With the Tour de France over for another year, a number of athletes have cause for celebration while several will go back to the drawing board looking for the elusive formula required to win the Tour de France.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

With the Tour de France over for another year, a number of athletes have
cause for celebration while several will go back to the drawing board
looking for the elusive formula required to win the Tour de France.

For
some the prospect of tipping Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck off the
first two places on the podium will be a daunting challenge and for
others it will be time to move on.

HTC-Columbia's Michael Rogers,
who came into the Tour with ambitions of a top-ten placing, is already
redefining his career - with the Australian determined to perform at the
highest level in one week tours.

"I made a lot of sacrifices
this year and gave it my best shot to try and do the Tour. In hindsight,
I was in too good condition too early," Rogers said after finishing the
stage 19 time trial.

"My win in (The Tour of California)
California was very positive and I'm proud of the win. I'll concentrate
on the short stage races, you know, races of one week.

"I tried this year. But I have to accept the fact that I just don't recover in that last week like some other guys do.

"The
Tour is the pinnacle of the sport and there's not many riders who can
perform well, there's only a handful that can do it, and I can accept
I'm not one of them.

"I can still have a great career winning shorter stages races."

The
domestiques and less well known riders will make their performance
assessments quietly and away from the glare of high pressure publicity,
but for high profile riders, from whom so much was expected, their
future prospects will be hotly debated by cycling fans for months to
come.

Here we take a look at a few who surprised or confirmed their class and several who failed to live up to expectation.

Success and surprises:

Alberto Contador (ESP)

Contador
went into this year's race as the clear favourite, and despite being
pushed all the way by Andy Schleck the Spaniard's tactical nous was key
to his third yellow jersey success and fifth title from a Grand Tour.
Although coming under fire from some fans for his stage 15 attack on
Schleck when the Luxemburger suffered a mechanical problem, Contador was
absolved by the experts. A Contador v Schleck duel now looks on the
horizon for years to come.

Andy Schleck (LUX)

Schleck will
leave the race with the white jersey for the best-placed rider aged 25
or under for the third time, and although finishing runner-up to
Contador for the second consecutive year the Luxemburger must take
solace from having pushed the Spanish ace all the way. Luxembourg has
not had a Tour champion since Charly Gaul in 1958, but Schleck, who
matched Contador in all of the tough mountain climbs and only lost 31sec
to him in the final, long time trial, looks almost certain to end that
victory drought.

Denis Menchov (RUS)

Despite his third
place finish overall in 2007, Menchov was given little chance of
challenging for a podium place among a quality-rich field that included
Lance Armstrong, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre. As that
quartet flattered to deceive, Rabobank leader Menchov kept pace in quiet
fashion and eventually secured his third place finish with a solid time
trial performance on stage 19.

Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL)

Van
den Broeck may be no Eddy Merckx, but the Flemish-speaking Belgian
handed his country their first ever top five finish on the race since
Claude Criquelion in 1986 on only his second participation. Although
failing to light up the race with daring attacks in the mountains,
former world junior time trial champion van den Broeck displayed a
knowledge of the course beyond his years as he battled to keep pace with
Schleck and Contador.

Alessandro Petacchi (ITA)

Alessandro
Petacchi won two stages at the start of the race and finished with the
points classification's green jersey. The Lampre rider did not set out
with that goal, but was given a huge push in the right direction after
Norwegian sprint rival Thor Hushovd failed to show his usual top end
speed in the bunch sprints where most points can be won. Petacchi has
now won the points competition in each Grand Tour of Italy, France and
Spain.

Mark Cavendish (GBR)

The HTC-Columbia's sprinters
record of six stage wins last year was always going to be tough to beat,
but despite compromising his chances of challenging for the race's
green jersey in a disastrous first few days Cavendish bounced back in
style, and controversy, with success on stages five, six, 11 18 and 20
to take his career stage tally to a stunning 15. His win on stage 11 led
to the race expulsion of his Australian lead-out man Mark Renshaw, but a
week later Cavendish's green jersey bid was firmly back on track when
he claimed his fourth win two days from the end. He closed his Tour with
a second successive victory on the Champs Elysees.

Anthony Charteau (FRA)

Bbox-Bouygues
rider Charteau began what seemed an unlikely challenge for the race's
polka dot jersey in the Alps, and persisted throughout the Pyrenees to
be crowned the race's 'King of the Mountains' on stage 17. He finished
on a total of 143, 15 ahead of second place compatriot Christophe
Moreau. Andy Schleck was third on 116 while Contador was fourth on 112.

French riders

France
had more than just Charteau's feat to cheer on this year's race, during
which they won an impressive six of the 20 stages thanks to a double
from Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), and impressive mountain stage wins
from Sandy Casar, Christophe Riblon, Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick
Fedrigo. The hosts are still searching for an heir to their last yellow
jersey champion, Bernard Hinault (1985), but took every opportunity
available in a bid to stamp their mark on the race.

Work to do:

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Armstrong
seemed confident of challenging for an eighth yellow jersey, but failed
his first exam in the high mountains and was left racing with the
stragglers before finishing way off the pace in 23rd place at 39:20
behind Contador. Armstrong, who successfully battled cancer before
winning the race seven times in succession, made the classic veteran's
mistake of believing in a late comeback, a belief nourished by his third
place finish in 2009 after returning to the race following a four-year
absence.

Thor Hushovd (NOR)

Hushovd's bid for a third
points competition green jersey was compromised by his lack of top end
speed, a major stumbling block when racing against the likes of
Cavendish and Petacchi. Hushovd's preparations for the Tour were
hampered by a broken collarbone injury in May, and despite a positive
start to the race, with victory on the cobblestones of the treacherous
stage three to Arenberrg, the Cervelo rider did not race to his own
lofty standards.

Cadel Evans (AUS)

Trumpeted as
Australia's first Tour de France champion in-waiting since a couple of
runner-up places in 2007 and 2008, Evans showed for the second year
running that victory in the world's biggest bike race is still beyond
his grasp. Evans, who finished 30th overall in 2009, began the Tour
confidently after strong rides in last year's Tour of Spain and the Giro
d'Italia in May. But despite an excellent first week which left him
with the yellow jersey on stage eight, Evans' bid was gradually ground
down by a fracture he suffered to his elbow in a crash on stage seven.
From then on, it was all about survival.

Bradley Wiggins (GBR)

Wiggins
proved a revelation on last year's race thanks to an impressive fourth
place finish which led to a contractual tug-of-war between his Garmin
team and Team Sky for his signature. Sky eventually won, but when it
came to racing the Tour the first time the British outfit flattered to
deceive. Edvald Boasson Hagen was expected to shine, but didn't despite a
number of top five places in bunch sprints. And Wiggins, like several
of the pre-race contenders who had been aiming at a minimum top five
finish, was left admitting he simply couldn't match the pace on the
race's tough climbs.

Carlos Sastre (ESP)

As the race left
the Alps on stage nine, podium contender Sastre already had close to a
seven-minute deficit to both Schleck and Contador. And despite several
attempts to close the gap during four, much tougher stages in the
Pyrenees, the Cervelo rider was never in contention. Sastre won the 2008
race while a member of Bjarne Riis's CSC team in 2008, but since
leaving the Danish outfit the Spaniard, 17th overall last year at 26:21
behind Contador, has failed to reproduce the same kind of form.

With AFP