The 102nd Tour de France is in the books after one of the most competitive editions of the race in recent memory. Chris Froome of Team Sky was declared the overall winner when he passed through the finish line beginning the first of ten circuits Sunday in Paris. Race organizers rightly neutralized the final circuits due to rainy weather conditions. What did we learn from this years race? Plenty, that’s what! Here are my ten takeaways from this years Tour:
1. The first week does matter. Nairo Quintana who finished as runner up to Froome by 72 seconds, will have plenty of time to reflect on that after he lost a precious 88 seconds on the second stage after being on the wrong end of echelons that formed exactly as organizers had hoped in the Belgian crosswinds.
2. The first African registered team in the history of race, MTN-Quebeka, became the darlings of the event winning a stage and Etrirean rider Daniel Teklehaimanot wearing the polka dot jersey. A very welcome sight.
3. Tony Martin’s star crossed journey. Having never worn the maillot jaune, Tony seemed destined to never wear it, missing thrice by an agonizing second on three consecutive stages. A brave solo break away in the final four kilometers of stage four awarded Tony the yellow jersey only to lose it two days later in a final kilometer crash with a compound fracture of the collarbone forcing his abandonment after the stage.
4. Cobblestones. I know riders are pretty negative about having them as part of a the race, but it makes for great television. They need to be part of the race every year.
5. The strongest team wins. Team Sky had the best team, period. When they were at full strength, they were able to put Froome out front and let everyone else play catch up. By the end of the race team Movistar with Quintana, had weakened Froome’s Sky with body blow after body blow. It was not enough though. With the final climb up Alpe d’ Huez Froome had hung on just enough to claim victory.
6. Lacets de Montvernier. A new climb to this years tour. A sharp, twisty. three kilometer road built into the side of a cliff, it easily had the most dramatic view of the entire race. Honestly, it looked like something right out of a James Bond movie. Need more of it.
7. Fan’s. There seemed to more of them this year from all over the globe. My favorites were the guys dressed as Super Mario Brothers running along the road. Maybe not as good as the dudes hooked up as the Teletubbies ten years ago, but they ran much faster than the tubbers.
8. Cyclists are not soccer players. Unlike soccer players who pretend to suffer injuries to a blown kiss, these riders are incredible. Bloody and broken, they get up, bandage up and ride on at full speed. Laurens Ten Dam separated his shoulder in a stage three crash, popped it back in, and then rode the rest of the tour in obvious pain. That is guts or as I like to think of it, all the training Laurens did in Northern California two months ago paying off.
9. On the subject of injuries, it was a welcome sight to see organizers red flag stage 3 after the “Big One” to let medical staff get everyone off to the hospital. Now if they could ever figure out that the 95 degree hotel rooms don’t help riders recover….
10. Chris Froome. He won the French fan’s over with his heroic climb up Alp d’ Huez suffering visibly all the way. Weird that the French love that type of thing. Anyway, the big deal here is that he won both the yellow and the climbers polka dot jersey which had not been done since Eddie Merckx pulled off the double feat back in 1970. Chapeau Chris!