Le Tour Review 2017

So the Tour is over. Won and done. One for the history books. All that is left now, before turning the page on it, is to take a quick look back. A few thoughts on the winners, a review of my predictions and some awards before saying goodbye. Then I’m off on my holidays for a while. I won’t be bringing my bike and I won’t be thinking about professional cycling either. I’ll return, I hope, in time for the Vuelta.

CLASSIFICATIONS

Yellow: Chris Froome
Three in-a-row; four in all. Looking back now it’s hard to believe we ever doubted him, but for a long time this Tour was wide open. A poor build up to the Tour, as he aimed to peak later in the race and save something for the Vuelta, ensured Froome started the Tour under a question mark. We expected more of Quintana and his other key rival, Richie Porte, crashed out. As such Froome had only to contain his rivals in the knowledge that he had a time-trial at the end to go with stage one. Froome lost the jersey for a few days, but at the first opportunity he took it back. In the end he won this Tour without winning a stage, much like Greg Lemond in 1990. Some may not warm to his style, but there is no doubting his ability in this race. With a growing swagger with each passing year, it would be hard to doubt him making it five next year. That said, in the mountains he didn’t take time out of his nearest rivals, so there is a glimmer of hope for the rest.

Green: Michael Matthews
The Peter Sagan jersey as it has become in recent years. But Sagan got disqualified early and it threw the points competition wide open. Marcel Kittel made the best claim for it by winning five stages, but later abandoned following a crash. Michael Matthews was hot on his heels though, having turned to the Sagan playbook in snapping up points in the mountains. But with Kittel gone, the Australian only had to make it to Paris to take the victory.

Polka-dot: Warren Barguil
Two stage wins for the new darling of French cycling. One on Bastille Day and the other one the final big summit finish in his polka-dot jersey. He was brilliant, aggressive and rode with panache. There was shades of Richard Virenque in him, but without the sinister side, of course. He avoided the GC battle to make a run at this jersey, but still ended up in 10th by Paris. A big talent, he will be one to watch for the yellow jersey in future years.

White young riders jersey: Adam Yates
Following on in the footsteps of his twin brother Simon twelve months ago. And like the year before it was Louis Meintjes who ran him closest, ensuring the battle went down to the final time-trial. Adam beat him by 2 minutes 6 seconds in the end, 10 seconds less than Simon put into the South African. Third in both years was Emanuel Buchmann. He lost 42’58” to Simon in 2016 and 27’07” to Adam this time.

Most aggressive: Warren Barguil
There was a bit of an outrage at this one. It isn’t that Barguil wasn’t aggressive and worthy in his own way. It’s that many felt Thomas De Gendt should have got it. The Belgian spent 1,280km in various breaks throughout this race. That’s 36% of the Tour in which he was up the road. A staggering number. But then again, he didn’t make any of it count with a stage win. Barguil picked his moments and took two superb wins. But given he won the polka-dot jersey and got onto the podium in Paris for that, giving this one to De Gendt might have been the fair thing to do. But De Gendt isn’t French!

Team prize: Team Sky
It was a two horse race. Need proof? Well, Sky beat AG2R by 7 minutes 14 seconds and in third was Trek-Segafredo almost an hour and three-quarters behind. An enormous gap. Hard to say Sky wasn’t the strongest team though. Mikel Landa would have made the podium had he got free reign, and imagine Sky hadn’t lost Geraint Thomas, another man who could have cracked the top ten? This was the first time Sky have ever won this prize, which seems hard to believe, but is true.

Lanterne Rouge: Luke Rowe
Never any shame in winning this category. Luke Rowe lost so much time because he spent so long on the front of the peloton controlling the race for Sky. By the time his job was over for the day, all he could do was sit up and think about recovering for tomorrow. In doing so it cost him a large wack of time. He ‘beat’ Tom Leezer by 3’31” for this unofficial prize.

