The best Tour de France in years? You’re darn tooting right it was. Here’s our alphabetical take on all the swashbuckling, sparkle, heartbreak and flair. Allon’s-y!
A is for Astonishing Against the Clocks
This year’s edition of the Tour de France kept the time trial kilometres to a minimum with the team and individual efforts both a smidge over 27km. The skin-suited discipline doesn’t tickle everyone’s cycling fancy, but I can’t think of anyone who was not reduced to yelling, “What the heck have I just watched?” First Jumbo-Visma produced a stunning ride through the streets of Brussels, screaming under the Atomium to take victory by 20seconds, practically a lifetime in TTT terms.Embed from Getty Images
Eleven days later, Julian Alaphilippe ripped it up in Pau to grab the victory from Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt (more on him later!) and take a firmer grip on his maillot jaune against all expectations. The way he flew up that final stinger of a rise to the finish line. Teeth gritted, tongue out, concentration honed to keep those legs turning.Embed from Getty Images
The release of joy as he slowed to a stop. Just brilliant!
B is for Bernal, Egan Harley BernalEmbed from Getty Images
He’s 22 – twenty-two!! He’s just stood on the top step of the podium in Paris as the victor of the Tour de France, the youngest rider to do so in over 100 years and the first Colombian. Gave his victory speech in four languages. Oh, and let’s not forget he also carried home the best young rider jersey. The only item missing from his Tour luggage was a stage winner’s medal and that’s only because Mother Nature denied him on stage 19 (More on that later). The word Chapeau hardly seems enough.
A closer look at his journey around France tells the tale of a rider quietly waiting for his favoured terrain to arrive in the back-loaded final week. The team ensured he survived the chaos and crosswinds and while he faltered on the time trial on Pau, he was never out of the top 10 from stage 3 onward.
What happened was Egan dropped all the GC contenders on the Galibier to move from 5th to 2nd overall and followed that by claiming the top step on stage 19 with a solo attack on the Col d’Iseran. Suze is spot on with this assessment …
and I LOVE that it meant so much.
For all the final Alpine stage was a shortened charge up to Val Thorens, Bernal’s arrival to seal the deal on yellow never looked in jeopardy. He celebrated …
Colombia celebrated …
Who knows how many children this win has inspired?
Colombian radio commentators must surely be spending the week post Tour talking in whispers
And the party carried right on until Paris.
Hands up who didn’t cry over this
Yes Egan… you did it!Embed from Getty Images
Love the TinTin take.
C is for Co-leaders
The hyphenated word that always raises eyebrows amongst cycling fans.
Let’s start with Team Ineos who set off to support both Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. While the tactics between the two didn’t always make sense, the issue was settled on the road and the men in red and black ended up with two on the podium in Paris and their 7th Tour de France in total.
It must have been tough for Thomas to come to terms with and yet he was gracious as he passed the baton.Embed from Getty Images
And then we had Movistar and their three-pronged co-leadership of Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana
Mihai was correct. They kept us entertained and guessing every time the road went up.
It wasn’t so much letting the road settle the issue of leadership as ripping earphones out of ears and every man for himself as pendulum swung between Landa and Quintana.
Poor Marc Soler and Andrey Amador
Peak what-the-heckness was reached on stage 18. As the Colombian branch of the triumvirate attacked on the Galibier to take stage-winning honours and haul himself back into the top 10 on GC, his team were busy chasing hard to bring his advantage down.
Caley Fretz’s article for Cycling Tips outlines exactly what went down, and why. The gif replies are hilarious
They came away with a stage win, their three leaders in the top ten – 6th Quintana, 8th Landa, and 9th Valverde – and podium time in Paris for best team. Oh, the irony!
It was all so very different from the Giro.
D is for Doubts
This Tour was a lot about passing the torch – from the new group of elite sprinters like Dylan Groenewagen and Caleb Ewan, wunderkinds Wout Van Aert and Giulio Ciccone, and the old-school racing of Julian Alaphilippe and new champion Egan Bernal. Mark Cavendish didn’t make the team cut, Marcel Kittel was only seen in the commentator booth and Andre Greipel carried his bike over the finish line in the mountains. But there were still a few older warhorses in the peloton, including former Tour, Giro and Vuelta champion, Vincenzo Nibali. He was fairly anonymous throughout the race, until Stage 20.
Nibali was honest about how he was feeling in this year’s Tour and even had doubts that he would finish the Tour.
“I suffered but it’s great to win. It wasn’t easy for me after the fatigue of the Giro d’Italia. I tried to do the GC but exploded. There was a lot of criticism and I thought about going home but I fought to honor the Tour de France.”
E is for Enfants
Memories created, a lifelong passion ignited. Some moments guaranteed to soften the hardest of cynical hearts.
Mark Cavendish was not named in Dimension Data‘s TDF squad but he turned his disappointment in a wonderful way to make this young man’s day.
Marcus Burghardt (BORA-hansgrohe) was so touched by the reaction of one young fan that he wanted to do more…
Of course, Twitter did its work
Passion is found in all ages, look at this little girl shouting for Alaphilippe
Chapeau this gendarme.
I can barely ride the hills on my home island of Jersey, staggered by this little one climbing the Tourmalet with a back pack!
