Tour Guide Flashback – Vacansoleil Pages (2011)
RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. As part of the team pages we are also offering ‘Flashbacks’ to the 2011 Guide to help provide a look at the progress/changes to the teams between the 98th and 99th Tours de France.
In this flashback we look at the commentary on the Vacansoleil team from the 2011 Tour preview.
Flashback: 2011 – Vacansoleil Team Pages
Long-awaited, anticipated Tour de France rendezvous
It’s been a long time in the making but Vacansoleil-DCM has finally been able to secure a place in the Tour line-up. What it does now is anyone’s guess. Judging the team on what it’s done in the early season does give a hint of what’s possible, but good results in March need not be indicative of what can be done in July. Still, there are several men with barrels of energy on this roster. Thomas De Gendt was a name few were familiar with until 2011. In January he was in an escape group with Cameron Meyer at the Tour Down Under. The pair stayed ahead of the bunch and contested a close sprint for the win in Strathalbyn. The Australian won the stage (and the title), and the Belgian used it as inspiration to try his luck again soon.
On day one of Paris-Nice he was on the attack again. His companions were Jérémy Roy and the irrepressible Jens Voigt. It was cold and the peloton was closing in quickly in the finale – the escape seemed doomed… hell, even Jensie conceded that it was not to be. But De Gendt insisted and held off the sprinters to take a fine win, the first for his team in the WorldTour.
De Gendt held the leader’s jersey for three days and didn’t just roll through to the finish, rather he attacked the lead-out trains hoping to upset the sprinters and spoil their acquisition of time bonuses. Although he couldn’t win again, he did earn some attention and offer some hope that there were riders from this team that could take on the biggest names in cycling.
In April, Björn Leukemans again went on the offensive. At the Classics he was aggressive in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but he wasn’t finished with. From the cobbled races and the climbing Classics in the Ardennes he was one of the most consistent in the peloton. After seventh in Flanders, he escaped with Philippe Gilbert in the Brabantse Pijl and the pair arrived at the finish to contest the win.
Björn had no answer to Phil Gil, but neither did anyone else at the end of April. The fact that Leukemans found himself in that situation, however, gives his team reason to have faith. If he makes his Tour de France debut this year, we can expect to see him as one of the guys hunting for opportunity.
This is a versatile group of riders with strengths tipping the scales towards a formidable group for one-day races but it’s that way because Vacansoleil was never certain of a start in the Grand Tours. Not until 2011. Now that it’s part of the top tier of cycling, it has options: Feillu and Bozic for the sprints (with Ongarato there to lead them out); De Gendt, Leukemans, Mol and Hoogerland to create some chances; and Carrara to take on the climbers in the high mountains. This is a year to learn, work on a result, and celebrate any success.
by Rob Arnold