Stage 21: Chantilly > Champs-Élysées

“To my teammates and support team this is your yellow jersey. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for your commitment. A massive thank you to Dave Brailsford and my coach Tim Kerrison. This is one special team and I’m so proud to be part of it. To Michelle my wife and my son Kellan, your love and support make everything possible. Kellan I dedicate this victory to you.”

“This Tour has taken place against the backdrop of the terrible events in Nice and we pay our respects once again to those who lost their lives. Of course these events put sport into perspective but they also show why the values of sport are so important to free society. We all love the Tour de France because it’s unpredictable but we love the Tour more for what stays the same – the passion of the fans for every nation, the beauty of the French countryside and the bonds of friendship created through sport. These things will never change.” – Chris Froome, Team Sky, after winning his 3rd Tour de France.

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Yes, it’s that unfortunate time of year once more. The time of year when every cycling fan around the world has to accept the Tour de France is yet again, over for another year. Whether you liked it, hated it, or were impartial to it, Chris Froome has just become a legendary 3 time winner of the Tour, placing him in an elite category of men such as Greg LeMond, Philippe Thys and Louison Bobet.  He’s also successfully defended it for the second year in a row, the first man to do this since Miguel Indurain. Andre Greipel crushed fellow sprinters hearts by taking the highly sought-after stage win on the Champs, beating Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Kristoff (Katusha) while Kittel (Etixx) was nowhere to be seen after suffering a triple bike change and then having to draft himself back to the peloton.

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While there have been numerous complaints about a ‘boring Tour’ – (which I disagree with, minus that one transition stage), it was certainly not plain sailing for Chris Froome. Just before the first stage his rivals were fresh, Quintana was yet to falter and Contador was yet to abandon. Who will ever forget the iconic image of Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux? After close crowds caused a motorbike to stop, Richie Porte hit the back of it and went down, alongside Froome and Mollema. A second motorbike then ran over Froome’s bike and with his team car far behind, he faced no other option but to run. And run he did. Wearing cycling cleats, without a bike and somewhat bruised he took off up Mont Ventoux while de Gendt (yes someone did win that stage, don’t forget) took the win ahead of him.

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Who will forget the heart stopping moment the yellow jersey and Nibali went down on a slippery descent just 2 days from the finish? When the Maillot Jaune was torn and bloodied, and Thomas instinctively gave his teammate his bike (which had a different setup to Froome’s O-symmetric chain ring) – while Wout Poels dug deep to get Froome to the finish as quickly as possible, exhausting himself in the process?

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The 2016 Tour de France was also a joy to watch for British fans. Mark Cavendish took 4 wins, marking his total up to 30 before pulling out on stage 16. Steve Cummings also took a stage win on stage 7 as he did at the 2015 Tour, giving Dimension Data a successful 3 weeks. Dan McLay shot forward in a sprint on stage 6 to claim 3rd position. The most promising British prospect however, was Adam Yates. Orica-BikeExchange have never declared themselves a Team Sky Tour challenging team unlike Tinkoff, yet found themselves in the position of defending Adam’s podium place and his white jersey. His Tour wasn’t always as positive, as a Flamme Rouge banner for 1km to go deflated just as he was passing under it, causing him and his bike to flip. (The stage Cummings won, so you know.) Yet despite needing stitches in his chin, Adam seemed as positive as ever. He took the white jersey all the way to Paris and despite losing his 3rd place to Quintana by just 22 seconds, had an incredibly successful second Tour.

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Before the start of the stage, La Course was underway. The weather conditions were a sharp contrast from last year’s torrential rain, with less crashes and more competitiveness. Chloe Hosking (Wiggle High5) took the win.

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The 21st and ceremonial stage started just like the Tours it followed. Maillot Jaune wearer Chris Froome (Sky) was alongside white jersey/young rider classification winner Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange – also 4th in GC), green jersey/points classification winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and polka dot jersey/King of the Mountains Rafal Majka (Tinkoff). Romain Bardet (AG2R – 2nd in GC) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar – 3rd in GC) soon joined him at the front, before Froome dropped back to join his fellow teammates. All 9 made it to the finish this year, which has never happened for Sky before. They were Chris Froome, Wout Poels, Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, Vasil Kiryienka, Luke Rowe, Mikel Nieve, Sergio Henao and Mikel Landa. They wore customised yellow and black Sky kits with yellow gloves, yellow helmets and yellow handlebars. Instead of the obligatory champagne shot, which came later, ‘Froomey’ travelled back to the team car and shadowed all the water carrying his teammates had done this Tour, and brought them a bottle of beer each. You can probably guess what happened next if you didn’t watch, but a lovely team united scene of spraying the bottles on each other before drinking them followed. Then came the standard ‘Sky win = Sky line photo’ shot and with all riders included, it’s one for the books.

