The Tour de France alphabet madness continues with Nuts to Zeut Alors!
For Part 1, A to M, go here
N is for Nuts
Eurosport commentator Matt Stephens asking all the tough questions to a perplexed peloton.
For the record, the cashew is a seed – I thinkEmbed from Getty Images
The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney– or boxing-glove–shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed, which is often considered a nut, in the culinary sense (Wikipedia)
O is for Oh La La
Speaking of commentators on Eurosport. UK viewers were treated to Sir Bradley Wiggins zooming about the peloton on the back of a moto. He might a ‘marmite’ character in some quarters, but there’s no denying he makes an immensely knowledgeable, irreverent and entertaining commentator. Or as Sam Bewley puts it…
O is also for Eurosport’s inimitable Orla Chennaoui. Her clarity, wit, judgement and professionalism just bring out the best in her co-hosts and guests alike. WE LOVE HER! The segment with Peter Sagan is one of my favourites from the 21 stages.
P is for Polka Pox
First let me get a little rant out of the way. There was a change in sponsors for this jersey, and hence a change in the style of spots. I didn’t like the new regimented rows of dots, I missed the old one.Embed from Getty Images
The fabled spots were borne upon the shoulders of three riders. Each one graced the competition with panache.
First up Greg Van Avermaet (Team CCC). A Grand Depart in Brussels. A Belgian in the maillot pois and how fitting that he took the jersey by storming the Muur in fine style on stage 1.Embed from Getty Images
Greg also took to the TTT in a polka dotted skinsuit!
The race may have left Belgium for French soil on stage three. There may have been a Frenchman in maillot jaune, but the spots stayed on Belgian shoulders – Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens – and would stay there until stage 18.
No polka-dotted opportunity was missed by Lotto Soudal #bedeckedinspots
He also took to the TT starting ramp in a polka dot skinsuit. Have to say it looks better than the CCC version.Embed from Getty Images
I LOVED Tim’s passion for the polkas. He was tigerish in his ferocity to keep them, standing on the most combative rider podium twice in the 15 days he wore them.
He hit the right breaks and climbed with the best over the Cat 1 mountains, it was the double points HC climbs that made all the difference.
Even so, it’s seems completely remiss of the organisers to not even nominate him for the super combative award.
AG2R la Mondiale’s leader Romain Bardet had a nightmare start to the Tour. Never recovering from time lost in the time trials and climbs he would normally soar upon. With his GC ambitions sunk beyond trace, he dug deep to turn his fortunes around, standing atop the King of the Mountain podium in Valloire on stage 18 and all the way to Paris. Paradoxically, the only French rider to claim one of the main jerseys.
It all started so chic, for a kit that has the beloved brown bibs…Embed from Getty Images
Until arrival in Paris when the team went polka dot crazy! MY EYES!Embed from Getty Images
This video – *wipes a polka dot tear*
Q is for Quatre
Three teams scored four victories apiece. Lotto Soudal and Jumbo Visma we have talked about, so this Q is especially for Mitchelton-Scott. The Aussie team came came to the Tour with GC ambitions pinned on Adam Yates. When that didn’t work out they switched their focus to stage grabbing with gusto.
Daryl Impey kicked the celebrations off as the strongest man in the breakaway on stage 9.
Simon Yates took two in the Pyrenees. Pipping Pello Bilbao (Astana) on the line after swoop into Bagnères-de-Bigorre on Stage 12, and again with a solo run to finish atop Prat d’Albis on stage 15.
My favourite has to be Matteo Trentin‘s victory on the run into Gap on stage 19. The smarts to attacking out of the break just before the final climb of the day and the power to hold off the strong men who chased him down. Just brilliant.
It is nowhere near as easy as it sounds to change your focus midway through the race. Plenty of teams tried and failed to salvage their Tour. Mitchelton-Scott deserve all the plaudits.
R is for redesign
Roads daubed with rider’s names is so much a part of bike racing, a wonderful way to encourage your hero.
Names and a little artistic embellishment are perfectly acceptable. However, no one wants to see a willie on the road, and the ASO certainly don’t want the offending appendage on the TV! I had no idea that there was a crew on hand to deal with this ‘problem’, and am completely charmed that they don’t simply paint over the offending shape, but redesign it. Watch and marvel people…
I wonder what they put on their C.Vs?
S is for Sagan, Seven and Swag
For the first time in years, the Slovak took the start in Brussels in his regular team kit. By his own standards, Peter Sagan had a quiet tour as far as stage winning goes, with just the one to bring his tally to 12. However, a series of strategic moves to mop up points and ten top ten placings saw him back in his usual Tour attire of the green jersey by stage 3. One that he defended all the way to Paris for a record seventh time. It’s all too easy to just say that, we’re used to him doing this, but Wow! Chapeau, Peter!
Of course, the entertainer jumped out along the route. From wheelies on time trials and mountain top finishes, to Rubik’s Cube skills, book signings on the go and my favourite: photobombing the traditional Ineos photo op en route to the Champs.
Never change Peter, the sport needs you.
T is for Thibaut, Tourmalet and Tears
Thibaut Pinot came into this Tour with fierce determination. Groupama FDJ performed magificently on the team time trial, he was frisky on La Planche des Belles Filles (Stage 6) and downright feisty on stage 9 when he romped away in French tag team with LouLou. A shit day of unluck on the echelon-tastic stage 10 saw him tumble from 3rd to 10th on GC.
It’s not them who gained 1:40, it’s us who lost 1:40.
Would he buckle? No sir HE WOULD NOT! Raging legs saw him produce his best time trial in yonks and take the Pyrenees on with scant regard for the lung busting climbs.