MY PREDICTIONS

Yellow
1. Chris Froome (finished 1st)
2. Nairo Quintana (12th)
3. Romain Bardet (3rd)
4. Alberto Contador (9th)
5. Richie Porte (DNF)
6. Fabio Aru (5th)
7. Jakob Fuglsang (DNF)
8. Bauke Mollema (17th)
9. Simon Yates (7th)
10. Alejandro Valverde (DNF)

Other jerseys:
Green: Peter Sagan (DQ)
KoM: Rafal Majka (DNF)
White: Simon Yates (1st)

I guess I picked the winner of yellow and white correct. And Sagan may have won the green jersey again was he not disqualified. I didn’t foresee Quintana struggling so much after the Giro though I did get Bardet correct on the final podium step. Richie Porte, Jakob Fuglsang and Alejandro Valverde all abandoned. I said when I made the predictions that I wouldn’t predict anyone not finishing despite knowing some wouldn’t. Looking back on it, this course would have suited Valverde down to the ground. It was a shame he crashed out so early.

THE CYCLE SEEN AWARDS

Best moment: The last 50km of Stage 9
This isn’t exactly a moment because so much happened, though I in the case of a three week race, it kind of is. It was a monumental day that in many ways shaped the race. There was Froome’s mechanical and Aru’s attack from under his armpit. The rest making Aru wait for Froome. Froome bumping into Aru later on the climb. Richie Porte crashing out on the descent, and also bringing down Dan Martin. Bardet attacking, catching and dropping Barguil, but Froome having Aru and Fuglsang to help bring him back. Barguil looking set to win the sprint only for Rigoberto Uran, stuck with two gears for the run-in, to pip him on the line. There was so many talking points; there was so much drama.

Worst moment: The departure of Sagan and Cavendish
It didn’t ruin the race like some suggest, but it took away from the spectacle in some regards. And of all years. With so many sprint stages it would have been fascinating to see the pair contend with Kittel. There was nothing we could do about Cavendish injuring himself, but they should never have disqualified Sagan. Watching the way Matthews went after green, it would have been great to see how Sagan tried to counter that? We’ll never know.

Best Team: Subweb
Sky might have been the strongest team and may have won the team prize, but the best team, to watch at least, was Sunweb. They won four stages via two each for Matthews and Barguil with Matthews taking the green jersey and Barguil the mountains prize. A great Tour and a team always in the thick of the action.

Best Domestique: Michal Kwiatkowski
The man was superb for Chris Froome. How often do you see a former world champion and monument winner burying himself for someone else? And yet that is what he did at Le Tour. Putting in a huge shift on the mountain stages, Kwiatkowski would come to a virtual, and on one occasion, literal stand still when he blew. Kwiatkowski has the talent to finish in the top ten of a Grand Tour, or higher, so for him to ignore that and sacrifice himself for Froome, takes a lot.

Surprise performance: Rigoberto Uran
It seems foolish to have overlooked him now, but yet so many did. The man has pedigree, though having had a few quiet years he became easy to write off. I didn’t have him in my top ten pre-Tour and had given him little thought. Some of his rivals must have done the same but he stuck with them. In his own quiet way he went about putting himself in contention with a stage win to boot. Many expected him to fade but in the end he jumped all the way up to second finishing only 54 seconds behind Froome in Paris. Indeed, he pushed Froome closer than anyone else managed in his other Tour triumphs.

Biggest disappointment: Nairo Quintana
The Giro-Tour double attempt proved to be a ridge too far for the Colombian. Massive kudos to him for giving it a shot, but in the end he will finish the season empty handed. Everyone expected him to win at least one of the races but Dumoulin had his number in Italy, and come the Tour, he couldn’t find his legs. I had wondered if he had done the Giro while keeping something in reserve for July, but that wasn’t the case. The moment the climbing began, Quintana was exposed. Fair play to him for trying to get in on the stage win action, but even that proved too much. In the end his added to his 2nd place at the Giro with a 12th place finish here. I expect him to focus only on the Tour next year.

Team of the Tour:
Leader: Chris Froome (Sky)
Climber: Warren Barguil (Sunweb)
Climber: Dan Martin (Quick-Step)
Domestique: Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)
Domestique: Julien Vermote (Quick-Step)
Domestique: Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R)
Rouleur: Thomas de Gendt (Lotto)
Rouleur: Oliver Naesen (AG2R)
Sprinter: Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s