When it is Alpe d’Huez, you don’t have to wish too hard for something special. Two massive out of category climbs leading up to the most iconic climb in the sport. That is what they served up today, and the riders delivered. A long escapade for Steven Kruijswijk, swept up in the dying hairpins, leading to a second stage win in-a-row for Geraint Thomas, this time in yellow. It also marked the first time a British rider, or indeed the yellow jersey, has won on this famous col.
Greg Van Avermaet has defended yellow with honour. Yesterday, the classics style rider, went on a mountain attack to try and keep it for another twenty-four hours. He was well aware that today, his effort would catch up on him. It did, and with half the short but heavy mountain stage remaining, the question was who would inherit the jersey?
You could not take your eyes off of it, though did you ever think you would be able to? Action from the first cobbled sector to the line, with crashes and mechanicals, splits and dust. The race had it all. A story book winner, and not too much damage to most of the general classification … unless your name is not Richie Porte. This was the stage many had been looking to when the race route was announced. A test of bike handling skill, of strength, and of good fortune on broken roads on the way to the historic cycling town of Roubaix. And as expected, all three played their part.
In the midst of the World Cup, the Tour has finally got underway. Put back a week due to the tournament in Russia, we’re now a week through and it’s safe to say the best is all yet to come.
‘Twas the night before Le Tour, when all through France
Not a creature was stirring, not even a last minute doping scandal because Chris Froome had been cleared a few days before.
The bicycles were hung by the team bus with care,
In hopes that the racing would soon would be there;
The riders were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of early bunch sprints, a stage through the cobbles, Alpe d’Huez, a very short mountain stage, and a late time-trial, danced in their heads;
And Nibali in his ‘kerchief, and Quintana in his cap,
Had just settled down for a quick pre-race nap.
You get the drift.
The Tour is back. The most wonderful time of the year for the cycling fan, where the night before really is like Christmas Eve. If indeed the following morning of Christmas goes on for 23 straight days, except for two Boxing (rest) days lumped into the middle.
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.