A barn-storming victory atop La Tourmalet after his team drove the pace and worked their socks off to reduce the will of the peloton. MAGNIFICENT STOMPING IN ALL ITS GLORY…
He’s collecting the mythical climbs, Alp d’Huez, Lagos de Cavadonga and now Tourmalet
There is NOTHING like Marc Madiot’s passion.
A second place the following day at Prat d’Albis and he was back to 4th, brimful of confidence and ready for the vertiginous Alps. All the omens were good, he was deemed the rider most people thought would succeed to the top step of the podium in Paris. No one knew the heartbreak that lay ahead.
That dream crashed into hard, tear-stained reality on stage 19. A seemingly innocuous knee injury caused by the handlebars of his bike causing such extreme pain that he could no longer continue. We watched distraught as he broke down in tears. Twitter united as his teammate William Bonnet embraced him and encouraged him into the team car.
The beauty and agony of this sport.
I still can’t watch this without crying..
What can you do for a rider other than this #SurroundHimWithLove
France TV2 were given unprecedented access to the team for this tour, and captured the despair and emotion of the day. The documentary ‘Avec Thibaut’ was shown in full at the weekend (see here). This poignant clip is a hard watch. Monsieur Madiot may wear his heart on his sleeve, but there is no one I would rather at my side in times like these. You don’t need to understand French to feel the warmth, concern and love.
Ain’t this the truth
Thibaut will be back with his raging legs and fierce joy at the Tour in 2020, and there will be more MAGNIFICENT STOMPING!
Until then, there’s always the donkeys
U is for Unbelievable
In a race of of extraordinarily exciting racing, nothing compares to the happenings on stage 19 to Tignes! (See our race report)
At over 2000m the skies looked ominous and weather forecast wasn’t good. The GC race exploded on the penultimate climb of the Col d’Iseran. Bernal soaring free to make his bid for yellow and Alaphilippe getting dropped but fighting to to minimise his losses and keep hopes alive of a daring descent. We were on the edge of our seats as the Colombian joined forces with last man standing from the break Simon Yates.
As they swooped down the descent news arrived of hailstones as large as golf balls and blocked roads.
When the images finally rolled in, the organisers were left with little option but to abandon the stage.
The only operational snow plough was called in – IN JULY.
It wasn’t just ice either…
Times were taken at the top of the Col d’Iseran, leaving no stage winner but Egan Bernal in yellow.
V is for Vos and Van Aert
What can you say about Marianne Vos that hasn’t already been said and written several times over. Fresh from the top step of the podium at the Giro Rosa, the Dutch legend took the start for the one day La Course by Le Tour de France centred around Pau. The puncheur parcours suited the CCC-Liv rider to a tee. She shot out of the pack on the final lap, hunting down Mitchelton-Scott’s lone leader Amanda Spratt and powered to the finish in full flight.
In a team full of buzzing Jumbo Bees, Wout van Aert was flying. Team time trial, the sprint trains, best young rider for four days, winning stages…in fact anywhere help was needed – Wout was on it.
Second on stage 5, he went one step better on stage 10, keeping his head and his team clear in the echelon chaos to claim victory.
We love when it means so much to a rider.
Three stages later and the headlines were unfortunately very different. Cruising to a great time in the ITT, the Belgian national champion suffered an horrific crash into the barriers, which left him with a serious gash in his thigh and an extensive recuperation post operation.
The little matter of being in hospital didn’t stop Wout from helping his team. He was texting updates on GC rider positions as the battle waged on stage 20.
We wish him a very speedy recovery.
W is When they were pups
Time for a little nostalgia with a selection of riders as fresh-faced striplings.
Here’s a lovely little film of Andre Greipel.
Can you spot an even more boyish Bedhead?
Here he is in polka dots way back in 1996 and 2019
A young Pinot showing all that Magnificent Stomping even at an early age
Fresh-faced (and clean-shaven) LouLou
X is for X (Ten)
Ten of the best that I couldn’t fit anywhere else!
No Tour write is complete without at least one photo of the peloton through sunflowers. Thanks Greg.
Mr Greipel going CX-style on the gravel finish to La Planche
Team Ineos in synchronised crash on stage on Bastille Day… one on the many times Geraint Thomas found himself on the tarmac.
The historic Colombian picture
Cries in Danish
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)Embed from Getty Images
Alaphilippe alone in yellow
Step away now, Sir Dave
The mighty Xandro Meurise from the Mighty Wanty Gobert in some mighty Krys glasses- they’re still smaller then the insect goggles the Yates twins wear.
Y is for Yellow
To wear the maillot jaune is an honour. Let’s have a look back at the four joyous riders who got to put the fabled jersey around their shoulders.
To mark the 50 years since Eddy Merckx wore his first maillot jaune, a special themed jersey was presented in Brussels.
That honour went to Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) and it was presented by the man himself.Embed from Getty Images
Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone was so disappointed to miss out on the stage win at La Planche des Filles, but overjoyed when he realised his second place meant a trip to the GC podium.Embed from Getty Images
Sandwiched either side of young Giulio was the man whose panache and joie-de-vivre made this the best Tour for years. LouLou honoured the yellow for 14 stages, so much longer than even he dared to imagine. Smiling every single day, even when he lost it.
Finally Egan Bernal. The young Colombian who lived up to all the hype that has surrounded him and pressed his claim with a maturity beyond his years.Embed from Getty Images
A golden Champs, for a truly golden yellow Tour de France
Z is for Zeut Alors!
Masks, wooly hats and taped up nipples – the cryotherapy at Total Direct Energie looks severe.
That’s it for another Tour de France. All that remains is a little Edith Piaff and the wise words of Tom Owen
Adieu mes amis
Header Image: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images