We’ve reached that point where after 3 weeks of action the main race of the season is once more over for another year. It’s been an eventful Tour de France in some ways and also not so much in others. Here’s a short review of this year’s events.
It’s hard to look past Vicenzo Nibali, with the highest winning margin since Jan Ulrich’s 1997 win, this is the most imperious a Tour de France winner we’ve seen in a long time. People will argue that it was gifted after Chris Froome and Alberto Contador crashed out in their various ways but their crashes were down to either poor positioning or poor bike handling which ultimately vindicates that Nibali was the best rider. He had an answer for everything, winning into Sheffield, dominating the cobbles and leading from the front in the mountains. 4 stage wins showed how far in front he was in terms of class compared to the rest of the field.
Peter Sagan was another stand-out, despite not managing to win a stage, his consistency again meant another record total in the Points Jersey competition. It took until the 8th stage for him to finish outside of the top 5, a new Tour de France record and the variety of these stages shows the all round ability that he has. Almost unchallenged throughout, his four second places shows how close he was to that stage win this year.
French cyclists had a bit of a rennaisance this Tour de France with Jean-Christophe Peraud, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet all featuring very highly. This was the first time a Frenchman had been on the podium since Richard Virenque in 1997 and the first time two were on the podium since 1984. It’s been two or three generations of cyclists since France last won their own race and this current crop has given some hope, second placed Peraud is 37 however.
Rafal Majka made his mark on the Tour de France by winning the King of the Mountains jersey thanks to an impressive display and two stage wins. He definitely stepped up and used the freedom from Contador’s crash to forge his own path and achieve his own personal glory.
Michael Rogers’ stage win also showed the depth that Tinkoff-Saxo has.
Not an out and out sprinter, Ramunas Navardauskas became a somewhat surprisingly consistent high finisher on sprint stages, particularly those that finished slightly uphill or had short climbs before the end. His win on Stage 19 gave Garmin some glory within the race and his third place on the Champs-Elysees ahead of established sprinters like Greipel and Renshaw showed he may be useful in the future as well.
Both Froome and Contador can be included here as neither enjoyed their Tour de France experiences, Froome should make it back to fitness for a stab at the Vuelta but Contador’s leg is too bad to consider it (apparently not in hindsight). The key part of the season lost to these two through a couple of errors.
Sprinting-wise Andre Greipel went missing a lot and Arnaud Demare struggled at this highest level. I’m a bit loathed to include Mark Cavendish in this, but he will be very disappointed to end the Tour de France in Yorkshire the way he did, especially on home soil and with a genuine chance to wear Yellow for the first time. Although strictly speaking not a sprinter, Simon Gerrans was nigh on anonymous as well after his part in the crash on the opening day.
Lots and lots of other injuries and crashes meant that highly thought of riders such as Andrew Talansky, world champion Rui Costa, Mathias Frank, Andy Schleck abandoned and didn’t reach Paris. Talansky in particular could’ve finished highly after his impressive Dauphine.
Tour de France 2014 Conclusions
Nibali destroyed the competition this year, France believes it can win again, Sagan can win the green jersey every year for as long as he likes and the UK has fully embraced the Tour de France.
Roll on 2015 and a showdown between Froome, Contador, Nibali and Quintana!