Three weeks have now passed and we have seen the professional peloton race from Corsica to the north of France, back to the Alps and then the final dash around Paris. Three weeks of action and surprises. I won’t try to cover every stage but rather pick out some prime events over the three week period that has seen a second British champion take the iconic yellow jersey.
Right from the off we had action at the start line even before the riders arrived. The now famous Orica bus driver managed to get the team bus stuck and caused chaos. Then the man they were all expecting to win actually lost the first sprint. Cav lost out not just on a stage win but also the yellow jersey as Kittel of Argos Shimano took the scalp. The following two days were just as exciting; climbs on the island showed us a glimpse of what we could expect later on once the mountains were reached. It was then a quick flight for the professionals and a boat ride for the hordes of staff and tour officials to the main land.
Nice was the next port of call and a main stage that would show which teams had the firepower. The team time trial had another surprise winner. Orica took the win and with it the yellow, which was a huge surprise to many. For the Australian fans, it was a mesmerizing three days as the yellow passed from Gerrans to team mate Impy. This wasn’t the only surprising act that Orica had up their sleeves whilst at the tour…come rest day the team released an ACDC music video, trust the Aussies!
The first major mountains showed us that Sky were yet again a force to be reckoned with. Froome and especially his loyal best mate Porte shredded the peloton. This was to be a regular occurrence whenever the mountains were reached.
The only time when Sky looked vulnerable was stage 13 when the cross winds and Saxo Bank Tinkoff took the peloton and snapped it in to small fragments. This was a stage that should have been plain sailing, a standard transfer stage, but the wind and the Saxo guys made it a stage to remember. They clawed back one minute on Froome that day.
The next memorable stage was the ascent of Mt Ventoux, this was where Froome stamped his authority and showed the rest of the GC contenders that his chicken wing climbing style was certainly effective. Again, his Sky team worked to shred the peloton with Froome then attacked up the mountain. The only rider able to stick with him for a while was the young Colombian, Quintana of Movistar. Froome took the stage with Quintana coming across the line and immediately collapsing, looking as though he was about to die. Amazing efforts by both riders.
Alp d’Huez is an iconic mountain. Racing up it once usually makes for a great and memorable tour stage but racing up it twice most definitely gave us a day to remember. Breaks went away and the talented but underperforming BMC rider Tejay Van Garderen looked to have the stage wrapped up until 2 km to go when he faltered. It’s a climb that has caught many a champion out and for Tejay it was no different. AG2R rider Riblon took advantage, catching and surging past to take the win.
The final two days had more surprises in store and the Annecy stage was a belter. For such a short stage it had lots of surprises for the public. On the steep climbs of the Semnoz climb Quintana, Froome and Rodriguez opened up a gap on Contador and this is where the GC changed. Quintana took the stage and moved in to second, Rodriguez then moved in to third with Contador losing out and dropping to forth.
The last stage in Paris was one that befitted the celebrations of a centennial tour. Held at dusk and with a final sprint from the best four sprinters currently in the peloton. It was a nail-biting last 500m with the now-superstar of sprinting and cycling taking the win and putting an end to Cav’s long run of wins on the Champs Elysees.
The celebrations and festivities were a spectacle but paled in comparison to what had been a magnificent and refreshing race after last year’s quite clinical win. It was three weeks of that saw untold action, amazement, new champions emerging and old riders not performing as they once did. All in all it was a Tour that will be hard to surpass in 2014.