A brief look back at what was before getting on with the summer; also a look at how my poorly picked pre-tour predictions turned out; and the results of that fictional pure-sprinters competition I made up…
So the dust has settled on the 2013 Tour de France and on Monday I found myself coming home from work and for the first time having to look to see what was on TV. I no longer had a recording of the days stage to keep me entertained for the evening. The withdrawal had set. Nothing left to do now but look back at the memories it created.
All in I wouldn’t say this Tour was one of the all-time classics, but there was enough in there to make it fantastic in its own right. Then again, that could be said of every tour. For a fan like myself there is no such thing as a dull Tour. How could that ever happen over three weeks of relentless racing across all sorts of terrain? That is what is so special about the Tour. It is a three week TV drama; a travelling circus, and the story lines develop and take shape as the days go on. Any Tour serves up enough action to write a book about and in this case you had the 100th edition starting on the beautiful island of Corsica, that packed the Alps into the final week and that finished under the lights of night-time Paris, to only add to the magic.
Chris Froome may have taken control by the end of the first week and all but cemented his victory on Mont Ventoux at the end of the second, yet there was still questions about the strength of his Sky team and given the number of riders so tightly packed on time behind him, there was, if not the question of whether collectively they could still attack him often enough in the Alps to finally crack him, then the race to be the final two on the podium. And that played out right to the final climb of the Tour.
But the lack of a Yellow jersey battle going to the wire, as we have seen in some recent years, and general classification attention being on second and third places alone didn’t spoil the race. There was still so much else to captivate us: The King of the Mountains competition that went back and forth all through the Tour and was only decided on the final mountain; the battle of the four sprinters, Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan; the desperate hope that a break might survuve; looking for a French stage win; the question of whether the tricky descents might catch someone out; Echelons; Bus-Gate; and of course the sporting arena in which it all takes place … France.
A whole country.
The scenery from Corsica to Southern France, to the Pyrenees, to Mont Saint Michel, to Central France, to the Alps and to Paris at night, was as ever, spectacular. Chateau after Chateau, stunning Tour related art work at the sides of the road best viewed from the helicopter, huge crowds on the mountains, beautiful small towns, and the wish that I was somewhere on the route watching the race go by before shuffling into a little cafe to watch the end of the stage on TV ahead of going off to explore the region.
So before turning attention back to the real world and contemplating the rest of the summer, the Vuelta, Autumn, the World Championships, Thanksgiving, Hanging up my bike for the winter, Christmas, New Years, Winter skating on frozen lakes, Spring, the Giro and the arrival of another Summer and another Tour starting this time in England for three stages, let’s take one last look back at the 2013 Tour that was and ten moments that captivated my memory and that will stick with me for the long haul:
The Orica GreenEdge bus, Stage 1
Remember that? Seems so long ago now but who could forget the drama that unfolded as the Orica GreenEdge bus arrived at the finish after the finishing banner had been lowered and as a result got stuck under the banner just as a charging peloton hit the final five or six kilometres. Chaos ensued and the finish of the race was moved briefly to the 2 kilometre to go mark before the bus was moved and normal order restored. The panic in the peloton caused a crash that eliminated a number of the sprinters. That is except Marcel Kittel who took the win and the Yellow jersey.
Result: 1. Kittel; 2. Kristoff s.t.; 3. D. Van Poppel s.t. Overall: Same.
Fastest TTT in history, Stage 4
Nice was the first stop when the race returned to mainland France for the team-time-trial. A chance for me to see the city I had visited exactly two years before. Teams like Sky, Omega Pharma Quickstep and Garmin were favorites but it was the Australian outfit who shocked the Tour by beating Quickstep by less than a second in what was the fastest team-time-trial in history and it put their man Simon Gerrans in Yellow.
Result:: 1. Orica GreenEdge; 2. Omega Pharma Quickstep +1″; 3. Sky +3″. Overall: 1. Gerrans; 2. Impey s.t.; 3. Albasini s.t.
