Tour de France Final Review
The 7th win in 8 years in the Tour. There's the saying that no win is the same, this year it was taken to a different level as not only the race crowned a new winner, a country that's won it for the first time and the rider who took the win, Egan Bernal, is the race's youngest finisher, and the youngest winner in generations. This was a different race than what we're used to from them, with Alaphilipe carrying yellow for most of the race and several other teams with very strong squads, INEOS didn't dominate this year the way they use to. But in the end, Bernal and Thomas took first and second in a great display of consistency. But in Bernal's case, it was above just being consistent, his form grew as the Tour went by and in the Alps a new level from him was unleashed, where in the Galibier and the l'Iseran he truly won the race.
BORA - Hansgrohe
Bora came into the race with big ambitions, with a split squad directed towards Peter Sagan, this half of the team functioned perfectly as Sagan was able to win a stage and take an easy win in the points classification. Him and his leadout men worked well for him and for Emanuel Buchmann who has finally confirmed what he's been promising for a big while, very consistent, very strong and with no weakpots, the German has finished 4th in the race in a performance that is far from a surprise but a great result, his first Top10 in a grand tour in fact, coming from a very strong season.
Deceuninck - Quick Step
Deceuninck were the big stars of the race I can say, this is the team that for more than half of the Tour spent hours in front of the peloton. Wether for the sprints or the mountains and everything inbetween the team was always there. Julian Alaphillipe, even with the enormous talent we knew of him was still THE surprise of the race for me. His ability to go through the Pyrinees in yellow after an utter dominant first section of the race with two briliant wins was brilliant and his continuation in the Alps and everything before was brilliant. Is he now a Grand Tour contender? I wouldn't say that, but he definetely has the potential and will certainly target it in the future. Besides him Elia Viviani took a win that was expected from him, in almost every sprint the team looked very good, having Kasper Asgreen as a priceless rider working everyday and the sheer display the team had I have no option than to call them the big team of the race.
AG2R La Mondiale
It was a race with ups and downs. At the start Romain Bardet didn't have the confidence that he carried to the race as in other years but it was only in stage 14 that he took a dramatic and hard dive down the GC. In that day AG2R's race seemed lost, the team was fully directed to him, his domestiques weren't up to the task of taking a stage and Bardet himself looked far from having the legs to climb with the strongest. However, almost seemlessly, he netted the KOM jersey. It was only a goal he started working on in stage 15 but he infiltrated the right breakaways and leaves the race with a big result in the bag, and a jersey that has been conquered by the French for the third year in a row. It was a rather quiet race, but in the end they do have a good result to back up their expectations.
When Bahrain came into the race I was a bit confused on what they could achieve. With Vincenzo Nibali, Damiano Caruso, Rohan Dennis and Dylan Teuns on one side, Sonny Colbrelli, Ivan Cortina, Matej Mohoric and Jan Tratnik on the other, this is a team that could win everything. The issue is that Nibali wasn't in for the GC, and despite being consistent Colbrelli didn't contest the sprints. The team was left with 8 stage hunters, Dennis' case brought down the expectations a bit, but besides all they won two stages, two summit finished in the race. With such an impressive quality it was hard not to have them, it was the true rogue team where there wasn't a proper organization but there was proper quality, and the results expected from them weren't far off from reality.
Groupama - FDJ
With Groupama comes the most dramatic story of the Tour. It is a clear moment of the Tour when Thibaut Pinot abandoned the race, after looking the strongest rider in the race, in the Pyrinees he recovered in amazing fashion the time he lost in the crosswinds in Albi and was in the clear contention for the win. He has been evoluting every year and last year's Vuelta confirmed his almost unique climbing ability, this year he returned to the Tour with unfinished business which he was looking to finish off. Which is why, in stage 19 he got back to the medical car, the Tour took a dark turn. He was injured from an incident two days previous and in a dramatic fashion he lost time before abandoning in tears. It was a brutal sight for the audience, can't imagine for him who went through similar circumstances loosing a Giro podium on the penultimate day due to exhaustion. So late in the race the team had pretty much no way to recover and ended up the way they were before, with Gaudu still with a great performance finishing 13th, the team was very strong both physically and tactically, which is why it was a shame they didn't get the proper reward for the work. My rating isn't based on how the team performed, but on the result they had in the end, it was an unfortunate finish that left the team close to empty-handed in the end.
