An even smaller USA presence this year than last contributed to the 2019 Tour de France– four riders to start and three of them to finish. It’s no longer the American experience it once was, but this is probably not what anyone in France is pondering right about now.
Much of the excitement over these past three weeks grew with the possibility this might finally prove once again to be a truly French sporting event– this is to say, that a Frenchman would win Le Tour. For more that half of this year’s 21 stages, the host country was in position for a GC victory. France had its very own “winner du jour” as Julian Alaphilippe wore le maillot jaune for the majority of days– in addition to his two stage wins no less. After 34 years, could this really be France’s time? The end was nearing as questions were mounting yet hope was building.
There’s long been talk of the French curse in professional cycling’s grandest three weeks. Alas, the curse appears to remain in play. We all know what happened, via physical skill, mother nature and all else– I needn’t retell it all here and now. Helmets off to Columbia, of course, where pride and celebration will no doubt make its mark. Still, I, an American, would really love to see France have its year. And with that, there will certainly be three weeks in July encore. Vive Le Tour!
Commentator Phil Liggett often reminded viewers throughout the past three weeks that there’s no shame in finishing last in Le Tour de France. Of course, surviving 21 stages to finish in Paris is always a feat for any rider. This year’s last-place finisher in particular has shown himself to be the most respected recipient of the “lanterne rouge” in recent cycling history.
Only five Americans competed in this year’s Tour de France out of 176 riders to start. The U.S. needed to make its mark on Le Tour once again, and, well… it happened. While the amazing Peter Sagan took three stages and survived a third-week crash to finish with his sixth green jersey, Philippe Gilbert climbed back up the wall over which he flew to complete the day with a broken kneecap, and the consistent-yet-cracking Chris Froome squeaked his way onto the final podium alongside his maillot jaune-winning teammate Geraint Thomas, the most impressive display of sportsmanship in my opinion, and that of many, came from this year’s holder of that lanterne rouge. My hat– or rather, my helmet– is off to Lawson Craddock, not only the first American in Tour de France history to earn this final designation, but also an inspiring fighter in the face of overwhelming physical, mental and emotional challenge.
At last, three typically grueling yet glorious weeks have seen their end. At last, it’s a very special viewpoint. And at last, good can come. C’est Le Tour, encore!
Here they pass once again in 2018, along the exact spot starting up Gibraltar Road in which I caught them two years ago. This year’s Amgen Tour of California didn’t fail in providing another 15 seconds of seeing the pros up close in action! Here are the stage results of the day.
After five years and two months of using Strava to record each and every one of my bicycle rides, finally on this final day of the third quarter of 2017 comes the notable number I’ve anticipated for quite some time. Of course I’ll always say this should have occurred sooner, but nevertheless it’s here– amid all other related totals. And now all I can do is roll onward…
Even though anything can happen at any moment throughout three weeks of racing, it comes as no great surprise that Chris Froome has just marked his fourth win of Le Tour de France. Clearly he’s one of cycling’s greats, as talk of five and more is already underway. I merely wish he were a bit more interesting of a personality; Peter Sagan he is not, after all. (And didn’t we miss him?!) In any case, the 104th Tour de France is now in the books, and next year will come!
Having already said it once last week, now I say it again: It won’t be the same. And needless to say, it hasn’t been. In fact, it seems to get more and more different with each passing day. I’m speaking of course of this year’s Tour de France, just one week in and now paused on the first rest day. The following article echoes my sentiments, as I sit at home:
“As we come to the end of the first rest day of the 2017 Tour de France, the race has been saturated with so much drama and controversy that it’s hard to believe only nine days of racing have taken place. The Tour has lost the World Champion to disqualification, the most successful Tour sprinter to injury and the main contender to Chris Froome for the yellow jersey to one of the most horrific crashes in memory, all in only a matter of days. The attitude from the riders is always ‘C’est le Tour’, and the show must go on. Perhaps those of us in the race have a different vision of events to those at home, but for many here the controversy, the crashes and the abandons have eclipsed everything else this year – sadly even the competition itself.”