First African in the Yellow jersey, Stage 6
The stage itself was largely uneventful but a little split near the end meant that South African, Daryl Impey, became the first African born rider to don the Yellow jersey. Yes, Richard Virenque was born in Morocco, but Impey was born and bread on the continent. Many expected this piece of history to be made in this years Tour, but everyone expected it to be Chris Froome and not Impey. It was an historic day.
Result: 1. Greipel; 2. Sagan s.t.; 3. Kittel s.t. Overall: 1. Impey; 2. Boasson Hagen +3″; 3. Gerrans +5″.
Sagan and Cannondale dump the sprinters and go for Green, Stage 7
It was a stage with a few small climbs in it. Nothing to upset the favorites but something that could put the pure sprinters in trouble if the pace was lifted. And lifted it was by Peter Sagan’s Cannondale team. He dropped all of Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel on a climb before the intermediate sprint and after taking full points there decided to have his team press on to the finish. It was a mammoth team-time-trial and it paid off when he won the sprint to take what would be his only stage win. The points he sucked up here was what won him the Green points jersey.
Result: 1. Sagan; 2. Degenklob s.t.; 3. Bennati s.t. Overall: 1. Impey; 2. Boasson Hagen +3″; 3. Gerrans +5″.
Foome on Ax 3 Domaines lays down his marker, Stage 8
There’s always question marks until the first big climbs of the Tour and after waiting a week we finally got answers. By the time the day was done there was no doubt who the strongest man on this Tour was. Chris Froome. Young Nairo Quintana attacked with one climb to go, but it proved to be a little too far out for the Colombian and when Froome ditched the rest on the road to Ax 3 Domaines he quickly caught and dropped Quintana to win solo by a huge margin. His Sky team-mate Richie Porte was second showing just how strong Sky might be in this Tour. Froome pulled on the Yellow jersey and wouldn’t let it go the rest of the way.
Result: 1. Froome; 2. Porte +51″; 3. Valverde +1’08”. Overall: 1. Froome; 2. Porte +51″; 3. Valverde +1’25”.
Sky implode proving they aren’t quite US Postal MkII, Stage 9
By the time the cameras went live the race had been blown to bits. A high pace set by the Garmin team as well as Saxo-Bank and Movistar caught a tired Sky bunch napping after their big effort the day before. Froome was left isolated with a number of climbs to go, but rather than continue to attack him in turns everyone stuck together and Froome was able to follow wheels. The big loser was Porte who conceded 18 minutes, the big winner was Dan Martin who in winning the stage became Ireland’s first stage winner since Stephen Roche in 1992.
Result: 1. D. Martin; 2. Fuglsang s.t.; 3. Kwiatkowski +20″. Overall: 1. Froome; 2. Valverde +1’25”; 3. Mollame +1’44”.
Echelon’s split the race to pieces, Stage 13
It wa supposed to be a flat stage for the sprinters and looking at the days winner you would think it was, but it turned out anything but. Strong cross-winds forced the race into echelon’s and with it, splits in the bunch. First Kittel was distanced and the race became one sprinters team trying to catch the front group, but then Valverde punctured dropped him back to the chase behind in a mechanical incident that would cost him more than ten minutes. But the best drama was still to come: Late in the stage more cross-winds put Saxo-Bank on the front and they distanced the Yellow jersey of Chris Froome. The pressure was on Froome for the first time and for the first time he was going to lose time to his rivals. It was meant to be a quiet day but it turned into one where both fans and riders spent it on the edge of their seats setting up nicely the stage to Mont Ventoux two days later.
Result: 1. Cavendish; 2. Sagan; 3. Mollema. Overall: 1. Froome; 2. Mollema +2’28”; 3. Contador +2’45”.