Enigmatic race by the Spanish squad. Finishing 6th, 8th and 9th it is comparable to past years where the team won the teams classification with good reason due to their depth but without being able to contest for anything bigger. This year the team was strong, Landa was strong in the mountains, even with the time-trial he would've been in the fight for the podium if it wasn't for the crash en route to Albi. Quintana, completely lacked the consistency but had a moment of glory in Valloire, which was I admit, a very good win. Valverde set to work for the duo of leaders, he did in La Planche des Belles Filles but it became clear that he was set for more, he rode a consistent race unlike what is normal for him and finished inside the Top10. Marc Soler, Andrey Amador and Carlos Verona rode very well and proved that the team had the strenght, they just had a bit of bad luck in their leader and the sub-leader lacked the consistency really. Still, a stage win, teams classification and 3 riders in the Top10 it's far from a failed race.
Astana Pro Team
Unlike Astana. Well, it was bad luck once again, Jakob Fuglsang came into the race as one of the favourites, but he was never really in it. He was however confortable in the Top10 with oppportunity to do better, the team was riding strong with him behind but similar to Groupama they lost their direction when the Dane crashed out. They had the depth, and they fought hard to get a stage win after the abandon but they didn't manage to do so, after having missed the biggest opportunities supporting Fugslang.
Like Bora Jumbo-Visma came with a very specific two-pronged aproach to the race, where every rider had a specific purpose. Did it work out? Well, yes! In fact their two leaders combined only got 1 of the 4 stages of the team (ok one was a TTT if you want to count it). Dylan Groenewegen wasn't as strong in the sprints as the previous year but he got a win, and his leadout was superb as both Mike Teunissen and Wout van Aert also got sprint wins. It was an ideal race on that side, on the other was Steven Kruijsijk who finished on the podium after a strong and consistent race. He only had George Bennett and Laurens de Plus for the mountains but they both were perfect in the support. Even with van Aert and Martin's abandons Jumbo did a perfect race, they achieved their goals and got some amazing wins, and with a perfectly organized team they got the absolute best they could've.
EF Education First
After a very quiet season it wasn't sure what to expect from Rigoberto Uran, but I would say that in the end it ended up the "most expected" possible with a solid 7th place. No criticism at all there, he was good, his team however didn't manage to get any result to show of the team's race. No jersey wearing and no stage win from them. Their pink jerseys were well visible but they didn't exactly shine.
Mitchelton, a team that came in completely directed to Adam Yates' overall challenge, but it was derailed in the Tourmalet. At that point Daryl Impey had already gotten a win, Simon Yates won the first Pyrineen stage but it didn't seem as a disaster when Adam cracked. From there on Mitchelton became even more of a danger and Simon Yates showed the legs he missed in the Giro, winning in Foix and later Matteo Trentin winning in Gap. Simon Yates could've even had another win if it wasn't for the snowstorm on stage 19. Mitchelton is a team that came with a goal but redirected halfway through the race, GC was their purpose but they did just fine - very well, in fact - stage hunting.
CCC came into the race purely for the stage wins. This was good as they had a purpose and several riders capable of a realistic goal. However severe injuries in Alessandro De Marchi and Patrick Bevin took most of their chances of a win. Simon Geschke turned out very good, riding strong in the mountains and Greg van Avermaet did what he could, he had several good placings in the race but was unable to bring a win. The team didn't do that well in the race but their squad wasn't close to the other teams too, they were affected by a lot of bad luck and payed for it.