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The stage then officially started and Bernie Eisel was further ahead than anybody else. Looking back frequently to see why no-one else had followed him (Cavendish wasn’t on your wheel this time, Bernie), he rejoined the laughing bunch with a smile on his face. The crowds for the final stage were immensely better than the ones for Mont Ventoux (despite one fan that wanted to be on TV, didn’t look at the incoming riders and got a mouthful from an angry Sagan and Nibali) with cheers, celebrations and a giant confetti cannon showering golden confetti on riders. Then came the champagne shot. It’s lucky with all the mixing drinks that Froome doesn’t pull a Richie Porte like last year – where they lined up for the shot and Richie’s bike wobbled as he let go with both hands, almost causing a crash that would’ve taken down the team (and yellow jersey wearer Froome).

As the stage got to 80km to go, the final climb of the Tour was dawning. However it was only the Category 4 Côte de l’Ermitage which the tired riders took with ease, Roman Kreuziger taking the final point of the year. This didn’t affect the jersey though, as Rafal Majka had already won it. As the peloton are lead onto the Champs, Chris Froome smiles surrounded by his teammates.

Is it a Tour de France without a doomed break on the Champs-Élysées? 8 riders went clear – Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Markus Burghardt (BMC), Jan Barta (Bora), Lawson Craddock (Cannondale-Drapac), Daniel Teklehaimanot (DiData), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-VitalConcept) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida). Unfortunately at this point Tony Martin (Etixx) retired and walked straight onto the team bus with a knee injury. Just when he was needed the most too, as Marcel Kittel punctured just after teammate Keisse and just before other teammate Dan Martin. Kittel’s second bike also wasn’t ideal for him and he threw the wheel on the ground, before having to drift himself back into to the peloton. He’d wasted a lot of energy however, unable to fully contest for the final sprint.

Marcus Burghardt (BMC) took the final points of the Tour for the last intermediate sprint, with Sagan winning the jersey. Two laps to go on the Champs-Élysées and the break were caught. Lutsenko (Astana) and Van Avermaet (BMC) broke away yet were reeled back in with 1km to go. As always with the final Tour sprint build up, there’s a lot of pressure, heart rates rise, nerves are heightened and that’s only for the spectators. Just after an IAM rider crashed, so did Coquard, ruling him out of this year’s sprint. With 1km to go the sprinters and their lead-out trains had distanced the main bunch. All the main contenders of Greipel, Kittel (who will later not make the top 10), Sagan, Kristoff and Boasson Hagen were there. Kristoff went for it, yet Greipel was close behind and surged past him. Sagan had the stronger finish however, speeding up behind Greipel yet just falling short. Andre Greipel (Lotto) finally took his stage win at the Tour, and the Champs-Élysées win 2 years in a row.

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As he had done for the 2 wins previous, Chris Froome crossed the line alongside his fellow Team Sky riders, holding on to each other. He lost a minute from Bardet (a minute he could afford) and went straight to wife Michelle and son Kellan.

For the last time this year, here are the 2016 Tour de France results for the final stage.

  1. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
  2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
  3. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
  4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data)
  5. Michael Matthews (Orica BikeExchange)
  6. Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo)
  7. Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale)
  8. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis)
  9. Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon)
  10.  Reinardt Jense van Rensburg (Dimension Data)

Here are the results for the general classification:

  1.  Chris Froome (Team Sky) 89h 6’01”
  2.  Romain Bardet (AG2R LaMondiale) +2’52”
  3.  Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3’08”
  4.  Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) +3’29”
  5.  Richie Porte (BMC) +4’04”
  6.  Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +5’03”
  7.  Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) +5’45”
  8.  Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) +5’51”
  9.  Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) +5’58”
  10.  Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) + 6’16”

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TOUR STANDOUTS

The French are right to be pleased with this year’s Tour.

Romain Bardet: AG2R

“This will take some time to understand, I’m still struggling to imagine what happened.”