Froome does a Merckx on Ventoux, Stage 15
It’s one of the most iconic climbs in the sport and one everyone wants to win on. And this being the 100th edition of the Tour there was that added incentive, not to mention Bastille Day for the French riders. It was a flat stage into the Giant but once on the slopes the action kicked off. The front group shrank in numbers as the pace went up and when it was reduced to just Porte, Froome and Contador, the Yellow jersey made his move. In a stunning turn of pace, with such a high cadence, Froome distanced Contador and rode across to Quintana. He later dropped the Colombian and rode to his second solo victory proving that he wasn’t just going to defend his Yellow jersey but continue to attack. He became the first man to win on Ventoux while wearing Yellow since Eddy Merckx and 46 years after the death of Englishman, Tom Simpson on the mountain, a British rider had finally won there.
Result: 1. Froome; 2. Quintana +29″; 3. Nieve +1’23”. Overall: 1. Froome; 2. Mollema +4’14”; 3. Contador 4’25”.
France get their win on Alpe d’Huez, Stage 18
The idea of a 100th Tour de France without a French winner sounded wrong but as the stages went by and opportunities were squandered — not least stage 16 when three Frenchmen finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th — there was a fear that they might miss out. Stage 18 was the one we’d all been waiting for, the one in which the organisor decided in a stroke of genius to send the race up Alpe d’Huez twice in the one day. It was a stage filled with drama as we watched to see when the rest would attack Froome. Contador tried on the descent off the Alpe but couldn’t make it work and eventually cracked on the second run up. Froome himself cracked when he ran out of food and it forced Sky to hand Porte an illegal energy gell that Froome then took. Both received ten second penalties. But the best drama was at the front as American Tejay van Garderen seen his dreams of a solo ride to the summit implode just kilometres from the finish when Frenchman Christophe Riblon sent a nation into celebration when he powered past Van Garderen to take that first French win of the 100th Tour at the most historic of settings.
Result: 1. Riblon; 2. Van Garderen +59″; 3. Moser +1’27”. Overall: 1. Froome; 2. Contador +5’11”; 3. Quintana +5’32”.
Paris at night, Stage 21
Yes it was a big day because Kittel won his forth stage and broke the dominance of Mark Cavendish who had been looking for his fifth straight win in Paris, but in reality the entire occasion made the day. The ride into Paris at night under the lights, going around the Arc de Triomphe for the first time, and that same monument being lit up for a digital fireworks display and in Yellow as Chris Froome took to the podium as champions of the 2013 Tour de France with five time champions Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain standing alongside to celebrate the 100th Tour.
Result: 1. Kittel s.t.; 2. Greipel s.t.; 3. Cavendish s.t. Final Overall: 1. Froome; 2. Quintana +4’20”; 3. Rodriguez +5’04”.
How my pre-Tour predictions turned out
I guess looking back at how things finished up I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t pick someone to finish where they did. How could I not have seen Chris Froome as the winner, how could I not have seen Cadel Evans struggle as much as he did what with the Giro in his 36-year old legs? Hindsight is a wonderful thing and in not predicting a single position correctly — in the General Classification at least — you’re reminded why any future predictions should not be taken to the bookies for you to bet on.
The following are in order of how I picked them to finish with their final general classification positions:
1. Alberto Contador: 4th at 6’27”
2. Chris Froome: 1st
3. Ryder Hesjedal: 70th at 2h 21’41”
4. Tejay Van Garderen: 45th at 1h 38’57”
5. Joaquim Rodriguez: 3rd at 5’04”
6. Thibaut Pinot: DNF
7. Jurgan Van Den Broeck: DNF
8. Richie Porte: 19th at 39’41”
9. Cadel Evans: 39th at 1h 30’14”
10. Pierre Rolland: 24th at 52’15”
And the other competitions:
Points: Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel: Got this trio in the correct order.
Mountains: Joaquim Rodriguez, Thomas Voeckler, Dan Martin: Nairo Quintana won it with Chris Froome and Pierre Rolland in second and third.