UAE, maybe the disapointment of the race? I mean looking at the riders in, it was clear the goal was to win stages, but then there was Dan Martin who was targeting the overall. Alexander Kristoff was close to a win in a sprint, but besides that day he was never in contention for it. Dan Martin, cracked in stage 14 and never showed better legs, he was never really there wasn't he. Fabio Aru, well, he wasn't bad, but no-one (including the team) could expect more from him as he just came back to racing in particular circumstances. Rui Costa and Sergio Henao came for stage wins but they were never there too. Jasper Phillipsen was a nice surprise but he abandoned the race early on whilst the Norwegians had a minor role in the race too. Absolute opposite of the Giro, there the team was of a low level but raced perfectly. Here they had a strong team but completely deorganized, and expectedly, it didn't work out at all.
Trek - Segafredo
After a brilliant Giro Trek came into the Tour with absolute focus on Richie Porte. It was a surprising decision, Porte.. Porte.. Well, he was there! After what's happened in the last few years and how he's performed this year, I had a tough time seeing him do something good, but well he finished 11th, not that good but he was there, didn't falter, he was present in the race. The attention of the team came from Giulio Ciccone who wore yellow for a couple of days, he was doing so good until a crash somewhat derailed his Tour. He took a while to recover from it so was never relly visible. Jasper Stuyven also had a really strong race, present in sprints, hills and breakaways, whilst Bauke Mollema did solid. There was some quality in the team, an average race.
After Tom Dumoulin's news the team was left in the emptyness it's been all season long. Matthews was the new leader but as usual the stages that suited him suited the breakaways, he himself got to a point where he was totally off, not only wasn't he scoring point for the points classification he was avoiding them on purpose to infiltrate breakaways and try to win, but that didn't happen. In fact it never really happened, besides some positive racing from Nicholas Roche and Lemnard Kamna there isn't anything else to take from the Tour.
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
Cofidis had a really good Tour of California and their leader Jesus Herrada came with ambitions. However, he looked fatigued, out of himself the whole race. It was clear since he's been on top form pretty much the whole season, he was the leader Cofidis needed and with Laporte and Edet abandoning from sickness the team didn't do good. Some solid riding by Rossetto and Perichon were the highlights but never close to a stage win.
A surprise I would say. Lotto came with Caleb Ewan and his leadout, plus a trio of rogues. Benoot, almost took a stage in stage 9 but then faded away in the race. Wellens, he led the KOM competition for more than half the race and Thomas de Gendt had an epic stage win. It was a good race from these men, and on the other side, whilst Ewan's leadout never truly delivered, he did. He won 3 stages in fact and was by far the most dominant sprinter in the race. Lotto was a very good surprise and they made their Tour worth it, they did what they came here to do.
Team Total Direct Energie
Some disapointment here too, Total didn't come with big expectations but their two leaders didn't manage to perform. Niki Terpstra, well, he crashed out. It was very unfortunate, and their other leader Lilian Calmejane also failed to perform, by a long shot. There were some solid performances, Sicard and Bonifazio but nothing to show off.
Team Katusha Alpecin
Well what to say... Did you see Katusha? Well I did, sometimes in the breakaway, Nils Pollit did his job trying to get a stage win but was far from it, and besides an elusive sprint by Jens Debusschere there was nothing else from the race. Ilnur Zakarin, José Gonçalves, Rick Zabel, nothing from them. Zakarin seemed to be rising in form in the final week but he needed a LOT more to succeed. As the season has been so far they didn't have any result at all to show for.
Wanty - Gobert Cycling Team
Wanty, an interesting team actually. Yohan Offredo was one of the main faces of the first week. He was in the breakaway in flat trasitional stages, got sick but resisted in the race in a way that I have never seen any other rider do, I loved what he managed to do after such a serious crash he had just some months before the race. Overall the team didn't show that much, but two riders did. First Xandro Meurisse who as a Grand Tour debutant had a brilliant performance, settling in the right breakaways, being present in the Top10 and closeby until the final days of racing. And finally Guillaume Martin, who's been steadily improving every year, despite far from the best he was very consistent and he's got a very decent 12th place to take from the race.
Team Dimension Data
Another team that was affected by bad luck, Giacomo Nizzolo came as team leader and did solid in the sprints until a crashed forced him to abandon. It was a bad sign, and without him the team failed to get any result besides Boasson Hagen with a good sprint on the final stage. Kreuziger was solid with 16th, but from Steve Cummings and Michael Valgren there's absolutely nothing to take away from.
