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.
As Chris Froome delivered his speech in Paris on Sunday, American golfer, Jordan Spieth was doing the same 646km away at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. He had won his first Open Championship at the same moment Froome had secured his fourth Tour de France. The pair are alike in many ways. Both winners, both focused and both committed. But all too rare in athletes in this century, both are also graceful and carry themselves with class.
And yet back in the US, Spieth can look forward to high praise and a warm reception in the media. In the UK, Froome is still striving for the same. It could be a cultural thing, but it could also be a cycling thing. On the day of his victory in Paris, several articles in the British press took a more negative slant on his win. It ought to have been a moment to savour and celebrate.
It all went to script today. You know the drill if you've seen this before. The champagne pictures on the roll in to Paris for Team Sky. The yellow, green, polka-dot and white jersey wearers photographed together. A pretend attack by Mikel Landa on Romain Bardet, but never any intention of anything real. And then a criterium around the streets of Paris to decide the unofficial sprinters world championship.
And it was Dylan Groenewegen who won it. Close on several sprint stages already, he got the biggest sprint win of all today. Second was Andre Greipel. His long streak of winning a stage at every Grand Tour he had entered, dating back to the 2007 Vuelta, was over. A disappointing Tour for the big German who came fast in the sprint but left it a little too late.
Romain Bardet did it. By a single second. No, he didn't win the Tour with the time trial of a lifetime, but rather clung on to a podium position after a ride to forget. We got the drama we were hoping for today, only it didn't come in the manor we expected.
As Bardet rolled down the start ramp inside the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, the crowd roared in hope. Two minutes later, the cheers turned to boos for Chris Froome. That may seem unfair, but given he was the man standing in Bardet's way, you could understand it. Froome himself could have expected nothing less. But when Bardet returned to the stadium a half hour later, the roars were cheers of nerves. He hit the line and retained his podium by a single second from the surging Mikel Landa. Following him into the stadium, only seconds later, was Froome. The boos had quietened. Reality had set in. The dream was over for the French; the Englishman had won a fourth Tour de France.
It was the last chance saloon for the climbers. A last opportunity to try and take time from Chris Froome before Saturday’s time-trial. A final battle between Louis Meintjes and Simon Yates in the white jersey contest. One last chance to stop Warren Barguil’s claim on the polka-dot jersey. And the little matter of someone winning the stage.
This was a stage race within the race in which there were many mini-races taking place. Once they hit the final climb of the Col d’Izoard, you didn’t know where to look. There was always something going on. It was the first time the race has finished up this Alpine Giant and you have to wonder why it took so long? It was a brute and it wore the very best down to exhaustion.
The last time a stage of the Tour de France finished in Serre Chevalier was in 1993. Tony Rominger won that day though it was the first mountain stage of the Tour unlike one of the last this year. Miguel Indurain, the dominate rider of the 90s, finished second on the stage. He had taken the yellow jersey at the individual time-trial the day before and would carry it all the way to Paris. It would be his third straight Tour victory. Chris Froome, the dominant rider of this decade, finished third today. He is hoping to carry yellow on into Paris too now for what would be the third straight time, and fourth in all.
Froome’s time-trial is still to come but the distance against the clock is much less these days. As such the time gaps are tighter. It may have only be the 10th stage that year, but Indurain already led the second place man by more than 3 minuets. Froome went to bed last night with less than half a minute lead over two men. The similarities are there though. The man in second place in ’93 was Colombian Alvaro Mejia; this year it is his compatriot, Rigoberto Uran. Mejia would go on to finish 4th that year with Rominger coming up to second. Uran will be hoping for better.
If I told you before the stage to name me one team that would thrive today in cross winds, who would it be? My guess is you would name either Lotto Soudal or Quick-Step. And that would be my pick too. Yet, when the winds blew and the gaps began to form, Quick-Step where missing.
Dan Martin, their best placed rider on the general classification (5th at 1’12”) was left exposed. A climber by nature he isn’t built for this and needed his team more than ever. Heck, they have been absent in the high mountains so now seemed like a good time to show up for him. But where was Quick-Step? Philippe Gilbert didn’t start the stage citing illness, but the rest were off the back. Way off the back. Protecting the green jersey of Marcel Kittel instead. Continue reading The cross winds arrive and Dan Martin’s GC hope get blown away as Quick Step drop the ball