Andre Greipel saved his best for last. Perfectly launched by his team, he crossed the line to take once more the blue riband sprint stage in this year’s Tour de France just ahead of Peter Sagan, winner of the green jersey and adjudged Most Combative du Tour, and Alexander Kristoff. Our own mystic Meg, Miss Kitty Fondue had picked him for today’s stage victory. Chris Froome could afford to lose a bit of time as he wrapped up his second consecutive and third Tour de France title before falling into the waiting arms of his wife Michelle, holding their young son who now has more lion plushies than Toys’R’Us.
Rider(s) of the Race
Congratulations to all 175 riders who reached Paris. You’re all winners in my book. However, I’ve got to whittle down the contenders for this prestigious award. Also, I’m going to take a few liberties and have a rider of today’s stage, plus an overall rider of the race.
Rider of the stage goes to gentle giant, Andre Greipel, who recorded his first victory in this year’s Tour de France – saving his best ’til last. Arguably, his team set him up perfectly to power across the line in a repeat of last year’s victory. Greipel has won a stage in every Grand Tour he’s ridden in since 2008 – an amazing record in its own right.
Now for my overall rider of the race. The general classification changed largely when riders slipped out of contention and others moved up in the pecking order. But Romain Bedhead™ Bardet took the race to Sky. Post-Dauphine, he stayed in the Alps to recon stages 20 and 21. It was his planning and preparation that paid off big time when he attacked on stage 20 to take France’s only stage victory and leapfrog from fifth to second overall. He who dares, wins! Chapeau, Romain, and congratulations to all his teammates who have spent the last three weeks with the sole objective of getting Bardet onto the podium. And it’s only the third time in the past 20 years that a rider from the host nation has finished runner-up. It’s worth noting, by comparison with a number of teams, Ag2r La Mondiale have a modest budget but it hasn’t prevented them getting onto the podium twice in the past three editions.
Romain was not unnaturally quite emotional after yesterday’s stage, which confirmed his status as runner-up:
It’s hard to take in. I’m repeating myself, I’ve already said it yesterday, I really took the time to enjoy this with friends and with the staff. Today, we recovered well to keep second place. We managed the day. There was a lot of emotion as i crossed the line, this is an outstanding performance and we can really be proud to have achieved this in such conditions. To be honest, I wanted to finish as high as possible and by using 100% of my ability. I really enjoyed this Tour de France. I felt comfortable with the favorites. It was necessary to take risks as we did yesterday [on stage 20]. We were successful.
We were all searching for the podium together and it’s obviously the highlight of my career! I felt the huge public support, it was very strong. I want to thank my fans, it was exhilarating to see their happy faces on the side of the road.
La Course by Le Tour 2016
A few hours before the curtain fell on the Tour de France 2016, the queens of women’s cycling lit up the legendary circuit on the Champs Elysees. It was an exiting dash over the cobbles but ultimately a war of attrition with numerous crashes in the final kilometres much reducing the bunch. Ellen van Dijk (Boels Dolmans) took a flyer 2km from the line but the sprinters’ teams reeled her in within sniffing distance of the line. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle High5) ended the Dutch rule of this race when she powered out of the centre of the pack to cross the line with a couple of bike lengths to spare. Lotto Lepisto (Cervelo Bigla) was second with the maiden winner of this race, Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv), rounding out the podium. A fitting end to an exciting race and we wish all those who fell a swift recovery.
A few thoughts on making the Tour more exciting
The Tour de France is over for another year and with Team Sky having won four out of the last five editions and triple-vainquer Chris Froome indicating he’d like to continue for the next five or so editions, ideas have been aired as to how the Tour could be more competitive and, by extension, more exciting. First up, race director, ASO’s Christian Prudhomme, weighs in with that old chestnut of reducing team size from nine to eight riders. He believes that team Sky “overpower and lock out the race in the mountain passes.” [Personally I don’t see this as making any difference – Ed]
FDJ’s general manager Marc Madiot is rather more radical – we expect nothing less – feeling the Tour would have been more competitive without Sky. While compatriot Vincent Lavenu, general manager of runner-up Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) is more sanguine:
I have no jealousy vis-à-vis the larger armadas, quite the contrary. These great teams have helped to bring a modern image and a new breath of air to global cycling. We need to be more professional, it is useless to criticize. To me Sky bring a lot to cycling, they have pushed the other teams to better structure and to become more efficient. Sky has convinced prestigious partners to follow the adventure of cycling, this is a plus for our sport. Their success leads me to think that this is an example to follow …
I’m not convinced that reducing the team size by just one rider will have such a dramatic effect. Instead, I propose that teams be picked on the same basis as most Fantasy Cycling Games where you have to select riders with different capabilities. This would prevent Sky, or indeed any other team, from selecting seven riders who are equally capable of winning a grand tour. I’m not the only one to have this idea.
Worth a thought M. Prudhomme? Or what about this?
Trashing Tour traditions
I notice the winning team were enjoying Leffe Belgian beer and not champagne as they rode away from Chantilly. Did they have permission from the UCI?
Farewell to Bernard and Gerard
Aside from fan-favourite Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), two institutions are bowing out after this Tour. Firstly, five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the Tour, is relinquishing his Ambassadorial role at ASO, which he’s held since 2008, to spend more time with his grandchildren. Today, for the first time, he spent the entire stage in the car with Christian Prudhomme at the head of the race. When questioned about what he would take away from his final Tour, he mentioned his and the French public’s pride in the performance of Romain Bardet.
One of France Television’s main presenters, the immaculately coiffed Gerard Holz, is retiring after 44 year’s service. He’s heading for la dolce vita in Italy where his wife now works but he’ll continue his connection with cycling by working on bike-related documentaries. We’ll miss Gerard popping up on the roadside to join families enjoying picnics while waiting for the peloton.
Whatever your thoughts on this year’s Tour, here at VeloVoices Towers we’ve been glued to our screens for the past three weeks and will suffer withdrawal pains next week. But never fear, we’ll have plenty to look forward to on the blog including Kitty Fondue’s Bumper Tweets of the Tour.
1 Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) 2:43:08
2 Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) same time
3 Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t
4 Edvald Boassen Hagen (Dimension Data) s/t
5 Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) s/t
GC top 5
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 89:04:48
2 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +4:05
3 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +4:21
4 Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) +4:42
5 Richie Porte (BMC) +5:17
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
KOM jersey: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)
Best Young Rider: Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)
For full stage review: Cycling News
Header image: Tour de France 2016 winner stage 21/ A.S.O