Team Arkéa Samsic
Arkéa was one of the teams that could either go very well or very bad. The case was... slightly good? Waren Barguil finished in the Top10 and was a marking presence in the mountain stages, he never raced conservatively and showed the colours of France the way they should've been, rising from what had been a very bad team until the French nationals. Andre Greipel as expected wasn't there in the sprints BESIDES the final stage, Elie Gesbert also did good in the mountains, so it was an active team that deserves my respect after their exhibition.
Team Performance Rating
10 - Deceuninck, Jumbo
9 - INEOS, Bora, Lotto Soudal
8 - Mitchelton
7 - AG2R, Movistar, Bahrain, Wanty, Arkea
6 - EF, Trek
5 - FDJ
4 - Astana, CCC
3 - Dimension Data, UAE, Suweb, Cofidis, Total
2 - Katusha
So how did my predictions before the race go?
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Thomas, Fuglsang
⭐ Porte, Bardet, Mas, Uran, D.Martin, Dennis, Nibali It was a solid aproach, Thomas and Bernal ended up being the strongest, the most consistent too but Buchmann and Kruijsijk settled in, I was expecting them high up. Porte and Uran also on the Top10 and right by it. On the negative side was Pinot after the unfortunate injury he got in the final week, Quintana, he was 8th so it wasn't a total disaster but was far from consistent. Adam Yates faltered as last year, Romain Bardet but he bounced back to win the KOM, Mas to support Alaphillipe, Dan Martin also faded throughout the race, never looked strong enough to be in front, Rohan Dennis was in his very special case before the time-trial and Nibali I had as a possibility not a certainty, he ended up not targeting the GC but won the final mountain stage. From the Top10 I obviously didn't have Alaphillipe, I doubt any cycling blogger would've guessed him riding as he did, THE surprise of the race if that's possible to still be used to describe him, Alejandro Valverde was a nice surprise after a strong and consistent race, and Waren Barguil who had good form throughout the race and had the French flag in the Top10.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Viviani, Matthews
⭐ Alaphillipe, van Aert, Nizzolo Here it was just a matter of having an incident-free race, with Sagan the clear favourite who was never in danger of loosing the jersey, as Sonny Colbrelli was the only rider besides him that was fully focused in green for the whole race, hoping for a mishap from the Slovakian. Ewan did good as he scored bigtime winning three stages, whilst Viviani, Colbrelli and Matthews finished behind as expected.
Mailot Blanc a Pois
⭐ Nibali, Zakarin, Ciccone, de Gendt, De Marchi, Muhlberger This one is never easy to predict, this classification is almost always won by riders that could be in the GC fight, and sometimes some outsiders in great form, as there are not many riders who actually come into the race targeting this jersey. That was the case, with winner Bardet not in my list as I wasn't expecting him out of GC, Bernal was to be expected but in reality he only got in second place due to his first place in l'Iseran, third Wellens wasn't someone I'd expected but he seized several stages outside of the high mountains to place himself there. Damiano Caruso and Vincenzo Nibali were the most accurate predictions here, with Ciccone was possibly one to consider seeing how strong he was riding up until his crash.
⭐Gaudu, Benoot, Asgreen, Schachmann, De Plus Here the winner was also expected, the winner of the whole race in fact. Bernal was never in risk of loosing this jersey, and he was the only rider really working for the jersey. Gaudu was second but he was arguably never in the fight and not in the actual fight for GC as he was supporting Thibaut Pinot. Mas was third but he finished only a distant 22nd in the overall, 57 minutes away from Bernal.
Finally, this was the best Tour I've seen since the first one I ever did back in 2011. But it was a great race overall, it had everything, suspence, drama, epic wins, several teams making the races hard and some agressive racing. The end, well the weather played a part and there's nothing that could be done in relation to that, the race until that snowstorm in the Alps was great but it wasn't harmful totally. It was a great race and it is fully deserved as I loved the route the organizers did!
It was a pleasure to write about it, and I hope to be back next year to write about the next edition, a big thank you to all my readers!