When Thibaut Pinot abandoned on stage 13­­ and France still hadn’t gained a stage win 3 days before the end of the Tour, it looked to be a disappointing Tour for them again. However Romain took the stage 19 win and propelled himself up to 2nd on GC, where he stayed.

Julian Alaphilippe: Etixx (and Tony Martin: Etixx)

I suffered a lot after yesterday’s stage, and I suffered a lot in his wheel today. I don’t know how he’s that strong but these kind of days are enriching for me, and chapeau to him.”

Stage 15 was described by many as the hardest stage of the Tour, with Alaphilippe the strongest of Pantano, Majka and Zakarin. He was aiming for the stage win and posed a serious challenge until a mechanical caused a crash just before the final climb of Lacets du Colombier. The day after he was in a 145km, 4 hours, 2 man breakaway with fellow teammate Tony Martin. This resulted in the combativity prize awarded to both riders instead of one.

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“We were without victory but it was an honour to stay with Julian and to have the prize together is a big honour for us. We can be proud of what we did. We didn’t get the victory but we had a good time.” – Tony Martin

Adam Hansen: Lotto-Soudal

The unsung Australian hero. Hansen finished this year’s Tour, making this the 15th consecutive GT he’s completed, continuing his record.   

“I don’t know why the team keeps taking me!” Hansen told Cycling Weekly with a laugh. “Sometimes, I hope I don’t get selected!”   

Speaking of men completing a large number of GT’s, Haimar Zubeldia (Trek) has finished his 15th Tour de France, finishing 24th at the age of 39.

Tom Dumoulin: Giant-Alpecin

“It’s very very special. I’m a time trial specialist but today I showed I can do more, and I showed it last year at the Vuelta. I’m so so happy, it’s incredible.”

Distancing himself from the GC contenders, Dumoulin broke away on stage 9 in horrific weather conditions to take the mountain stage win. He then won the time trial on stage 13 and looked set to win the 2nd time trial on stage 18, before Froome (the last rider off the start ramp, which meant Dumoulin had an hour and a half wait to see if he’d won) took the win by 21 seconds. Dumoulin later crashed out of the Tour on stage 19, his Olympic medal in doubt, yet is positive his clean fractured radius will not stop him.

Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling)

Pantano won stage 15 of the Tour, beating Majka in a sprint finish of the mountain stage. He later finished 2nd on stages 17 and 20, and replaced Quintana in the Columbian Olympics team.

Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal)

Unfortunately de Gendt winning on Mont Ventoux was not the most talked about event of the day, with Froome running heading news reports worldwide. This wasn’t his only shining moment at the Tour, with his breakaway on stage 5 earning him the King of the Mountains jersey and the combative award. Alongside Majka and Pantano, he spent the most kilometres in the breakaway this Tour.

Team Sky

Team Sky may have placed 2nd in the team classification, yet they were the winning team at the Tour. While Chris Froome worked solo for certain moments in the Tour, suddenly breaking away on stage 8 with his unique descending, teaming up with Sagan to take more seconds out of his rivals and winning the time trial on stage 18, his teammates were vital to his success.  Wout Poels has been deemed by many as the ‘teammate of the Tour’ with heroic efforts on numerous stages – most notably stage 19 when Froome crashed – and shut down various attacks on mountain stages – including Aru and Bardet on stage 15. The pictures of Froome with his arm around Poels as they crossed the stage 19 finish say enough. Geraint Thomas, Mikel Nieve, Sergio Henao and Mikel Landa were also constantly with Froome in the mountains, while Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Vasil Kiryienka didn’t get the screen time they deserved, putting in workloads before the cameras started rolling, helping Froome maintain a steady (yet high) pace. All 9 riders in Sky finished the Tour for the first time since they were founded in ­­2012 and the line as they crossed the finished will remain an iconic Tour picture.

So congratulations Chris Froome and Team Sky. His 3rd Tour de France.

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(photos are either Getty Images, Team Sky, BBC News, Sky Sports, Ella CyclingTips or LeTour’s Twitter)
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Stage 20: Megève > Morzine-Avoriaz

It couldn’t have gone any better.” – Geraint Thomas, Team Sky

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Today couldn’t have gone any better for Chris Froome, who eased up across the line in the pouring rain to all but seal his third Tour de France victory while his GC rivals failed to attack. The Maillot Jaune wearer hadn’t seen a repeat of stage 19, in which he crashed and had to take teammate Geraint’s bike, yet had seen a repeat in consolidating his Tour win and still wearing the yellow jersey. Izagirre (Movistar) took the stage after his descending skills propelled him away from Nibali, Pantano and Alaphilippe on a thunderstorm impacted day in France.