F is for Fans
Never underestimate the lengths to which fans will go. I don’t mean the idiots who set flares and run alongside riders, I mean the ones who make their day at the Tour the best it can be. Who cheer for all the riders. Who spend hours making sure their favourite rider knows they are supported.
Romain Bardet‘s fans went the extra mile when the race rolled into his hometown of Brioude on stage 9.
Especially on mountain stages
Is this Cav in an Astana kit?Embed from Getty Images
We’ve all heard of Dutch Corner on Alpe d’Huez, now we have Beefeater Bend. There is so much going on in this glorious clip
Never underestimate how much this support means…
G is Great Escape by De Gendt
We LOVE Lotto Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt. His solo victory on stage 8 has to be one of the highlights of the Tour. Who can forget him powering towards the finish line in Saint Etienne, holding off a rampant Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe.
Everyone join in
When he wasn’t on lead out duties for Caleb Ewan or placing second in the time trial on stage 13, he was busy tweeting about food. Here’s his stage winner’s banquet.
And of course supporting his TDF roomie Tim Wellens in his quest for King of the Mountain points
while also coveting his polka dot jersey
Ahh the bromance!
All the way to Paris
I want to think this is true
H is for Hat Trick
The marquee sprinters all got their time on the top step of the podium, but only Lotto Soudal’s Caleb Ewan made the hat trick. Competitive in all the early sprints, the Aussie pocket rocket saved his truly scorching speed for the latter half of the Tour. His maiden TDF win came in Toulouse, coincidentally where a certain Mark Cavendish stormed the line.
From one Aussie speedster to another. Who wouldn’t want Robbie McEwen and Matty Keenan calling you home?
His second victory came in Nimes after the Pyrenees, and his third on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Doesn’t make getting over the mountains any easier though…
I is for I got to hand it to BORA-hansgrohe
The Bora boys have been firing on all cylinders all season long, and they didn’t let their game down at the Tour de France.
I think what’s most impressive is how they balanced the requirements of Peter Sagan with the GC ambitions of rising star Emanuel Buchmann.
A stage win, a green jersey and 4th place on GC – that’ll do nicely BORA
J is for Jumbo-Bees
If BORA-hansgrohe left Paris with big smiles, then the Jumbo Bees must surely have floated on pure joy! The men in yellow and black have been on fire from the opening weekend in Brussels to the last sprint in Paris.
Who can forget Mike Teunissen stepping out of his poisson-pilote role and into stage-winning duties to claim the first yellow jersey of the TDF, or the ride of their lives on the team time trial to set Steven Kruijswijk up perfectly for his first Grand Tour podium.
Dylan Groenewegen dusted himself down after his crash to get back to winning ways on stage 7 and Wout Van Aert added a maiden Tour victory and 4 days as best young rider to the haul.
Now who’s heading for the Vuelta?
K is for Knitted jerseys
Tour results in the form of charming knitted snail cosies. LOVE
complete with final podium, lions and of course champagne.
L is for Lotta Love for LouLou
Julian Alaphilippe has swashbuckled, sparkled, gritted his teeth, ridden with heart and panache, dug deep and hung tough. The superlatives go on and on and every single one would be deserved, he has made the Tour for so many old and new fans alike.
*confession*… I don’t want him to concentrate on the TDF, even if he could win it. I would rather have him ride and win with panache from Milan San Remo to Lombardia.
I am not going to attempt to write a coherent entry for this French man, there are others more able to find the words.
Instead let me give you my favourite Alaphilippe moments…
Swashbuckling into yellow with daring solo raid in Champagne country
Stages a smash-and-grab run to glory with fellow French favourite Thibaut Pinot to regain the maillot jaune on stage 8 – just in time to wear it with panache on Bastille Day
Driving the front echelon to gain valuable time on stage 10
THAT time trial (see A above)
Charming the President of France after climbing out of his skin on the Tourmalet (stage 14)
Barfing his lungs up to keep his yellow jersey on stage 15
Still fighting for yellow into the Alps. This might just be my move of the entire the race. Dropped on the way up the Galibier, he put all his panache on show to get back to his GC rivals on the descent. Not content with just catching back on, he swerved his way through going…Yeah, you might drop me, but look at me now..I’m keeping my yellow!
More heroics post-stage as he gives his jersey away to keep a young fan warm.
The maelstrom-shortened stage 19 saw him cede yellow to Bernal,
but still his joie de vivre shone through.
2 stage wins, 4 podiums, 5 Top 10s, 14 yellow jerseys and a podium in Paris as the most attackity rider.Embed from Getty Images
Add to that tally the hearts he won around the world
Last word to the man himself
M is for Mothers and Marriages
When your mum turns up at your place of work, even if that place of work is on a mountainside in France.
Andrey Amador rode his socks for the Movistarlets, I’m so glad he could take a little time to say hi to his mother.
I can’t imagine how proud Maman Bardet was of the way her son turned his Tour de France around.
What could be much more romantic than a marriage proposal in Paris, the City of Lovers? I do hope Ophelia said yes to Kevin Van Melsen. Let us know Wanty Groupe Gobert please!
For Part Two, N-Z, go here
Header Image: GETTY/Velo/Tim de Waele