Much of the initial wind has left the sails– if I may apply a sailing analogy to cycling. I’ll continue watching, as most of us professional cycling fans will. And, I won’t be surprised when Paris brings us yet another very predictable, unchallenged, and dare I say rather unexciting win for Chris Froome. But wait, that’s one thing that WOULD be the same about this Tour. For all else that’s already not the same, especially after 12 riders lost in stage 9 alone, let’s see what else changes over the next two weeks.
The biggest headline of the 2017 Tour de France thus far is not a happy one. In what many people, including myself, consider an overly harsh and undeserved decision, Peter Sagan has been ejected from the race. At the same time, Mark Cavendish is injured and out.
Barely halfway through the first week, two of cycling’s biggest names– my two favorite riders in fact– are gone. Suffice to say this Tour will not be the same, but as always it goes on without hesitation. Like it or not, the harsh reality of professional cycling prevails.
The controversial, fateful elbow moment came just before the stage 4 finish.
The month of July has come once again, which of course means there’s a certain cycling race getting underway in France. (Actually, it starts in Germany this year, but French soil isn’t far off.) Starting today in Dusseldorf, here we go with the 104th Tour de France!
At a very different point of the day than last year, and in exactly the same spot as two years ago, I’m glad to have gotten my annual look, albeit brief, at the great cycling pros in motion in the 2017 Amgen Tour of California. Of course, my spot three years ago is still the most exciting place to be. Perhaps next year, as has occurred in the past, they’ll finish in Santa Barbara!
From my first ride on my brand-new Giant TCR road bike, on March 1, to my most recent spin today, I’ve closed out my first month on my bright new ride at a very modest 462 miles. The thrill remains just as strong today as one month ago, as I look forward to thousands of miles ahead!
Luckily for France, the one and only French stage win of this year’s Tour finally came on the third-to-last day, as young Romain Bardet climbed to victory on stage 19. Even luckier for France, this significant time gain pushed the 25-year-old Frenchman up into second place overall. As it turns out two days later, as a record 174 of the starting 198 riders crossed the final finish line of stage 21, and while Peter firmly retained the green jersey for his fifth consecutive year, France saw one of their own on the podium in Paris, right behind now three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome. Another one, come and gone. C’est Le Tour, encore!
The second rest day down, the final difficult days toward Paris underway, and the numbers continue to climb. The man in green who hadn’t won a Tour de France stage since 2013 has now won three, thanks to stage 11 and stage 16. The “missile” has more than solidified his second-place overall TDF stage victory record, hitting his 29th on stage 6, and then his 30th on stage 14, for a total of four stage wins in this year’s Tour.
Stage 6 – Cav’s 3rd for 29.
Stage 14 – Cav’s 4th for 30.
In a three-week race that did not see its first withdrawal until stage 8, a relatively few 19 of the starting 198 riders have now abandoned, among them Alberto Contador, Thibaut Pinot, and– not surprisingly considering the upcoming Rio Olympic Games, Mark Cavendish himself.
No Tour would be complete without at least one surprise mishap– what might be called a catastrophe if not simply a ridiculous turn of events. Luckily for Chris Froome, after a suddenly halting motorcycle caused him and others to crash on the climb toward the famous Mont Ventoux in stage 12, he maintained his overall lead and stayed in yellow, after an apparent panic run and much official deliberation no less. Now days past this unfortunate moment, Froome seems to remain non-threatened– as his time gap widens and Le Tour gets a little closer to Paris.
The day after stage 1 puts yellow on the back of Mark Cavendish, a brilliant stage 2 finish transfers that yellow onto Peter Sagan. For the former this marks his 27th career TDF stage win, while the latter finally enjoys his first such TDF victory du jour since 2013. Plus, both have now worn le maillot jaune for their first times in any Tour de France!