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There were numerous attack attempts from the second Prudhomme signalled the official start, yet the 5 riders that succeeded were Kelderman (Lotto-Jumbo), Vakoc (Etixx), Chavanel (Direct Energie), Edet (Cofidis) and Benedetti (Bora-Argon).

Before the break reached the bottom of the climb for the Cat 2 Col des Aravis, they had been joined by the climbers of De Gendt (Lotto) and Zakarin (Katusa). Any points claimed by De Gendt were only to enforce his second place in the King of the Mountains competition, as Majka (Tinkoff) had officially won bar an abandonment. Those trying to make something of their Tour de France or salvage it also joined; Rolland (Cannondale), Barguil (Giant) and Van Garderen (BMC). Alaphilippe (Etixx) was trying yet again to find his stage win, while Nibali was hoping to be the first Italian winner at the 2016 Tour. They were later joined by Pantano (IAM), Henao (Sky) and Sagan (Tinkoff) to make a breakaway of 37 riders.

When they reached the sprint, Matthews took it ahead of De Gendt and then Sagan, who doesn’t need any more points after he had officially won the points classification provided he finishes tomorrow. At 45.5km in they had hit the start of the 12km Cat 1 Col de la Colombière and dropped Barguil and Teklehaimanot (DDD) who were 38 seconds back. Kreuziger was in virtual second place podium position, taking over from Bardet.

While the peloton approached the climb 5 minutes later they were busy putting on their rain jackets. Today’s stage featured torrential rain and thunderstorms, not ideal for a stage that featured plenty of technical descents at high speeds, just before the final stage. On the descent, Henao suffered a puncture. He waited for the Mavic service car and yet cycled away just when his Team Sky car pulled in behind. They tried to call him back via car horn, yet they couldn’t get his attention. He later rejoined Team Sky at the front of the peloton, while Bauke Mollema had dropped off the back.

The riders that had left Henao behind in the heavy rain were Gougeard, Kreuziger, Izaguirre, Rui Costa, Sagan, Pantano and Alaphilippe, the latter two managed to break away. With 6km to go and a stage win in sight (despite Pantano winning stage 15 he wasn’t going to just let Alaphilippe take today) both cyclists were counterattacking each other. Alaphilipe would distance Pantano, Pantano would catch up to him, then distance Alaphilippe, then Alaphilippe would bring him back. This lack of working together made it easy for Nibali to catch up with them and join the front, while his Astana teammate Aru cracked in the peloton, surrounded by teammates and needing gels. Definitely the biggest disappointment of the day, as he came in 17 minutes down. Barguil saw his suffering in the stage and offered a helpful pat (more of a ‘push’, as assistance would bring a fine…). At the front of the peloton, Mollema resurrected himself and broke away from the front, leaving Sky behind. He had dropped from 2nd and a podium place to 10th after just one bad day, yet still retained his fighting spirit, proving no position is safe in the Tour until they crossed the finish line for stage 21.

“Something is up – this level of performance is not normal for me. The body isn’t responding.”  Quintana’s podium position was also under threat. If Bardet (2nd at the beginning of the stage) attacked alongside Yates (4th) or Porte (5th), they could easily move up to 3rd and knock him down. Yet time was not on their side, as no GC rival attacked. Luck for Quintana, who hadn’t had the greatest Tour.

Team Sky continued to surge up the climbs and caught Mollema, white Yates and Quintana were well positioned behind them. Fireworks were still occurring off the front, with Alaphilippe’s seemingly strong attack neutralised by Pantano once again while Nibali rejoined them. For a man who looked strong a few kilometres ago, Nibali was nervous on the descents and taking his time around corners in the rain. If he was trying to protect himself ahead of the Olympics, he had almost put himself up in the break for nothing except sponsor time. Yet he distanced ahead of Alaphilippe and Pantano. Could anyone break the front trio?

