Tour de France 2016: A to Z (Part 2) – From Normandy to Zenith

Part deux of our au revoir to Le Tour takes us from Normandy to Zenith via space stats and some mini Sky fans… allons y mes amis!

N is for Normandy

La Manche in Normandy played host to the Grand Depart this year. With Mont St Michel as its backdrop, the peloton clipped in and rolled away; the route twisting through verdant landscapes and wind-blasted coastal stretches. the opening days are nervous affairs and Bora Argon’s Sam Bennett, Michael Morkov from Katusha and Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador all hit the deck on Stage 1. Baby Blackbird struggled through to stage 9 before he climbed into the team car, his Tour over before he ever reached the mountains where he hoped to soar. Of course, one can’t visit this part of France without being aware of its recent history and it was fitting that riders paid homage to the fallen at Utah Beach.

O is for OOH fancy that!

“Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars”  Tour de France riders past and present would have reached the moon and had plenty to spare for a bit space play. It’s a heck of an altitude gain, mind.

P is for Purito

There was not a dry eye in the house when Joaquim Rodriguez announced his retirement at an emotional press conference in Andorra. If you haven’t watched his speech, you can find it here – bring tissues! As is tradition for respected riders at their last Tour de France, the Spanish star was accorded the honour of leading the peloton onto the Champs-Elysees… yep, we cried again as he blew kisses to the crowd.

First Mate of Cofidis came to me and said, ” Purito, you must enter first on the Champ Elysees.” I said no, but Sagan came and Froome and my teammates. It was so beautiful. 

Q is for Qui, quoi, quand and (pour)Q(uoi)

Sometimes you just come upon a picture you have no explanation for whatsoever. I’m just going to leave this tweet from Cofidis’ Jerome Cousin with you… #WhoWhatWhenWhy

R is for Romain Bedhead™ Bardet

He might have the face of schoolboy about to pull some jolly jape, but there is nothing childlike about Bedhead when it comes to racing. Meticulous planning and preparation allied with sheer animal instinct and dashing verve gave the Ag2r captain his stage win and second on GC. The whole of France rejoiced when he stepped up onto the podium in Paris and there were many spontaneous outbreaks of La Marseillaise – surely it wasn’t just me?

I want to thank my fans, it was exhilarating to see their happy faces on the side of the road.

We really hope Tristan got to meet his hero…

S is for Sprints (separated by nano seconds)

We were treated to some electric sprint finishes this Tour, where the margin between spraying the bubbly or sipping from a warm bidon came down to a single heartbeat. The names of the winners will be written into Tour history, but let’s spare a thought for the likes of Direct Energie’s Bryan Coquard and Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff who were pipped at the post by the tiniest of margins.

T is for Triple Champ

We can discuss the finer points of Team Sky until the cows come home (please, let’s not – Ed). The fact remains that the British team have claimed the yellow jersey four times in the last five years and Chris Froome has worn three of them. It’s a huge achievement, and if their post-race comments about wanting more of the same are anything to go by, one that will leave their rivals with a problem to solve over the coming five years. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of Froome swooping into Bagneres du Luchon to grab yellow, taking on Peter Sagan in a sprint or running up Ventoux sans bike.

U is for #Unluck

At the start of stage 19 Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema was second on GC and was starting to believe that a podium place was within his grasp. Several hours later, a bruised, sodden rider limped over the finish line and slumped over his bars. A crash when the race was on and a frantic chase after a gap that would not close, took him from 2nd to 11th. In his words … “Misfortune like that is an intrinsic part of our sport”, or as his Swiss teammate might say: It was a shit day of #unluck. 

V is for Viking Vegard

Did you know that the word Viking is something you do; a verb meaning to ‘go travel’. One of the travelling Norsemen making his debut at the Tour was Fortuneo-Vital Concept’s Vegard Breen. Every day he wrote about the craziness of his tour in the VB Post. If you missed out on the hilarity, you can find them all on his Twitter .

W is for Wedding

Tour de France-themed weddings are one thing, but this couple went one better and said their vows on the finish line podium. Courtesy of TDF sponsor Pressade, Thierry and Stéphanie arrived for their big day by tandem and were driven away to their reception on a pair of jolly oranges. [Jolly oranges? – Ed]

X is for Xylophone bridge

I kid you not! It’s a wooden bridge that plays music when you cycle over it. How cool is that? Imagine the cacophony of a peloton in full flight, it’d certainly give Velon and their on-bike footage a run for their money. OK, I cheated slightly, said musical bridge is planned for Seoul (you can read about it here). But come ON! Where else would you find facts like these? It’s GOLD I tell you.

Y is for #YATESyouCAN

Orica-BikeExchange came into the race with two objectives: to win a stage and to claim the white jersey with Adam Yates. They ticked both boxes, and if not for a ‘bad day’ on the infamous stage 19 would probably have landed their first GC podium as well. The young Brit was impressive. Nothing seemed to shake him – not the race, an overly agressive flamme rouge, the press, or the pressure. Best young rider and fourth overall at your first serious GC attempt? Not bad for the lad from Bury. #Chapeau

Z is for Zenith

Peter Sagan: Leonine, tamer of echelons, and clad in rainbows – when he wasn’t wearing green or yellow. Three stage wins, three days in yellow, six podium places, fifth green jersey, and most attacking rider at the race. What other rider would leave everything on the road for his teammate on stage 20 and still finish 2nd on stage 21?

Bike rider at his zenith? We don’t think so. We think this is just the beginning of something even more extraordinary. He’s a rockstar and the sport needs him. And Panache’s mancrush gets stronger day by day.

Ah Le Tour…. Though the Carnival is over, I will love you ’till I die  – or until the Vuelta anyway.

Header image: Mascotte Bic © ASO/G.Demouveaux

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