Looking Back: The Drama During the Tour de France

By Jon Hornbeck

The Tour de France is done and dusted now with a few days to look back over the three weeks of racing and really analyze and soak up what stood out. The racing sure did have it’s up’s and down’s with drama but with possibly the course lay out with lack of mountain top finishes, shorter time trials and many flat stages the racing seemed to be just so so. From the three weeks of racing these are the main talking points which stood out to me during the Tour.

The course. The fact that the “Queen Stage” finished with a descent into town made for a very less eventful queen stage. The fact that the group of favorites came together for a sprint and no major time gaps which you would see on a mountain top finish added to the close gaps in Paris. Also with the amount of flat stages for sprints where nothing eventful happened and short amount of kilometers in the time trials added for even more shorter time gaps. A bit of a lame course in my mind for the Tour. Hopefully next year they don’t look to replicate.
Arnaud Démare looked to finally have the opportunity to bring back the green jersey to Paris after the DQ of Peter. After his massive high though of winning his first TDF stage and moving into the Green Jersey he was one of the first riders to be dropped and later miss time cut. With Kittel ending up pulling out if Arnaud had some better climbing legs he could of had a real shot at riding into Paris in Green this year.
The elbow heard round the world. This topic has already been touched on so much with everyone knowing the outcome but the shocking point is still the decision to kick out the most popular rider in the sport off of bad information in my mind. It’s hard to find someone now after the smoke has cleared to agree with the decision to kick out Peter. This unfortunately just gives another bad knock to cycling as I even had many no-cycling friends hear about this and chime in their negative response to cycling etc.
What could have been? First Gerraint Thomas goes to the Giro to ride for GC to only get caught up in a crash and have to pull out. Then he win’s the opening TDF time trial and moves into yellow. If Thomas was on another team this course looked suited for him to be a real threat to Froome. He can time trial at times better then Froome and may not be as great of a climber but from this year’s Tour layout nobody was going solo. Though Thomas did play the teammate role until he got caught up in another untimely crash I believe we could’ve seen possibly three Team Sky riders in the top 10 in Paris.
There was a lot of talk if Cav was going to even be in the Tour this year with his sickness and he somehow found his way to the line with talks of getting closer to the all time stage win record. We never got to see exactly how good his form was as he got taken down in the famous Peter ordeal but from the dominance Kittel showed I don’t think he would have found much success this year. It’ll be curious to see if Cav can make a mount next year to get closer to that record. Time sure is running out though.
The MVP. Hands down one of the most impressive performance’s was from Kwiatkowski. He was on the front on the flats, the climbs and even throwing his glasses off. An expert at staying cool, calm and collective as well when swapping out his wheel to Froome. The most impressive though was his almost near win in the final time trial. The fact that he still had the legs and mental strength to dig deep again when he could’ve just used that TT as an easy day with his Tour basically being over. With him on the front of the group when the road went up he would be there when it got down to the 10-15 lead group. Easily if on another team with this course he could’ve finished close to the top five I believe.
A missed opportunity. Richie looked to be the one to challenge Froome this year with the Tour. Everything was on track until the descent in the rain of the Queen stage. With the race full gas I knew Porte could have trouble on this descent as he’s not the greatest descender out there. If you remember in the Dauphine he was dropped fairly easy by Froome on this same descent. Now you add the rain and this being the Tour the nerves were going to be there. It all looked to catch up to him as one small mistake resulted in a big crash for himself and his TDF goals. Hopefully we see him in the same shape as he was this year at next year’s Tour.
The dominance of Kittel. It’s been a few years since we have seen such a dominant sprinter in speed and power then we saw this year with Marcel. We might have to look back to the HTC Highroad days with Cav. What stood out though was the lack of lead out train from Quickstep. Usually they are on par with that but never seemed to be able to get it together this year. Even with that Marcel would find his way to the front and usually coming from a far ways back. Very exciting to watch.
Contador looks to be past his prime and hopes of any GC Grand Tour podiums may be a thought in the past. He did stick to his usual style of attacking though once he was down on GC which made it exciting, at times. If you don’t have the legs though there’s not much you can do. Does he do another year and look to target smaller stage races? His success in Grand Tours look to be done.
