Tour de France 2016: A to Z (Part I) from Alaphilippe to Moved to tears

C’est fini. We have said our last goodbye. The caravan has thrown its last freebie and the bunting is bedraggled. If you’re still missing the Tour buzz, we’ve got you covered with our A-Z of the weird, the wonderful and the wistful at the 103rd Tour de France.

A is for Amazing Alaphilippe

From out-punching all (bar one) of the best puncheurs into Cherbourg on stage 2, to finishing fourth on that chaotic day into Morzine on stage 19; young French Quickstepper Julian Alaphilippe has been wowing us all Tour long. We loved his five days of sparkle on the best young rider podium. We worried at his being blown halfway up a cliff by the Mistral on his time trial. We were quite frankly amazed when he and teammates Tony Martin rode the breakaway all by themselves into Bern. Gosh, he even got the ultimate VeloVoices accolade – a hash tag of his very own! – after his anger and disappointment in all things chain-related on stage 13 to Culoz. Safe to say we loved #Angryphilippe.

B is for Baroudeurs

Baroudeur is French for fighter. In cycling terms it means those riders who are brave enough to pit their strength and grit against the might of the chase in full cry. The daring of Greg van Avermaet (BMC) soloing away to capture the both stage and the maillot jaune on stage 5. Steve Cummings’ audacious ride on the Col d’Aspin to win stage 7 for Dimension Data. Rides we will still be talking about in years to come!

C is for Cavendeeeeeesh!

We said it in our pre-Tour podcast – never, NEVER write off Mark Cavendish at this race. From the minute he stormed over the line at Utah Beach, the Manx Missile turned on the style. Let’s just take a moment to enumerate:

  • 4 stage wins taking his overall total to 30. Surpassing Bernard Hinault and homing in on Eddy Merckx‘s all-time record of 34.
  • 6 days in the green jersey.
  • 1 wonderful day in the maillot jaune – at last (hands up who cried along with him?).

He’s eloquent, generous and passionate about his Dimension Data team and the Qhuebeka charity they ride for, and he always has time for his fans. He has a reputation of being a little spiky with the press, but Danish journalist Rasmus Staghøj and his passion for floral shirts provided a long running moment of laughter.

D is for Descending

If the GC climbing has been a bit of a procession at times, we’ve certainly been treated to some seat-of-the-pants downhill action. Let’s not forget that Chris Froome snatched the yellow jersey by swooping into Bagnères-de-Luchon like a crazy ninja stork on two wheels. But for sheer thrills I’ll take the outstanding  trio of Ion IzaguirreJarlinson Pantano and Vincenzo Nibali on the run to Morzine.

E is for Enforcer

As much a part of the podium ceremony as popping the cork on the champagne, five-time Tour de France champion Bernard Hinault stepped down from this ambassadorial role at ASO on Sunday. The Breton is as fiery in this role as he ever was as a rider. It seems somehow an incongruous, if delightful, image that the Badger retires to spend more time with his grandchildren.

F is for Farewell to Fabian

Monsieur Hinault wasn’t the only person taking his final bow at the 2016 edition, we also witnessed the last Grande Boucle for Fabian Cancellara. Spartacus finished his last Tour on stage 17, having ridden into his beloved Bern to a hero’s welcome. There is going to be a LOT written about Fabs this year, so let’s hear how much it meant from the man himself.

The Tour has given me a lot in the last twelve years and I don’t say this lightly. I gave a lot of thought to this decision to withdraw from the race. Today was very emotional for me – more than I expected it to be, and more than when I finished the Classics in the Roubaix velodrome: the stage to Bern, the start there this morning and the gift they presented me; everything. Right now knowing that these were my last kilometres in the Tour de France is hard. I want to thank the organisers for all those years, and for the trophy of my final Tour stage. I will treasure that forever. I’m drawing a line under a big story of my life.

G is for Gotta be Greipel

The Lotto-Soudal sprint train was a little under par in the opening stages, a case of close but no bananas for the Gorilla. All that disappointment was swept aside on Sunday as they landed the one sprint stage that REALLY matters at Le Tour. We should all have put money on him. Not only has he scored back-to-back Parisian victories, but Andre has won stages in his last 11 Grand Tours in a row. That’s a heck of record, and long may it continue.

We adore his fun side too

H is for Haircut 100

No, not the happy-go-lucky band of the early Eighties, but something integral to the well-groomed cyclist. There is an official Tour barber sponsored by Bic who travels with the whole cavalcade from stage to stage and opens for business in the Start Village every day. Here’s Warren Barguil in the hotseat for a quick trim before the travails of the day.  I know some of his fans will be hoping his Tour moustache might possibly disappear under the blade.

I is for Iconic Image

We’ll all have something in our mind. That one image that encapsulates the race for us. Perhaps it’s Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux, or Direct Energie’s Bryan Coquard praying that it was the smallest sliver of his tyre that made it over the line first. For me, it’s Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin riding up the switchbacks of Arcalis on his way to the first of two victories. There is something about the solitary rider, his struggle against gradient and the elements illuminated by the headlights of the following vehicles.

J is for “Jinkies it’s Jarlinson”

A phrase quite often heard in these parts whenever the Colombian with a smile to match that of Esteban Chaves blasted onto our screens – which was just about everyday it seemed. The IAM Cat was everywhere: in the breaks, launching stinging attacks, or flinging himself down some twisted descent with a fearlessness that made us wince. From cycling with an umbrella in hand to outwitting Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka for his first grand tour win, Jarlinson tackled it all with an absolute determination to never EVER give up while he could still push the pedals around.

K is for King of the Mountain

It takes strength and the ability to overcome the pain barrier to be crowned King of the Mountains at the end of 21 stages. You have to be prepared to work like a dog to make the break day after day. It pays to be canny like this year’s victor Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka, saving  your effort for those mountains with the most lucrative points haul. For the connoisseur fan however, the real test of a true KOM rider is how they style the prized polka dot outfit. Paul Voss (Bora) kept it simple while Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven whooped it up with some very nifty dotty shoes. Thibaut Pinot’s classic jersey looked sparkling and clean teamed with the FDJ white bibs. I fully expected Tinkoff and the Winker to go full pox with spotted bibs, jersey, bike, bar tape, team bus, Oleg’s hair, but it was all quite restrained! For my money, though, Lotto-Soudal’s stage winner Thomas de Gendt sported the spots with the most panache – the little border of polkas dots to the bibs was the clincher. #SpotOnThomas

L is for a LITTLE help from my friends

Teamwork! You don’t get far in any bike race without it, let alone three weeks in a grand tour. The ability to blend 9 different elements into one entity with a common goal is priceless. We saw it at Dimension Data and Team Sky (more of them later), and on stage 10 into Revel we saw a beautiful demonstration by the Orica-BikeExchange team. Michael Matthews may have been first across the line, but it was a beautifully worked stage win by the Aussie outfit. Here’s how they did it, they always look like they’re having so much fun. LOVE THAT TEAM

M is for Moved to tears

Watching a Grand Tour is such an emotional rollercoaster. There is NOTHING like that surge of excitement as the moves go down in the final kilometres, or the feeling of belonging to special club as shared laughter rings over the internet at some race moment or commentators remark. We worry, get angry and sometimes – sometimes we are moved to tears.  I can’t read this piece on Pierre Rolland by Matthew Beaudin  without welling up.

Stay tuned for N-Z! 

Header image: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Image

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