Blazin' Saddles

Australians eclipsed by great Britons

Blazin' Saddles

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There are five British riders on the Tour. One is in the yellow jersey. Four of them have won stages. The other one rides in Cadel Evans's team. Poor Steve Cummings — boy did he get the duff deal in this Tour de France.

What we are seeing in France at the moment is nothing short of glorious (if you're British, that is).

Four different stage winners in world champion Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and now, the evergreen David Millar.

Four different types of victory, to boot: bunch sprint, mountain-top, individual time trial and breakaway.

The two best-placed riders in the GC, with yellow jersey Wiggins and ostensible understudy Froome's positions at the top looking completely untouchable.

A third of all stages so far have been touched by the Union flag.

And then we have poor Steve Cummings...

Meanwhile, Australia stew in ignominy. Defending champion Evans looked comfortable in the opening week primarily because we never saw him. Once called to step up and partake in this year's race, the 35-year-old was found out; short of form and lacking in every department (much like Australia's one-day cricket team), Evans is more than three minutes down on the GC — with the prospect of more pain ahead.

When Evans attacked on the Col de la Croix de Fer on Thursday, the Twittersphere erupted in unison: 'now we have a race on our hands', was the general consensus.

Saddles didn't agree: that's the move of a desperate man, the last roll of the dice from a former champion who tonight will lose a lot of time. Saddles's antipodean followers jeered — but later went silent (and not simply because they'd gone to bed).

For all the (now tedious) talk of Froome being able to upstage his team leader Wiggins, it has passed many by that Evans is probably not the strongest rider in his own team; that accolade goes to a 23-year-old American making his second appearance in the race, Tejay van Garderen, who twice slowed to help nurse his leader to the line on Friday. The white jersey prevailed in the ITT, too.

Evans's poor showing in the Tour does not come as a huge surprise when looked in the context of his form over the whole season. But Evans is not the only Australian to disappoint. There are a record 12 of them on the Tour this year — but for the most part, things aren't going as swimmingly as an episode of Neighbours.

GreenEdge are without a win and Matt Goss now seems unlikely to topple Peter Sagan at the top of the green jersey standings after being docked 30 points for dangerous sprinting in stage 12. The pair were battling it out for sixth place in Annonay only for Goss to swerve across Sagan's line, prompting some Italianate gesticulations from the Slovak tyro.

Sure, Sagan made a meal of it — but the Tour commissaires are renowned for their voracious appetite and duly threw the book at Goss.

Still, at least Goss is still taking part in these sprints: Mark Renshaw of Rabobank has already left the race after an opening fortnight brimming with unfortunate accidents and sub-standard finishes. Pocket sprocket Matt Lloyd saw his own race curtailed before the mountains, forced out with an injured elbow before his Tour had really got started.

Debutant Jonathan Cantwell has also been in the wars, the Saxo Banker crashing so many times people are cruelly suggesting that the word 'ride' should be shoehorned between the two syllables of his surname.

Adam Hansen, however, has been a positive for Australia during the Tour. Not only has Hansen been an integral part of the Lotto Belisol train that delivered Andre Greipel to two successive wins, the Queenslander has been able to share a bath tub with the Gorilla on numerous occasions.

But the two Australians who are having the most successful Tour are the two so integral to Great Britain's dominance: Richie Porte and Mick Rogers. Both riders have worked tirelessly for Wiggins in the mountains — and both put their own ambitions aside in the ITT in favour of resting up in preparation for the Jura mountains and Alps.

Of course, the hard work put in by Porte and Rogers is seen as treachery by many narrow-minded Australian fans, who have taken to booing the pair as they front the Sky uphill train.

Heavily chastised by Australian legend Robbie McEwen on Twitter, these 'fans' were brilliantly put down by Rogers, who Tweeted: "Perhaps the Aussies booing Richie Porte and myself yesterday would like to pay our wages from now on."

The selfless riding by these two Australian machines has helped secure a record-equalling sixth day in yellow for Wiggo, who has drawn level with the only other British rider to achieve the feat Chris Boardman.

It's safe to say, Wiggins should soon eclipse Boardman's record — just as it's right to presume that Britain will add more wins to their existing tally of four. So far the only member of Team GB's Olympic five-man squad who has not got a Tour de France stage win to his name this July is Ian Stannard — but we can hardly blame the rangy national champion, for he's not actually there.

"We are going to have the strongest team at the Olympics and let's hope we can do what we have to do," beamed Millar after the fourth individual Tour stage victory of his career.

"We've got the reigning world champion, we've got Brad in yellow — and he's more than likely going to win the Tour... we've got Chris who is Brad's biggest threat, his British team-mate. And if you had said that this would happen when I was at the Tour 10 years ago, I wouldn't have believed you — I'd have thought you were just crazy."

Now what would be even crazier is this: Evans to crack in the Pyrenees and then let his BMC team-mates off the leash, allowing Steve Cummings to make it a full house of five separate British winners in France. What a story that would be — and the way things are going for both Britain and Evans, Saddles wouldn't rule it out.

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