Tour de France review: Stage-by-stage

After 23 days and 3,497km of gruelling effort, the 2012 Tour de France is finally over and we have not only Britain’s first podium finish in 99 editions of the race, but also its first champion in the form of Bradley Wiggins. Ultimately Sky proved too strong for all their rivals as Chris Froome took a comfortable second place and the team took victory in six of the race’s 21 stages. The 153 finishers can now enjoy a well-earned rest, but in the meantime here is a stage-by-stage reminder of how Wiggins and Froome created a little piece of Tour history which will be forever British.

Prologue: Liege, 6.4km individual time trial

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Recap

French time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel held top spot – on his 33rd birthday – until late on, when he was beaten by first Bradley Wiggins and then penultimate rider Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss former world time trial champion confirmed his return to form with a convincing seven-second victory on the short course around Liege.

Stage winner: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan).

General classification: 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:07, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:07.

Excitement factor: 2/5.

Stage 1: Liege to Seraing, 198km

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Recap

Peter Sagan claimed the opening road stage of his debut Tour with a powerful display on the concluding 2.4km climb in Seraing. The Slovak locked on to Fabian Cancellara as he attacked and rode away from the bunch with 1km to go, and then sat patiently on his wheel before powering past in the closing metres to take a convincing victory.

Stage winner: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).

General classification: 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:07, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:07.

Excitement factor: 4/5.

Stage 2: Vise to Tournai, 207.5km

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Recap

Mark Cavendish took his 21st Tour stage victory after a virtuoso wheel-hopping display in the final kilometre. Lotto-Belisol had laid down a marker by bossing the run-in with their lead-out train, but Andre Greipel could not prevent the world champion from ducking out of his slipstream and powering past to claim a narrow win.

Stage winner: Mark Cavendish (Sky).

General classification: 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:07, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:07.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Stage 3: Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer, 197km

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Recap

Peter Sagan had enough time to celebrate his second win with a Forrest Gump-style salute at the top of a final 700-metre climb. A succession of four short, sharp hills in the last 16km had already eliminated the pure sprinters from contention on a finish which favoured powerful Classics-style riders.

Stage winner: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).

General classification: 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:07, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:07.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Stage 4: Abbeville to Rouen, 214.5km

Image courtesy of Lotto-Belisol

Recap

Lotto-Belisol’s dominant sprint train gave Andre Greipel an armchair ride to claim his second win in imperious fashion. Meanwhile Mark Cavendish was one of several riders who came down in a crash inside the final 3km as riders scrambled for position on a feisty run in to the finish.

Stage winner: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).

General classification: 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:07, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:07.

Excitement factor: 2/5.

Stage 5: Rouen to Saint-Quentin, 205km

Image courtesy of Lotto-Belisol

Recap

Pablo Urtasun, the last survivor of the day’s breakaway, was only caught with 300 metres remaining but this proved to be another comfortable win for Andre Greipel. He swept past a fading Matt Goss with ease to take his second consecutive stage.

Stage winner: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).

General classification: 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:07, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:07.

Excitement factor: 2/5.

Stage 6: Epernay to Metz, 207.5km

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Recap

The breakaway held out until the final 2km, but it was not enough to deny Peter Sagan his third stage win as he edged out Andre Greipel in the final sprint. The German finished second despite suffering a dislocated shoulder in a crash earlier in the stage.

Stage winner: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).

General classification: 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:07, 3. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:07.

Excitement factor: 2/5.

Stage 7: Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles, 199km

Image courtesy of Roz Jones

Recap

An impressive show of team strength allowed Sky to dictate the pace on the first summit finish of this year’s Tour. Only Cadel Evans had the legs to mount a late attack, but Chris Froome easily overhauled him to take a maiden Tour victory, while Bradley Wiggins finished on Evans’ wheel to take over the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara.

Stage winner: Chris Froome (Sky).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:10, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +0:16.

Excitement factor: 4/5.

Stage 8: Belfort to Porrentruy, 157.5km

Image courtesy of Andy Jessop

Recap

Thibaut Pinot, the youngest rider in the race, attacked with 20km to go on this seven-climb stage and held off the late-charging peloton to claim a maiden victory by 26 seconds. He was cheered on by FDJ directeur sportif Marc Madiot, who hung out of his team car’s window screaming at him for the entire final kilometre.

Stage winner: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:10, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +0:16.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Stage 9: Arc-et-Senans to Besancon, 41.5km individual time trial

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Recap

Neither Fabian Cancellara nor reigning time trial world champion Tony Martin could prevent Bradley Wiggins from sweeping to his first Tour stage win as he stretched his overall lead over Cadel Evans to nearly two minutes. Sky teammate Chris Froome was second, 35 seconds down, and moved up to third overall.

Stage winner: Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +1:53, 3. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:07.

Excitement factor: 1/5.

Stage 10: Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194.5km

Image courtesy of Europcar

Recap

Thomas Voeckler sprang clear of a four-man group to beat Michele Scarponi by three seconds to claim a typically attacking stage win. Meanwhile Vincenzo Nibali animated proceedings in the peloton with a brave attack on the descent from the Col du Grand Colombier, but ultimately to no avail as the main GC contenders finished safely together.