Jon Izaguirre. His quiet presence had suddenly attacked and he launched himself away from Nibali, taking Pantano with him. Alaphilippe was still hanging on out the back, not so much ‘stuck in the void’ yet, but finding it hard to hang on to the hopes of a stage win. He also lost out on the Prix Antargaz to Peter Sagan. Descent drama followed as Pantano almost fell off the side of the road while taking a corner followed by Nibali almost hitting a wall a few moments later. Alaphilippe was then passed by Kelderman for 4th place, as the peloton were closing in – Thomas was leading them up the final climb as they drew in Rodriguez.

Along the last few kilometres, the trio split and Pantano was in the middle of a distanced Nibali and stage winner Izaguirre. However the Columbian couldn’t match his speed and Izaguirre won by 20 seconds. Nibali finished 3rd, Alaphilippe was 4th with a grazed looking Kelderman in 5th. Just over 4 minutes behind the stage winner came Bardet, Quintana and Martin (Dan, not Tony) trying to break for just seconds over Froome, who crossed the line next to his teammates a few moments later. Shaking his head in almost disbelief, he smiled. When Chris Froome crosses the line tomorrow, he’ll have won his 3rd Tour de France. Knighthood, anyone?

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Tomorrow’s stage is more ceremonial than competitive, with riders completing 8 laps of the Champs before the world’s greatest sprinters contest for the final sprint. Kittel has been unusually quiet this year alongside fellow German Greipel, so expect a fierce effort from their sprint trains to fight for position. However, don’t count anybody out. Remember the 2014 finish where Navardauskas (Garmin) beat Greipel to come 3rd, Renshaw (OPQS) came 5th and Bernie Eisel (Sky) came 6th? A surprise win could happen.

Stage 19: Albertville > Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc

“One thing that cycling has taught me is that if you can achieve something without a struggle it’s not going to be satisfying.”      – Greg LeMond

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Stage 19 of the Tour de France was undoubtedly the most hectic stage of the race so far.  Torrential rain, crashes and abandonments wreaked havoc on the 146km route as Romain Bardet (AG2R- who I mentioned was long due a stage win just two days ago) saved French hearts from breaking and avoided spoiling the 17 year run without 0 French stage wins.

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Despite the slight changes in the route, it was essentially the same stage Froome had won in the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2015 yet unfortunately the result was not the same this year. A late crash and another broken bike meant he lost 39 seconds to Bardet yet still retains his 4 minute advantage in GC.

177 riders started today’s stage with 20 riders breaking away from the peloton with a 3m55 gap. They included Pantano (IAM), De Gendt (Lotto), Majka (Tinkoff), Martin (Etixx) and Matthews (OBE) who took the intermediate sprint at 25km. Back in the peloton, Tiralongo, Rosa and Nibali (AST) moved to the front, distancing slightly while Movistar riders tried to shout them back. They were then joined up the road by two more Astana riders, a Cofidis and a Katusha rider. Astana weren’t always so keen to work together during the stage, as around 42km in Grivko and Rosa argued at the front. Rosa motioned for him to slow down, while Grivko put his hand on Rosa’s shoulder telling him patronisingly to pretty much mind his own business and leave him alone. Rosa then moved back while shouting at Grivko, I imagine the mood in the team bus and hotel tonight won’t be too great.

In the breakaway, De Gendt beat Majka over the summit of Forclz De Montmin to claim the most points for the King of the Mountains jersey, yet Majka was ahead by 70 points. He also beat Majka on the Col de la Forclaz de Queige, yet with only a two point gap in 1st and 2nd points for the summit it didn’t impact the standings.

Before the rain started there was a crash in the bunch, as Tom Dumoulin touched a wheel of his teammate and hit the floor, holding his wrist. He was the worst hurt of the pair. Adam Yates also needed a new bike (he wasn’t involved in the crash) and was then forced to use more energy he needed at the end of the stage to get back towards the front. Rodriquez punctured in the neutral zone at the beginning and then suffered another mechanical. Dumoulin was then revealed to have abandoned in tears, unfortunate for a man who was having such a great Tour with 2 stage wins and was aiming for Olympic success in 3 weeks.

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Pierre Rolland and Rui Costa attacked off the front of the breakaway, yet disaster struck as he Rolland crashed on the descent of the Montee de Bisanne in the rain. He slid across the road, into mud and almost hit a stationary motorbike. Road rash on his hip and a torn jersey, he got back onto his bike and carried on. Yet the rain turned torrential as riders struggled to stay upright on their bikes while descending at high speed. Two FDJ riders also crashed on the descent, with Richie Porte stuck behind them and losing time.