Then comes stage 3, and a second, photo-finish win for Cavendish! This brings him to 28 total TDF stage wins, surpassed only by the legendary Eddy Merckx. Meanwhile, Sagan gets to enjoy yellow for at least another day across relatively flat central France.
Altogether, my two favorites are off to memorable starts. Three down, 18 to go. Vive Le Tour! And Happy 4th of July to the mere five competing Americans!
Just in the nick of time, I made it via my “secret” route to catch a glimpse of this group of professional cyclists climbing Gibraltar Road, on stage 3 of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California. It’s always a pleasure to get my annual peek at the pros in action!
It all comes down to Paris, and then it’s over. A fourth stage win for Greipel, Sagan in green a fourth straight year sans stage win this time, and Quintana in white on the second place podium, altogether behind the first British two-time champion, bring to an end a three-week, 2088-mile journey for 160 of the starting 198 riders to reach stage 21 on the Champs-Elysées.
What was probable becomes certain. Chris Froome is the man– in not only yellow but also polka dots. With this, as 2013’s winner retakes his place two years later, the 102nd Tour de France takes its place in history. And so we close the latest chapter of professional cycling excellence.
2015 Tour de France Champion Chris Froome (Photo: ASO/B.Bade)
The second rest day arrives just in time for “gorilla” Andre Greipel to recharge following his third win du jour of the Tour in stage 15, while Peter Sagan is forced to rest with that same old number after the historically dangerous descent of the Col de Manse takes him to the line of stage 16 in– you got it– second. That’s now five #2 finishes for the points-leading “green machine.”
Then come the Alps, along with further losses to the overall field. As American Tejay Van Garderen had been sitting in third place overall, on stage 17 he meets an illness-induced end before reaching this Tour’s highest elevation point on the Col d’Allos. Meanwhile, other-American Andrew Talansky (of only three in this Tour) notably finishes the day in second with a GC 12th place. A French 1-2 closes stage 18 in Saint-Jean-de-Maurine, as Romain Bardet takes his first-ever Tour de France stage win, with Pierre Roland shortly behind. The GC standings and Froome’s longstanding 3:10 lead still don’t change, that is until the following day. Defending champ Vincenzo Nibali, nearly written off in the first week, proves he’s back by attacking on the Col de la Croix-de-Fer, winning stage 19, and moving himself up to fourth place overall, while second place Nairo Quintana pulls ahead to narrow the gap on le maillot jaune by 32 seconds.
This feeds into the penultimate finish atop Alpe d’Huez, at the end of a final climb long predicted to shake up the Tour even further. A great day it proves for the French, as Thibaut Pinot ascends to a remarkable stage 20 victory, holding off the young Colombian in white who crosses the line in second while erasing another big chunk off that GC gap. As such, to keep it interesting if not exactly shaken up, Chris Froome begins the Tour’s last day with a lead of 1:12, down from 2:38, down from 3:10, certainly a humbled presumed winner.
As always, it all comes down to Paris. The champagne soon again shall flow!
This year’s first French victory du jour in stage 8, followed by the team time trial of stage 9, close chapter one of the Tour leading into the first rest day, just in time for the wearer of le maillot jaune to gear up for the Pyrenean mountains ahead. And more than geared he proves by the end of stage 10 with his not-to-be-caught solo win on La Pierre-Saint-Martin, reinforcing Chris Froome’s general classification (GC) lead by almost three minutes. Meanwhile, in green, out of green, and back in green again, Peter Sagan keeps a not-so-tight hold on his best color.