Stage winner: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +1:53, 3. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:07.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Stage 11: Albertville to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles, 148km

Pierre Rolland (image courtesy of Europcar)

Image courtesy of Europcar

Recap

Despite a crash, Pierre Rolland rode away from his breakaway companions to claim a solo victory at the summit of La Toussuire. Vincenzo Nibali was again the most aggressive rider among the GC contenders, with his multiple attacks momentarily leaving yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins isolated off the back of the group until Chris Froome abandoned an attack of his own to wait for him and tow him up to the finish. It was the one time in the entire race in which Sky’s otherwise impeccable teamwork failed them, setting off a storm of controversy about whether or not Froome should have been made to wait.

Stage winner: Pierre Rolland (Europcar).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:23.

Excitement factor: 5/5.

Stage 12: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux, 226km

Image courtesy of Le Tour Facebook

Recap

An initial 19-man break was whittled down to five by two early first-category climbs. After distancing their three companions in the closing kilometres, David Millar outwitted Jean-Christophe Peraud in a two-up game of cat-and-mouse to claim his fourth career stage. In so doing, he became the fourth British rider to taste victory in this year’s race.

Stage winner: David Millar (Garmin-Sharp).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:23.

Excitement factor: 1/5.

Stage 13: Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Le Cap d’Agde, 217km

Image courtesy of Lotto-Belisol

Recap

A largely uneventful transition stage exploded into life after the peloton was split on the third-category Mont Saint-Clair with 23km to go. Yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins provided the final lead-out for Sky teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen, but it was not enough to stop Andre Greipel as he held off Peter Sagan by half a wheel to claim his third stage victory.

Stage winner: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:23.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Stage 14: Limoux to Foix, 191km

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Recap

It was expected to be a day of attacks, but instead it ended up as a day of tacks, scattered in the road near the summit of the final climb of the Mur de Peguere, resulting in around 30 riders puncturing. Peter Sagan got into the break and impressively stayed in it on that final climb, but Luis Leon Sanchez‘s late move caught the rest of the five-man group flat-footed as he soloed away to victory.

Stage winner: Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:23.

Excitement factor: 2/5.

Stage 15: Samatan to Pau, 158.5km

Image courtesy of Le Tour website

Recap

Pierrick Fedrigo defeated Christian Vande Velde in a two-up sprint after the pair had ridden away from the other members of a six-man escape group in the closing kilometres. Meanwhile the GC contenders had a day off, rolling in 12 minutes behind.

Stage winner: Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ-BigMat).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:23.

Excitement factor: 1/5.

Stage 16: Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon, 197km

Image courtesy of Europcar

Recap

Thomas Voeckler claimed both his second stage win and the polka dot jersey as he led over all four summits on a monstrous climbing day in the Pyrenees. The Europcar team leader rode away from Brice Feillu, his last surviving companion from the day’s breakaway, on the final ascent of the Col de Peyresourde, before soloing downhill to the finish.

Stage winner: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:23.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Stage 17: Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes. 143.5km

Image courtesy of Movistar

Recap

Chris Froome played the loyal teammate, shepherding race leader Bradley Wiggins safely to the finish and foregoing a possible stage win as Alejandro Valverde, the last survivor of the day’s massive breakaway, claimed victory in this year’s third and last summit finish. The Sky pair had ridden away from all their rivals on the final climb to consolidate their one-two positions in the standings on the last day in the Pyrenees. Thomas Voeckler outfoxed Fredrik Kessiakoff to build an unassailable lead in the King of the Mountains competition.

Stage winner: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:41.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Stage 18: Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, 222.5km

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Recap

In a nail-biting finish, the late breakaway duo of Nicolas Roche and Luis Leon Sanchez were denied only in the last 150 metres as Mark Cavendish – led out in the final kilometre by the yellow jersey himself – rocketed past them to claim his second stage win with a stunning late burst. Peter Sagan finished a distant third, but nevertheless confirmed himself as the green jersey-apparent.

Stage winner: Mark Cavendish (Sky).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +2:05, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +2:41.

Excitement factor: 4/5.

Stage 19: Bonneval to Chartres, 53.5km individual time trial

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Recap

In a repeat of stage nine, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome dominated the time trial to deliver a British one-two for Sky as Wiggins destroyed the field with a flawless performance against the clock. Outgoing champion Cadel Evans had a miserable afternoon, overtaken by teammate Tejay van Garderen and finishing six minutes down.

Stage winner: Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +3:21, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +6:19.

Excitement factor: 1/5.

Stage 20: Rambouillet to Paris Champs-Élysées, 120km

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Recap

Jens Voigt‘s three-man break made it hard for the sprinters’ teams, holding out until 2.5km to go, but there was to be no denying Mark Cavendish. The Manxman won on the Champs-Élysées for the fourth year in succession, starting his sprint early from 350 metres out and powering home ahead of Peter Sagan and Matt Goss.

Stage winner: Mark Cavendish (Sky).

General classification: 1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), 2. Chris Froome (Sky) +3:21, 3. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +6:19.

Excitement factor: 3/5.

Roll of honour

Overall winner: Bradley Wiggins (Sky)

Points winner: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)

King of the Mountains winner: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)

Best young rider: Tejay van Garderen (BMC)

Team prize: RadioShack-Nissan

Link: Tour de France official website

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