Jelle Vanendert earns Belgium’s favorite Tour de France moment, looks forward to next season
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Jelle Vanendert earns Belgium’s favorite Tour de France moment, looks forward to next season

by Kyle Moore at 4:27 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Fans rate his performance over superstar Philippe Gilbert

Jelle VanendertJelle Vanendert’s 2011 Tour de France campaign was more successful than anyone could have imagined.  Riding for the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, the 26-year-old Belgian won the stage fourteen summit finish at Plateau de Beille, taking over the polka dot jersey in the process.  His good legs didn’t hold out for the entire three weeks, and the jersey for best climber was eventually lost to Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi).  But Vanendert’s Tour certainly didn’t go unnoticed in Belgium, and his gutsy win on Plateau de Beille was voted Belgium’s favorite moment of this year's Tour.

“It’s a special feeling that the people elected me over Philippe,” Vanendert told Sporza.  The poll was conducted on the Sporza website.  After nearly 350,000 people had voted on their favorite moment of the Tour, Vanendert’s stage win came away with 43 percent of the vote.

It is no small feat ideed.  Vanendert was referring to Philippe Gilbert’s stage one win, which allowed him to take the Tour’s first yellow jersey.  The Walloon also spent multiple days in the green jersey.  Gilbert eventually finished third in that competition.

That Vanendert’s win was able to trump Gilbert’s campaign in the minds of Belgian cycling fans certainly says a lot about his growing popularity.  Vanendert is expected to join countryman Jurgen Van den Broeck on a new Lotto-sponsored team next season.  Riding in support of Gilbert, Vanendert was still able to obtain results in the hilly spring classics.  He earned top twenty finishes in Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallone, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

“Should I aim for general classification results in 2012?” he wondered.  “I will simply talk to team management.  I am not on the same level as Van den Broeck, but perhaps we are better as a pairing.”

After completing the Grand Boucle yesterday in Paris, Vanendert was happy, but relieved to be finished.  “I am really tired,” he admitted.  “I am glad it’s over.  [On the Champs Elysees] it was really fast in the final kilometers.”  The Belgian climber lost 59 seconds on the Tour’s final stage, but still retained his 20th place overall.

After heading back to Belgium, Vanendert will compete in a series of post-Tour criteriums, where he will no doubt be welcomed as a hero.  “I look forward to it, although I don’t know if I’ll be there to get a result,” he concluded. 

The exhausted Vanendert was excited that his stage win was voted as his country’s favorite Tour moment.  “That is a special feeling,” he added.

“I knew it would be tough to keep the polka dots, but I was able to get a stage win that I never even dreamed about.”

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