Stage 11’s Col du Tourmalet
Stage 11 to the top of the Col du Tourmalet keeps Froome on top overall, far ahead of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali who’s clearly not having his greatest Tour. If that’s not enough, what some consider the hardest climbing day comes in stage 12 to the Plateau de Beille, amid extreme weather variations from dry heat to hailing downpour– but ultimately still no shakeup in the overall standings. Stage 13 into Rodez offers up the most exciting and unpredictable finish of the week, as Sagan propels to yet another almost-win but must settle for yet another second place du jour. At least he propels ahead in his points total after a momentary mid-stage loss, again showing he actually has to work to keep the green jersey for a change, courtesy of Andre Greipel of course. Still meanwhile– no GC shakeup.
Two-thirds of the 102nd Tour de France close with stage 14, seeing the first win for the first African team in Tour history, renewed points dominance for the “green machine” amid yet another top five stage finish, and in addition to a 2-3 switch in the GC, now an overall lead of more than three minutes for the man in yellow.
It might seem by now that le maillot jaune is wrapped up for this Tour– but then, is it? As always, we shall see. So comes and goes yet another July week across France. Next up, the Alps!
His risky solo breakaway proves awesomely successful, winning Tony Martin stage 4 and putting him in yellow. The German “Gorilla” throws the hammer down once again in the final meters of stage 5, Greipel’s second win for a second time eclipsing a Cavendish stage victory. Bad luck repeats itself for le maillot jaune, as a crash in the last moments of stage 6 sees Martin across the line with a broken collarbone. And in the next big sprint finish of stage 7, amid anticipation of dominance or payback, the latter ultimately prevails. The “Missile” triumphantly kills the pressure and wins his first stage of this year’s Tour!
Thrilling highs alternate with shattering lows, again and again in that unpredictable and unforgiving pattern that defines bicycle racing. One week of the 2015 Tour de France is now in the books, with the harsh-yet-glorious reminder that anything we might anticipate will always meet the unforeseen. This said, onward they go to the inevitable highs and lows that come next.
After a record-breaking individual time trial in stage 1 through Utrecht, and following some quickly shifting weather across Holland in stage 2 en route to a sprint finish in Zelande, comes the first dose of heavy carnage in the 102nd Tour de France– this massive high-speed pile-up in stage 3 to the Belgian town of Huy, big enough to halt the entire race for almost 20 minutes!
The first three days down and the first seven riders out, including today’s yellow jersey holder Fabian Cancellara who did valiantly finish the stage, comes in advance of tomorrow’s treacherous cobbles– not to mention French soil. Altogether, this day clearly beckons that annually uttered classic phrase: “C’est Le Tour.”
Two seconds behind at the start of the final stage turns into one second after the intermediate sprint time bonuses. As such, it must be solved in the last full-tilt sprint to the finish. And so it is, by the very narrowest of margins, all coming down to less than the width of a road tire. In the closest victory in the history of this tour, thanks to a four-second time bonus for finishing the day in third (narrowly enough), the great Peter Sagan wins the 2015 Amgen Tour of California!
Stage 5 of the 2015 Amgen Tour of California rolled out of Santa Barbara on Thursday, just after I was able to snag my own photo of my two favorite rival sprinters, Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan. As some very atypical wet weather soaked the 95-mile course and made for a soggy finish, like most other fans I was left to wonder which of the two powerhouses would win the day. The answer, of course, for his third stage victory of this tour: The Missile!
October 31, 2012: 4000. October 31, 2013: 4900. October 31, 2014: 5300 and then some.
Suffice to say on this marker day, my yearly cycling mileage remains once more on the upswing, climbing right along with the elevations of my newly discovered routes here in very mountainous Santa Barbara. At this rate, with two months to go, my annual record will indeed be broken.
Five miles to the finish, and the almost-43-year-old “affable German” was leading the way, as if to fan his feathers just one last time. The oldest rider in the peloton did not win the day, but he certainly shaped it. And with still six days to go, he may very well pull off another moment or two yet. In any case, Jens Voigt has begun his well-planned swan song– his last professional cycling race. And with this bittersweet farewell, among all else, the 2014 USA Pro Challenge is well underway across Colorado.