The build up to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc didn’t fare riders well for crashes either. Navarro was forced to abandon after he crashed with Bennett (LottoNL) and Sepulveda (EF-VC). Yellow jersey wearer Froome had slipped on a white line in the road, sliding and fortunately only losing some skin while Nibali fell behind him. As Geraint Thomas came round the corner and saw Froome on the ground, he instantly gave him his bike as Wout Poels helped him to the finish. Teammate of the day? Definitely Wout Poels. Bauke Mollema also momentarily went off-road cycling as he missed the corner. The Trek rider couldn’t keep up with the pace and seemed to be going backwards with every pedal stroke, losing time with every kilometre.

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Excitement for the French however, as Romain Bardet closed in on Rui Costa. Since the beginning of today’s stage there had been no French, Spanish or Italian stage winner at this year’s Tour. In fact when he did catch him, he sailed past him, heading for the finish line solo. He asked the nearest motorbike rider for his nearest rival – 29 seconds behind.

Meanwhile back in the yellow jersey group, Adam Yates was hanging on for his podium position and white jersey. Dan Martin attacked from the front and distanced the group while Quintana and Porte tried to attack – yet Wout Poels had it covered. They later attacked with 2km to go, yet Wout reeled them in again. Again, teammate of the day. (Or teammate of the Tour?)

In front of them, Romain Bardet took the stage win and moved up to 2nd in GC in front of a deafening reception from the public, giving France its first victory of the Tour. He saluted them as he crossed over the line and Rodriquez finished 22 seconds later. Froome lost only a matter of seconds to Quintana, Valverde and Aru while the biggest time loss in GC was seen by Bauke Mollema. A day he would most likely be looking forward to forget, he crossed the line 4m25 down. His podium place of 2nd unfortunately taken from him as he fell to 10th place, 7m42 behind Froome. Today’s stage would also have been hard for Dumoulin and Navarro, abandoning after crashes. Yates lost 9 seconds to Quintana yet received a 10 second penalty for a ‘hang sling’, moving him from 3rd to 4th place and off the virtual podium.

Tomorrow’s stage is reflective of todays in terms of mountain categories. Stage 19 saw a Category 2 climb, two Category 1’s and a HC, exactly the same for tomorrow. Expect a last-ditch fierce fight for 2nd and 3rd podium places between Bardet, Quintana, Yates and Porte while Poels and Geraint continue to help Froome towards the end, keeping the yellow jersey safe. Majka will presumably try for mountain points despite not needing them, yet will consolidate his hold on the polka dot jersey further. Aru tried too little to late today for the stage win, and with no Italian win so far, could he try and break for it tomorrow, or did he burn his team today? There has also been no Spanish win, so keep an eye out for Rodriquez or even Valverde, if Valverde is not helping leader Quintana.

Stage 18: Sallanches > Megève

Time trial: (noun) a test of a competitor’s individual speed over a set distance

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Chris Froome powered his way up the Côte de Domancy, dominating the field as he took his second Tour de France stage win and kept his iron grip on the yellow jersey (or skinsuit). The Team Sky rider also took time out of his GC rivals, Mollema and Quintana. Fabian Cancellara was a non-starter for his Olympic focus and Shane Archbold was forced to retire after a crash caused him a broken pelvis from stage 17.

“I really didn’t expect to beat Tom today” – Chris Froome

First rider on the course was lanterne rouge holder Sam Bennett (Bora) for being last in the GC standings, with the yellow skinsuit wearer Froome last to set off from the start ramp. The Team Sky leader paced himself towards the first 6.5km checkpoint, marking himself 23 seconds down from Dumoulin. Even at this early point in the stage it looked as if Froome was conserving energy for the following two mountain stages despite placing virtual second for the stage results. He then proceeded to gain speed with every kilometre, from being 10 seconds behind Dumoulin at the 10km checkpoint to then gaining a 9 second lead ahead at the 13.5km mark. Expertly tackling the twists and turns in the last kilometre, avoiding the barriers unlike Oliver Naesen (IAM) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ), he powered for the line and beat Dumoulin by 21 seconds.

