The 2008 Tour de France has come to its end in Paris today, with Spaniard Carlos Sastre in yellow. There was drama, mayhem and a lovely display of athleticism, both by Our Man Daniel Friebe and the entire peloton...
Here's Friebe's 10 Things to Love About the Tour
1. The route...was a corker. Imaginative, difficult, spectacular and with minimal transfers between stages. I'm still not entirely sold on the eradication of time bonuses, but everything else Christian Prudhomme and his Competitions Director Jean-François Pescheux tried in this year's Tour worked quite beautifully.
Best of all, in my opinion, is Prudhomme's determination to revisit some of the moyenne montagne regions which had been neglected under Jean-Marie Leblanc. Last year it was the Morvan in Burgundy, this year the Massif Central figured prominently and pertinently. Expect the Vosges, the Cévennes or the Jura to come in as the "third mountain range" next year.
2. Cuddles's tantrums. OK, we've psycho-analysed them to death already, but there are surely still layers of angst to peel away, subliminal messages yet to be deciphered. My fellow Tour-ist Richard Moore of the Guardian and I actually agreed by the end of the Tour that Evans's outbursts were among the highlights of the three weeks, not to mention fascinating glimpses into the Australian's complex psyche. The net result was that we were both rooting for Cuddles in Saturday's time trial.
One final and serious point on Evans's dealings with the media: Marc Sergeant, and not Evans, is the manager of the Silence-Lotto team, and he ought to have insisted on more decorum from his team leader. Instead, we got the the impression that Sergeant was tip-toeing around Evans every bit as apprehensively as cameramen were by the end of the Tour.
3. Andy Schleck. Or, roughly translated, cycling caviar.
4. The French Anti-Doping Agency. Le Journal du Dimache has led the cynics' chorus during recent Tours, so it must be saying something if the same paper dedicated it's first three pages to the Tour's rebirth this Sunday. Referring to the 400-plus tests the French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) carried out before and during the race, the JDD observed, "Without pre-empting the results of the final tests, the anti-doping movement has scored an important victory on this Tour de France".
More than the quantity of the controls, it's of course their quality that has inspired confidence. There are still products and methods out there which can stump the testers in certain circumstances, but the AFLD's crusade has helped turned peer pressure in the peloton against the dopers. As recently as a year ago that wasn't the case.
5. Christian Prudhomme, er, relieving himself against a tree. He came striding across a field, he shrugged, he zipped down his fly and he let rip against the trunk of an oak tree. In themiddle of our podcast. About ten yards away. Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France.
6. Mark Cavendish. A 1.75m, 69kg ball of muscle, speed and ambition. Tom Boonen has suggested in recent days that Cavendish wouldn't have won four stages at the Tour had Boonen and a few other notable absentees been at the Grande Boucle. Wishful thinking, if ever I heard it.
7. Le Col de la Bonette. One of those natural theatres which is guaranteed to take your breath away, and, no, it has nothing to with the altitude. By sending the race over Europe's highest main road pass, Christian Prudhomme restored the Tour to the realm of epic journey doubling as sporting extravaganza. It's just a pity that a headwind at the top and CSC's lack of imagination created a stalemate on the climb. Denis Menchov and John-Lee Augustyn will wish that the descent had been as uneventful.
8. Sensible media coverage. A more responsible approach to all matters medicine among the riders seemed to produce a similar effect in the press room. No, that doesn't mean in previous years we were in the buffet on the Camenbert one minute, in the loos on the Bolivian marching powder the next - I'm saying that, generally speaking, the press reported what doping scandals there were with a sense of perspective. As David Millar said after the Manuel Beltran positive, if we think there's never going to be another positive test at the Tour, we're either dreaming or in the wrong job.
9. Riccardo Riccò's attack on the Col D'Aspin. Repugnant yet beautiful. Like Ben Johnson's 100 metres in Seoul in 1988.
10. My own bed; i.e. where I'm headed now for the first time in three-and-a-half-weeks.
Check out the final BikeRadar Tour de France podcast with Friebe and his Procycling editor-in-chief Pete Cossins here.