This classic Tour de France dress rehearsal was a slow burner, only coming alight in the mountains after two time-trials and two sprint stages. Sky’s Geraint Thomas won his fifth one-week stage race in Indurain-like fashion, off the back of his performances in the time-trials and his consistency in the mountains. He measured his efforts to resist everything that second-placed Adam Yates – winner of the final stage – and third-placed Romain Bardet could throw at him on the ascents and descents. There was to be no repeat of last year’s ultimate stage denouement.
Riders of the Race
It’s all too easy to plump for the overall winner Geraint Thomas, whose team shared the yellow jersey around as if playing pass-the-parcel. Sky’s victory relied on their domination of the time-trials and consistency on the other stages – nothing we haven’t seen before. So I’m going to shine the light on a couple of riders who both won stages and animated the race, plus some youngsters.
My first pick is fellow Brummie Dan Martin whose riding style I find abhorant. I just want to shake him and say that if he didn’t waste so much energy bobbing about, he’d win more! I like to think that maybe Irish Peloton had something to do with his first victory for UAE Emirates after posting this provocative tweet:
In any event, it was good to see him livening up the race in the mountains, finishing just off the podium in fourth place overall. He’s the first Irish rider to win a stage in this race since King (Sean) Kelly in 1989. Importantly, it was his debut victory for his new team and his first since Il Lombardia back in 2014.
My second rider is none other than Basque rider Pello Bilbao or, as Journal Velo would have us believe, the new Haimar Zubeldia! As you know, I have a deep and abiding love for all things Basque, particularly former #Carrots. Having finished sixth overall in last month’s gruelling Giro d’Italia, Pello still had enough energy left in the tank to get in Saturday’s break and stay away for Astana’s 18th win of the season. Those boys are on fire since the departure of Fabio Aru!
Yes, Cillian, that would usually be you!
MVP? Easy, that was Tao Geoghegan-Hart, arguably the revelation of the race, who stepped up to the plate and played a vital role in Thomas’ victory and still finished 13th overall. Many have called for him to be included in the Tour de France squad, but with only six places up for grabs – assuming Chris Froome and Thomas enjoy co-leadership – it’s hard to see him making the line-up this year. Thomas rightly gave him a big hug at the finish.
Tao finished fourth overall in the Best Young Rider classification, behind – in descending order – winner Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale), seventh overall Antwan Tolhoek (LottoNL-Jumbo) and 12th overall Guillaume Martin (Wanty Gobert). It’ll be smiles all round at their respective teams for their magnificent performances this week, particularly at Ag2r La Mondiale, even though these two look too tired to raise a smile.
Clues for the Tour de France podium?
This race is usually an opportunity to assess the chances of the maillot jaune hopefuls, but this year the waters have been muddied somewhat by the extra week between the French race and the Tour, thanks to the football World Cup. Some are rightly cautious about being too good too soon, witness Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at 24th overall and, maybe, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) at 10th, also Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) at 19th.
The top four overall will all be designated leaders or co-leaders for their respective teams in the upcoming Tour de France while fifth-placed Damiano Caruso will be riding in support of his BMC teammate Richie Porte, currently competing at the Tour de Suisse. Many of the riders further down the GC will also be riding in support of team leaders if, and it’s a big IF for some, they make their Tour teams.
Tweets that made us smile
You can always rely on UK Cycling Expert for his balanced and objective view of affairs on two wheels.
Meanwhile, even at the tail-end of the race, the riders just love to entertain!
1 Geraint Thomas (Sky) 24:43:12
2 Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +1:00
3 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:47
4 Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) +2:35
5 Damiano Caruso (BMC) +2:44
All the jerseys
Points Jersey: Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott)
KOM Jersey: Dario Cataldo (Astana)
Best Young Rider Jersey: Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale)
Team Classification Leader: Sky
Prologue: Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)
Stage 1: Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott)
Stage 2: Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe)
Stage 3: Team Time-Trial won by Sky
Stage 4: Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)
Stage 5: Dan Martin (UAE Emirates)
Stage 6: Pello Bilbao (Astana)
Stage 7: Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Links: Official race website
Overall race Report: cyclingnews
Header: © GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele