Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to the 2010 Tour de France is that it went by quicker than any Tour since the centenary edition of 2003. While the duel between Contador and Schleck grabbed most of the headlines, this year's race was so much more.
High credit must be paid to Alessandro Petacchi, as he became the fairly unexpected winner of the Green Jersey. Petacchi is a man who has been around the block, an explosive sprinter, he blitzed the first week of the 2003 with four stage wins. However, in the guise of that other famed modern Italian sprinter, Mario Cipollini, he pulled out of the race as soon as the race went uphill.
In a show of unashamed honesty, I for one was one of the many who thought this year was to be the same. A good first week where he picked up two wins was to be the precursor for a trip home when the race reached the Alps. However, with guts and determination he continued on unassumed as Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish dominated conversation.
With Hushovd clearly off form and Cavendish losing ground in the first week, Petacchi continued to amass points and arrive in Paris the embodiment of consistency and symbolised the true meaning of the green jersey.
The same is true of the new king of the mountains, Anthony Charteau. For many years a team rider, this year, when the opportunity arose for success, he grabbed it with both hands. By no means the best climber in the peloton, being dropped on some of the toughest climbs, Charteau grabbed points where he could and held off a late surge from the retiring Christophe Moreau.
Following on that wheel, it was the resurgence of the French this year that was perhaps the best thing to see. For years an embattled public and media rued an American that dominated their race and wondered when a homegrown rider would stand up to the incredible pressure that they were put under. Only Jalabert's polka-dot jersey wins and Thomas Voeckler's run in yellow in 2004 had provided major cause for celebration.
This year, perhaps with less expectation, French riders came to the fore. Besides the mountains battle there were stage wins for Casar, Riblon, Voeckler, Fedrigo, and of course Sylvain Chavanel.
Chavanel perhaps is the best representation of the modern French rider. Since moving to Belgium in recent years, he has become a different rider. Away from the pressures of the home media he has taken the attack to races and his time in yellow would undoubtedly been longer had he not suffered the ignominy of two punctures on the way to Arenberg.
So it's a fond farewell we pay to the 2010 Tour de France and for the numerous positive storylines that have run through it. It perhaps leaves us with the brightest future a Tour has left cycling in many years.
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