Anyone who thought Team Garmin was going to pack its bags and go home after a traumatic first week that made team dinners look like a triage unit can now see the true character and resilience of the argyle armada. Ryder Hesjedal, in his third Tour with Team Garmin, was a revelation once team leader Christian Vande Velde was forced out with broken ribs. The very next day, Ryder was named most aggressive rider on the cobbles and the tone was set for a very special performance and a Top 10 finish. And like the rest of his team, Ryder had a way of being at his best when the conditions were toughest. On the climb of the Col du Tourmalet, Ryder not only stuck with his main rivals but pulled away from the group at the end to climb two spots into 8th. Still not satisfied, Ryder rolled through Saturday's time trial and climbed yet another spot in the general classification while teammate Dave Zabriskie took fifth on the daunting race against the clock.
Bookending those remarkable performances were two magnificent sprints by Garmin veteran Julian Dean, taking second on Friday and third place today on the Champs Élysées. So even though Team Garmin lost its star power in Vande Velde and sprinters Tyler Farrar and Robbie Hunter to broken bones, the team won over the hearts of fans around the world (especially in Canada, where Ryder famously carries the "Weight of a Nation") and journalists who appreciate an underdog stepping up. As longtime VeloNews sportswriter John Wilcockson said on Twitter to @ryder_hesjedal:"You deserve it Ryder. What a phenomenal Tour! You made the race for a bunch of us!" For more stories, photos, links and reactions to another amazing grand tour, check out Jake's Twitter lists for Team Garmin cyclists and top cycling media, and read the race recaps and rider diaries from the cyclists themselves. And for those who can't get enough to feed their cycling fix, we have a Garmin blogger embarking on something a little less competitive this week - RAGBRAI, the annual ride across Iowa. We'll keep you posted with plenty of photos and funnelcakes.