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Throughout the day the lead undoubtedly changed hands numerous times with the men higher up the GC ranking coming in later on in the day. Oliveria (Movistar), Sicard (Direct Energie) and Coppel (IAM) were all fastest before the next overtook them, and unfortunately for Thomas De Gendt he was knocked down from first to second in a matter of 10 minutes when Tom Dumoulin crossed the line, beating his time by 41 seconds.

“I think Froome in top shape will beat my time” Dumoulin says just a few minutes after stepping off his bike, being made to wait patiently for an hour and a half before Froome would cross the line. The stage they were both contesting the win for was sharp from the beginning, the steepest section coming just 3km from the start line and lasting 2.5km. The quickest rider up this will win the one-off Bernard Hinault Prize as this is his last Tour involving podium duties. At the end of the stage, it went to Richie Porte. The course also had 4 checkpoints to compare rider times. The first was the Côte de Domancy at 6.5km, the second was Combloux at 10km, the next was Les Berthekets at 13.5km and the last was the finish line of the Megeve at 17km.

The BMC rider scaled the climb 9 seconds quicker than Dumoulin, earning him a trophy and €5,000. He also had an incredibly fast stage, challenging Dumoulin for the win (before Froome had crossed the line). Initially down on Dumoulin yet creeping up on him at the second checkpoint, Porte had managed to take 9 seconds off him before then losing 18. He battled on to the end, catching Dumoulin’s time yet in the end was 12 seconds behind him.

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Team Sky teammate and world TT champion Kiryienka finished 5 minutes behind stage winner Froome, likely to be conserving his energy for the remaining two mountain stages. Former champion Tony Martin finished 3m32 behind. Podium place contenders Quintana and Yates finished 1m10 and 1m23 down respectively while Mollema finished 1m25 down.

Froome’s win meant this was the 7th British victory in the 2016 race, equaling the UK’s best performance at the Tour de France. Tomorrow’s stage is a 146km mountain stage that sees the riders having to tackle two Category 2 climbs, one Category 1 of a summit finish and a HC climb. Expect to see a lot of Sky, Movistar and Trek trying to look after their team leaders, while Astana will likely send Aru in a breakaway or by himself closer to the finish of the stage for the first Italian win this Tour.

Stage 17: Berne > Finhaut-Emosson

“The other teams have got to make it difficult for us not to win it and they weren’t able to.” – Mikel Nieve

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Stage 17 of the Tour saw 181 riders tackling the hardest sections from the 2014 Dauphiné, which had seen Contador taking the leader’s jersey from Chris Froome. However he could somewhat forget this distant memory to the Tour lacking a large Contador presence as he retired on stage 9.

As always the Tour de France produced drama before reaching the business end of the day, with a crash just 1km into the neutral zone taking down Barguil (TGA), Bozic (COF) and Izagirre (MOV), with the latter two forced to retire. Other retirements included Rohan Dennis (BMC) and Mark Cavendish (DDD) who are looking to claim success at Rio.

Tony Martin lived up to his nickname ‘Panzerwagen’ as he once again took off for a breakaway, this time Alaphilippe decided against joining and Martin was instead joined by riders such as Teklehaimanot (DDD). Potentially a good move, with Martin also wearing the red combativity award (which Alaphilippe also gained for their 4 hour breakaway yesterday) yet with two Category 3 climbs, a Category 1 and a HC climb to go, the break didn’t last long and were quickly reeled back in.

Team Sky were controlling the high pace of the peloton as they reached the first categorised climb of the day, the Côte de Saanenmöser. Movistar were positioned directly behind them on Froome’s wheel, with Astana and Trek also present. As tweeted by @Etixx_QuickStep, the first hour averaged a speed of 51.8 km/h. This also pushed the stage half an hour in front of schedule, handy for long shots of collapsed and tired riders after they scale Finhaut-Emosson or classic panning scenic helicopter shots. Impey (OBE), Barguil (who had been taken down in the earlier crash), Ten Dam (TGA) and Gougeard (AG2R) tried to breakaway, yet channelled the numerous breakaway attempts beforehand and were caught before they could get a great deal of distance on the peloton. As the peloton got closer to the second Category 3 climb, the Col des Mosses, polka dot jersey wearer Rafal Majka tried to distance the peloton in order to secure more points to add to his King of the Mountains total. Yet again, the runaway rider was caught and the peloton were back together with some sprinters such as Dan McLay being dropped due to Team Sky’s intense pace.

