When Peter Sagan came to the front of this race for the first time, it was but metres from the finishing line. And that’s when it matters after all. The Slovak won again and took his third straight World Championship. The first man to ever achieve the feat. More history for the brilliant Sagan.
It was one of the best time-trials we’ve ever seen, yet also won with ease. That is a testament to the course as well as the competitors at these World Championships in Bergen, Norway. But in the end, Tom Dumoulin was heads and shoulders ahead of the rest. He romped the flat section and flew up the final climb, avoiding the bike change that many had opted for. He is World Champion now, for the first time, and I would suggest, not the last time.
As Alberto Contador was grinding his way up the Angliru on Saturday; signing off on his career with one last win, I was rolling into Montreal. As Chris Froome was securing his place in cycling history, with his Tour-Vuelta double, I was securing a parking spot for the weekend. I missed a lot of that final weekend of the Vuelta because of this trip, though I did catch a World Tour race as compensation. And the best spectator one at that.
Before this past weekend only two men had ever won the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España in the same year. And nobody had ever done it with the Vuelta coming after the Tour in the current calendar.
For Chris Froome held off the opposition to secure a historic double. Since the start of the Tour and the end of the Vuelta, 72 days had past. In that time Froome raced in Grand Tours for 42 days. And of those, he has spent 32 days in the leaders jersey. It was a remarkable level of consistency of both physical endurance and mental fortitude. It was a fine achievement.
When I last wrote about this Vuelta, almost a week ago, everything was looking good for Chris Froome. He had crashed twice in as many corners that day but his lead stood at 59 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali and nobody had put him in trouble. Indeed, everyone else was starting to fall out of touch. Fast forward six days and you could say that everything still looks good for Froome. But it hasn’t all been easy in the days between.
The stage had everything you don’t wish to see and everything you do, all at the same time. It was a stage full of drama but which, when it came down to the details of the standings, didn’t have a dramatic impact. Cycling can be funny that way. It was the incidents rather than the results that told the story. Cycling can be so often that way.
It would be quite the achievement to win a Tour de France and a Vuelta a Espana in the same year. It would be all the more remarkable to do it without winning a stage in either. The former is still on for Chris Froome, but any hopes of the later, not that he would have held any, vanished yesterday on the summit finish to Cumbre del Sol. It was there that Froome kicked hard inside a horrid final 500m to shatter the last man hanging onto his wheel and take a fine victory. Not even Alberto Contador, so often his match in recent days, could hang on.