So, another Tour over and what have we learned?
- Chris Froome is the foremost stage rider of his generation. A consummate time-triallist and a more than good enough climber is an unbeatable combination. He will never have the affection of the public; maybe because he’s British in name only, maybe because of his metronomic, controlled press conferences and performances and maybe because he’s not Wiggo. Will he get a knight-hood or win SPOTY? Somehow I doubt it but he certainly deserves it.
- Kittel is the best of the current crop of sprinters. When on form and in the absence of Gaviria he is unbeatable and he has that aura now where others are afraid of him and almost wait for him to come past. His abandonment was unfortunate as he would certainly have won on the Champs Elysee. The rumour is that he is leaving Quick-Step and joining Katusha Alpecin (shampoo manufacturers) to replace Krystoff who is out of favour; Belgium’s loss will be Germany’s gain – not for the first time.
- Cav’s injury was unfortunate but in truth he shouldn’t have been at the Tour; recovering from glandular fever, he was not fit enough. He would have been well beaten by Kittel and that would have been demoralising. He says he’ll be back next year; let’s hope so – but he won’t beat Gaviria or Kittel. In his absence, his team worked hard and were rewarded with a stage win for Edwald Boasson-Hagen, five years after his last win.
- Sagan’s disqualification seems overly harsh. His wayward elbow looked more like the act of a man trying to balance himself rather than a deliberate punch and the race jury punished the result (Cav’s injury) rather than the offence itself. But he’ll be back and his absence gave others a chance. To give Cav his due, he admitted that he has not been averse to the odd elbow in the past.
- Fabio Aru promised much but ultimately failed to deliver. A combination of tactical naivety, a weak team, an inability to time trial with the best and fading legs, did for his chances but his stage win on Peyragudes was well-taken and he was the only non-Sky rider to wear the yellow jersey.
- Rigoberto Uran’s achievement in coming second was remarkable, especially considering he didn’t have a great team behind him, while Romain Bardet proved, once again, that until he learns to time trial, he will never win a grand tour.
- Contador is past his best, Voeckler has retired, Cummings is probably now too old and Valverde’s crash on the first stage was unfortunate in more ways than one. Andrei Greipel looks like last year’s German compared to Kittel, who is this year’s. Pinot faded fast. Quintana was anonymous and tired; his Giro/Tour double attempt seems in retrospect a step too far. There were times on certain mountain stages when he resembled a little boy, lost in a man’s world. John Degenkolb seems a nice guy but destined never to win a stage.
- New faces that should go far: Lilian Calmejane, Primos Roglic (well-deserved victor on the Galibier and looks a future winner), Arnaud Demare (until he missed the time cut), Dylan Groenewegen, a worthy winner on the Champs Elysee.
- Michael Matthews deserved the green jersey and I think he would have won even if Kittel hadn’t abandoned. He didn’t win as many stages as Kittel but hoovered up the intermediate sprints and was the better climber.
- Barguil was a worthy winner of the Polka Dot jersey but the jury’s decision to award him the most combative rider award, instead of Thomas De Gendt, was disgraceful. But De Gendt did himself no favours by complaining; he should have kept his mouth shut and been a better loser.
- Sunweb were the stand-out team apart from Sky. Sky’s ruthless and single-minded pursuit of victory at all costs is not always fun to watch but boy, is it effective. They proved once again that marginal gains are good, but a big budget is better.
- Mikel Landa was the best rider in the whole race and him and Kwiatkowski ensured Froome’s victory. Landa made some ill-judged and petulant comments to journalists about sacrificing his own chances – he was a domestique and did the job he was no doubt paid very handsomely to do. Some of his glances at Froome were reminiscent of those that Froome himself gave Wiggins in 2012. He will no doubt go to another team and try and win next year. But Sky will buy someone else just as good and who would bet against Froome joining the greats with 5 wins?
- Eurosport’s decision to show all stages from start to finish was brilliant and overdue; one could see how breaks develop and fail and follow the ebb and flow of a race. Jonathan Edwards made a good front man but Gary Imlach is still the best. Boardman is the most eloquent and insightful summariser; Lemond is inarticulate and looks more like a retired pro wrestler. David Millar is almost too smart for his own good and Ned Boulting is still not as funny as he thinks he is. Juan Antonio Flecha’s impenetrable Spanish accent and dopey grin make him a perfect replacement for Manuel (Fawlty Towers for those under 50). Sean Kelly? Make your own mind up.
Bring on the Vuelta!