Shorter stages. After the Vuelta started incorporating more shorter stages into their racing the Tour finally got on the bandwagon and had a mountainous 100 km stage as well. By far the most exciting stage of the race in my opinion. More would be better but don’t go over kill. Possibly one a week? More then one stage for sure.
Plans of the Giro/Tour double backfired on Nairo. Well they first backfired when he came in second during the Giro but it was evident early on that this wouldn’t be a possibility during the Tour. I believe there was good reasoning as Nairo always rode the Vuelta better after racing the Tour in year’s past. The Tour is the Tour though and everyone is on their A game. Besides all the negative controversy surrounding his attempt I look at it as a sign of good times. If he would’ve won the Giro then been in the mix competing at the Tour that would’ve lead to more dirty accusations I believe. I’d rather see him get tired and fade then pull some super hero effort out which would leave us all scratching our heads thinking back to the 90’s.
Dan Martin was a favorite to watch. Never scared to go on the attack or even pull on the front of favorites he literally left it all out there. It was a bummer he had bad luck of getting caught up in Richie’s crash and then missed the split in the cross wind but he sure went out guns blazing. He keeps getting better each year as well and next year we could see him climb onto that podium with his attacking style.
Possibly the best story to come from the Tour was the resurgence of Landa. Last year he didn’t do much after moving to Sky from Astana. It was in ’15 which Landa really showed his strength in the Giro with teammate Aru. What stands out though to me was the final climbing stage when Landa had a gap on the favorites and it was his teammate Froome who countered and then dragged Uran and Bardet back up to him. Landa wasn’t ever going to get close enough to take the Tour victory with that move but Froome shutting him down shows how he really felt about his podium hopes in my opinion. At the end of the Tour he only needed one second to reach the podium and that move by Froome is what put the nail in the coffin for Landa’s podium chances.
One bad dude right here. After a broken pelvis it was doubtful Warren Barguil would even be in the Tour. He took it slow and steady and found himself in breaks gaining points in the KOM jersey. Normally riders who go out and score points in the KOM competition do just that. They don’t really have the climbing chops to be there with the top climbers in the Tour. Warren though showed that he does, he climbed himself into the top 10 and even rode away from the favorites on the final climbing stage. And boy is he skinny.
The Italian. Never without drama Aru blasted away from everyone to win an early stage and take yellow. He looked to be the top climber and have a shot at Tour victory. His team though showed they weren’t capable of handling the jersey with inner drama even coming out from his teammates. Poor positioning and a lack of strength would catch up to him later which resulted in no podium appearance. Aru did make it interesting though.
There’s nothing too major that stood out about Yates during this year besides the fact that it’s pretty cool that his brother won the white jersey last year and he came back this year to do the same. How long till that happens again with two brothers?
Tony Martin must have been bummed to miss out on that first stage victory in Germany. Probably the only chance he would get to wear the yellow jersey in his home country. He just didn’t have it though and I’m sure that was one of the biggest personal let downs of anyone during this year’s Tour.
Just one second. Bardet rode a great and exciting Tour but boy would that have been a bummer if he would’ve lost out on that podium to Landa at the end. His attacking downhill and course knowledge of the roads paired with his team made for some exciting racing. I was glad after all his work during the Tour he was able to hold onto that podium, even if it was just for a second.
The sneaky Colombian. I don’t believe anyone had Uran on their podium before the Tour began. He rode the perfect race though and stayed out of trouble. Actually the only time he had much trouble was when he bent his rear derailleur but still ended up winning the stage. There’s really not much more to say. He rode great and never was caught out. I was hoping for a tad bit better time trial though just out of selfish reasons to make it a bit more exciting at the end.
The best roommate you cold have. Mathews and Barguil were roommates through out the whole Tour. They both won two stages and took home a jersey. I just imagine at the end they had the same excitement as Will Ferrell and John Reilly in Step Brothers. “Did we just become best friends!?”
Number 4 for Froome. This was the closest Tour which he has raced but typical Froome style he shows up and gets it done. Even after not winning at all this year and not showing the best form during the Dauphine he came through as always. Each year though the competition is getting closer though. Will next year be even closer or does Froome pull out five Tour’s?

Photos: Bettini

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