With the completion of today’s Individual Time Trial, and with the exception of the almost-celebratory run into Paris tomorrow, this year’s Tour de France is now complete; and it has been a quite marvelous race.
There was a clear expectation by most observers that this year’s Tour would be a closely fought battle between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome. However, with both of them being forced to withdraw during the first week, the “lesser lights” who normally would have been supporting their leaders were given a lot more freedom to go for stage wins and high rankings in the overall classification. This opened up the race and made for some spectacular days.
Vincenzo Nibali (nearly always my second choice after Contador) has been the leader almost from the beginning and will win tomorrow by more than seven minutes; a victory thoroughly deserved. He has looked cool and prepared on every single stage, winning a major mountaintop finish, handled the difficult cobble stage, and competing effectively in the time trial. In hindsight, I suspect that he might well have won this year even had Froome and Contador stayed in.
Peter Sagan is such a consistently good performer that he has swamped everyone else in the green jersey (sprinters) competition without winning a single stage (though he has a chance still tomorrow morning). In the King of the Mountains polka dot race, the young Pole Rafal Majka wins after an exciting contest. Majka reminds me that this Tour has thrown up a new crop of your riders, raiders we will be seeing at the top of the lists throughout the next decade.
Just as important, this year has been the best in a full generation for the French with their riders taking 2nd, 3rd and 6th place. In addition, with the collapse of the Sky team this year, French team AG2R Las Mondiale will win the team competition by a wide margin.
It has been a great race — a true Grand Tour — and now we look forward to the Vuelta d’Espana later this summer which may well have the finest group of riders for many years with Contador and Froome trying to make up for their TdeF failures. I will probably be supporting the young Colombian Nairo Quintano.
Previous This Sporting Life episodes.