of doping that come to mind when bringing up the Postal Service team's dominance aside, it has made for a very anticlimactic Tour this year as not only Wiggins, but teammate Chris Froome, are far and away the best racers so far, and hasn't really even been close. Because of the way Sky has controlled the race -- with Wiggins having upwards of four teammates with him at the start of his climbs -- even when there is relentless attacking, as happened in Stages 10 and 11, it all ends for naught. First Mick Rogers, then Richie Porte, and then finally Chris Froome will take up the pacemaking and guide Wiggins ahead to catch whichever challenger attempts to dethrone him. He has 2:25 on Nibali right now, who is placed third just behind Froome, and 3:19 on defending champion Cadel Evans after Evans had a bad day out on Stage 11. Both of those riders need to be at least a minute ahead of Wiggins before the final time trial to stand a chance and they're already 2 1/2 and 3+ minutes down. Yes, we haven't hit the final week of the Tour yet and yes we haven't hit the relentless mountains of the Pyrenees or the Queen stage -- this year Stage 17 -- but the odds of either rider or anyone else gaining that much time against Wiggins and Froome and the Team Sky machine are pretty much nil, failing a crash or other unforeseen misfortune in Wiggo's way. I should probably be celebrating this amazing performance for British cycling but really, I hate when a Tour is dominated by a single team / rider, particularly this early, and I hate the thought that they are suddenly so head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition for "unknown" reasons (Wiggins' best performance in a previous Tour was 4th in 2009 and Froome has never ridden the Tour before to any kind of result). At least Nibali tried though, as has Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who would be closer to the lead if not for an ill-timed flat tire on a stage in the first week that cost him a bunch of time. They are making the stages themselves entertaining, even if the overall result is not really in doubt.
- Froome, at 2.05
- Nibali, at 2.23
- Cadel Evans, BMC, at 3.19
- Van Den Broeck, at 4.48
Young Rider Classification
- Tejay Van Garderen, BMC
- Thibaut Pinot, FDJ, at 1.54
- Frederick Kessiakoff, Astana, 66 pts
- Pierre Rolland, Europcar, 55
- Chris Anker Sorensen, Saxo Bank, 39
Stage 11 Results
- Pierre Rolland, Europcar
- Thibaut Pinot, FDJ, at 0.55
- Chris Froome, Sky, s.t.
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Lotto, at 0.57
- Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, s.t.
- Bradley Wiggins, Sky, s.t.
- Chris Anker Sorensen, Saxo, at 1.08
- Janez Brajkovic, Radio Shack, at 1.58
- Vasil Kiryienka, Movistar, at 2.13
- Frank Schleck, Radio Shack, at 2.23
That's 2 stages in a row for Europcar and French riders (and a 1-2 finish for France). Last year signalled the start of a comeback for French cycling (which hasn't had a Tour winner since the '80s) and this year has definitely solidified it. Both Rolland and Pinot are in the top 10 overall.
Oh and great work by Tejay Van Garderen, the highest placed American (7th overall), despite sacrificing his own time today to drop back and help a fading Cadel. He's only 24 years old, has a tenuous hold on the white jersey in front of Pinot, and definitely appears to be the future of American cycling. Now if we could only hook him up with Lance Armstrong's "trainers".