Young: Tejay Van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot, Andrew Talansky: Getting Talansky in the top three was correct, though he did end up second, but it was Quintana who won the prize with Michal Kwiatkowski in third.
Team: Sky: 11th at 1h 13’19” (Saxo-Tinkoff won the prize).
Most stage wins: Mark Cavendish: Finished on two; Marcel Kittel had the most with four.
Pure sprinters competition final standings
Earlier in the Tour you might remember I decided to forego the points classification as an indicator to who the best sprinter was in this years Tour de France and instead invent my own competition. The points classification as we know it had gone out of the hands of the purest sprinters like Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel thanks to Peter Sagan’s ability to climb well on the smaller hills and pick up points on stages his rivals couldn’t keep up on. As a result he rightfully deserved to win the Green jersey, but more so as the most consistent rider in the Tour, than as its best sprinter. So who was the best when it came to all-out sprints?
This was the results of the top three (six points for first, four for second, two for third) on the purely flat stages in which all of Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel and Sagan were able to compete in the dash for the line … that is if one didn’t miss out from being caught up in a crash, which happened from time-to-time.
So here’s how it worked itself out:
Stage 1: 1st — 6 pts
Stage 5: 187th — 0 pts
Stage 6: 3rd — 2 pts
Stage 10: 1st — 6 pts
Stage 12: 1st — 6 pts
Stage 13: 124th — 0 pts
Stage 21: 1st — 6 pts
TOTAL: 26 pts
Stage 1: 58th — 0 pts
Stage 5: 1st — 6 pts
Stage 6: 4th — 0 pts
Stage 10: 3rd — 2 pts
Stage 12: 2nd — 4 pts
Stage 13: 1st — 6 pts
Stage 21: 3rd — 2 pts
TOTAL: 20 pts
Stage 1: 181st — 0 pts
Stage 5: 4th — 0 pts
Stage 6: 1st — 6 pts
Stage 10: 2nd — 4 pts
Stage 12: 33rd — 0 pts
Stage 13: 15th — 0 pts
Stage 21: 1st — 4 pts
TOTAL: 14 pts
Stage 1: 154th — 0 pts
Stage 5: 3rd — 2 pts
Stage 6: 2nd — 4 pts
Stage 10: 4th — 0 pts
Stage 12: 3rd — 2 pts
Stage 13: 2nd — 4 pts
Stage 21: 4th — 0 pts
TOTAL: 12 pts
No surprise really to see Kittel as the winner. He took four stage victories — as many as Cavendish, Greipel and Sagan combined — and while he didn’t come close in the Points competition, he proved that in an all out sprint he had dethroned Cavendish and become the new fastest man in the world. For now. This really was one of the best battles of sprinters that we’ve seen in the Tour for many many years and I get the feeling that these four will battle the sprints out for several years to come and what a treat we’re in for.
Goodbye to the Tour
And so, just like that, the Tour is gone for another year. Like a kid on boxing day you always wonder just where it all went. The build up was immense but the event itself just flashed past. And like that kid, we were spoiled once again. Don’t try telling it to the riders that the whole thing happened a little too quickly however.
There’s no doubt that the three weeks of racing are as grueling as they come. Indeed, in many ways as they rolled into Paris, the three full weeks and a day it had been since they began in Corsica, seemed like a long time ago. So many questions had been answered; so much drama had unfolded. To think that those athletes had been on the saddle for all but two of the days from then until now reminded you just how long the race was, but you still couldn’t get away from thinking how quickly it had all past.
That’s the Tour de France for you. For the riders it’s a long three weeks of suffering, but for the fan who might be standing at the side of the road, they speed past in the blink of an eye and they’re gone.
I’m now heading off on holiday for a few weeks to visit family and friends and to do a bit of cycling. Enjoy the rest of your summers now that the Tour has released you from its magical grip to get on with the rest of your life!