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Tour De France 2011: 8 Hero's of an Epic Tour

Chris SiddellCorrespondent IIIJuly 24, 2011

Tour De France 2011: 8 Hero's of an Epic Tour

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    The 2011 Tour de France has been one of the most memorable in recent years and will be remembered for the action, the crashes and the close finish with Cadel Evans taking the lead on the final time trial.

    We take a look at eight heroes of the tour in 2011, people who have inspired millions to line the street of France or to tune in and watch on TV around the world.

8. Mark Cavendish

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    Mark Cavendish has proven he is the fastest man on two wheels after taking his tally of stage wins to 20 in this year's tour.

    The Manx missile has won five stages in this year's tour, including a third consecutive victory on the Champs Elysées, the first man to do so.

    His ability to complete the win set up by his HTC team has seen him win 20 stages in just four years, and he is now the first-ever British rider to win the green jersey.

    The one question on everyone’s mind is, at just 26 years old, can he keep going and beat Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins?

7. Jelle Vanendert

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    The young Belgian produced one of the most unlikely results of the tour as he rode to a stage victory in his debut year.

    Vanendert had pushed but ultimately lost out to Samuel Sanchez two days earlier, but on a brutal Stage 14, with no less than six big climbs in the Pyrenees, he made a break for it with less than 10km to go.

    Jelle showed his strength and future potential to finish ahead of Messrs Schleck, Evans and Contador to claim the stage win and a deserved spell in the polka dots.

6. Team FDJ

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    By far the most aggressive team in the race this year, the riders of FDJ have provided us with attacking and entertaining riding throughout the tour.

    Throughout the tour, a FDJ rider was featured in an attack or breakaway during every regular stage with Jeremy Roy, Sandy Casar, Mickael Delgade, Anthony Roux, Arthur Vichot and Arnold Jeannesson all involved at some point.

    Although unable to claim a stage win, the team managed to claim five combativity awards between them, an astonishing 10 victories (as well as five top three's) at intermediate sprint points and reached no less than nine peaks first.

    A great ride from FDJ has helped create a great tour this year, and for this, they are heroes of the tour.

5. Cadel Evans

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    Cadel Evans became the first Australian ever to win the Tour de France in 2011.

    Not a small achievement by any means, and it couldn't have gone to a more deserving rider.

    A former world champion and twice runner-up in le tour, Evans was determined to take victory this season.

    The 34-year-old rode with quiet confidence and aggression when required to keep himself in contention throughout the tour, staying close enough to Andy Schleck in the mountains to take advantage of superior speed in the individual time trials of Stage 20—and to take the yellow jersey when it mattered most.

    Evans will be remembered as the popular champion from one of the best tours in recent years.

4. Pierre Rolland

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    The French wanted victory, and Rolland might have made them wait, but he delivered in style on the final mountain stage in Alp d'Huez.

    His teammate, Thomas Voeckler, may have held yellow for a long time, but along with the rest of the French contingent, he was unable to deliver a stage win.

    Rolland had acted as a faithful domestique to Voeckler in his effort to hold on to the yellow jersey, but after gradually losing time to bigger names, it became clear Voeckler was not going to hold onto his jersey as the riders neared the famed climb up to Alp d'Huez.

    It was here that Rolland made his bid for glory, timing his attack to perfection as he claimed a maiden stage win in 2011 for France.

    In the process of taking the stage win, the 24-year-old from Gien also took the white jersey for the best-placed young rider, and although he was unable to join teammate Voeckler inside the top 10 as the peloton headed into Paris, he did hang on to take the crown of best young rider.

3. Thor Hushovd

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    Former green jersey winner and current world champion Hushovd became the first reigning world champion to win a stage since 2002, and just to prove it wasn't a fluke, he did it again just four days later.

    The Norwegian wore the rainbow jersey with pride and a smile, picking his stages to perfection and romping to glory both times he attacked.

    Hushovd held the yellow jersey for eight days after taking it during the team time trial on day two of the tour.

    But holding the jersey was not enough for the world champion, who picked his stages to perfection for two stage wins on 13 and 16, respectively.

    Both times Hushovd showed he is not just a sprinter, but is also capable of climbing, taking stage wins on days where sprinters were expected to struggle.

    He will leave the tour having worn the rainbow jersey with pride and with a smile, proving along the way that he is a deserving champion. 

2. Thomas Voeckler

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    Voeckler wore the yellow jersey with pride and captured the imagination of France as he battled to become an unlikely winner, only to lose the jersey in the last day of the Alps.

    No stranger to the maillot juane, Voeckler previously held the jersey for 10 days in 2004.

    Widely tipped to lose the jersey when the tour headed into the Pyrenees, the lovable Frenchman gave everything he could to hang on and keep the yellow jersey until the final climb in the Alps.

    Perhaps taking advantage of the stalemate between the favourites, Voeckler won the hearts of France and the rest of the world as he was written off by everyone, but still gave everything he could to hang on to the jersey as long as possible.

    He did the yellow jersey and France proud, riding the support of a nation to perform well above expectations to ride in yellow for 10 days.

1. Johnny Hoogerland

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    Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland has reached a new level of fame to become a real hero and inspiration to cycling fans around the world—although it's almost certain he would rather he hadn't.

    Hoogerland was involved in the accident that saw Juan Antonio Flecha struck by a car whilst the pair were part of a breakaway group. Although it was Flecha who was side-swiped by the car, Hoogerland had the more dramatic fall.

    Riding just behind Flecha, Johnny was catapulted over his handlebars and off the road into a barbed wire fence at high speed.

    With a destroyed set of shorts and blood pouring down his legs, the brave Dutchman untangled himself, pulled on a new pair of shorts and rode on, the medical bike patching him up as he rode.

    He eventually finished the stage behind the main peloton, but his emotional podium visit to collect the polka dot jersey will be one of the more sobering moments of the tour.

    The calmness and refusal to point the finger of blame raised his stock further as Hoogerland reminded the world that it was merely an accident, and the driver has not acted deliberately.

    After receiving 33 stitches to his legs, the real effort and hero status came as the little known Dutchman cycled on to complete the tour. Johnny Hoogerland is the hero of Le Tour 2011.

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