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Finally – an established breakaway managed to build a lead of 15 seconds on the peloton. Riders included Majka (again) and Pantano (yes, again), as well as Sagan and Gallopin. No-one challenged Majka for the King of the Mountains points and he increased his lead of 129 points to Thomas De Gendt’s 90 and Navarro’s 69. The 11 riders also increased their lead to almost 3 minutes. They weren’t only being chased down by the peloton, as a counterattack of 9 riders formed a chase. They included Rui Costa, Julian Alaphilippe (who has been pretty active at the Tour these last few stages) and of course, Thomas Voeckler. The highest placed GC contender is Stef Clement (IAM), yet being 37 minutes down on Froome he posed no real threat and the breakaway were left to continue. The peloton trailed by 4 minutes at 100km to go as the break reached the Category 3 Col des Mosses, which will presumably feel like nothing compared to the HC climb at the end of the stage. The counterattack then split when Voeckler (Direct Energie), Van Avermaet (BMC) and Lutsenko (AST) distanced the group while ascending the Col des Mosses.

Another crash saw Tsgabu Grmay (LAM) down on the ascent while the peloton slowed as they passed the feed zone. The distances between the break, chasers and peloton remained the same and Team Sky were still very much in control still with 40km to go. Astana and Movistar were very quiet here, sitting on the wheels of Sky as if waiting for their prime opportunity to attack. However, they didn’t and Movistar riders were fast dropping one by one leaving Quintana with only Valverde.

With 8km to go, a déjà vu moment occurred with Majka and Pantano gaining 25 seconds on the chasers and looking to want to take it all the way to the line, exactly like stage 15, until Zakarin (KAT) bridged the gap and 4k to go, distanced Pantano. He held on all the way to the line to take the stage win, while trying desperately to zip up his jersey while controlling his bike to show the Katusha sponsor.

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Back with the peloton, Froome was sitting comfortably being led by Astana with Mollema on his wheel. Nibali then fell back through the peloton with Valverde attacking. A determined Wout Poels makes sure to track him down and takes Chris Froome with him while Valverde eases up. Are you still with me? This is where it really gets interesting. Will anyone ever distance the peloton this late?…

Dan Martin. The Etixx rider furiously tried to distance Poels, Froome, Quintana and Mollema, and he does. Alas in the true style of stage 17, he gets pulled back in by Poels and Froome. Anyone else?…

Richie Porte. The Tasmanian attacked with Froome close behind. Neither Mollema nor Aru can keep up with the high pace the ex-Sky member set and it looks like the classic Froome/Porte sight crossing the line together, despite being different teams, will be seen again. Now it was time for Froome to attack. Where is Quintana?

Dropped. He hasn’t had the greatest Tour de France as he sees the yellow jersey speed ahead, while he is left with no teammates or wheels to follow as Adam Yates passes him by. The third placed rider in GC who also holds the white jersey distances the Movistar rider as well as second placed Mollema. A sad sight for Columbian fans who see their GC favourite passed by Aru, Bardet and numerous others.

Froome and Porte crossed the line together, with Yates only 7 seconds behind. What a Tour the Orica rider is having. Bardet was only 10 seconds behind, with Aru 17 seconds and Quintana 27 seconds behind. Mollama finished with a 39 second deficit while Valverde was over 2 minutes behind.

Stage 19 was fast, hectic and saw Froome gain more time on his closest rivals. Tomorrow sees an uphill 17km time trial favouring the GC favourites more than the time trial specialists. Expect to see Froome take some more time out of his rivals while Dumoulin aims for his second time trial win and third stage win of the Tour. However he will be tested – the course is entirely different to the flat stage he won almost a week ago. France are also still looking for their stage win and hoping it comes sometime soon. It’s been 17 years since they last went a full Tour without a stage win and they’ll be hoping they can at least grab a mountain stage win before the Champs-Élysées. Can Alaphilippe finally get the stage win that’s eluded him this Tour? Fifth placed in GC Bardet?

 

Stage 16: Moirans-en-Montagne > Berne

“I thought I had it. I was sprinting at maximum and I didn’t really see the line until it was too late.” – Alexander Kristoff.

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A welcome stage as far as Chris Froome is concerned, the 209 kilometre route essentially another transition stage before the final rest day and the final, gruelling mountain stages.
Yet it wasn’t easy for the sprinters, having to face two climbs in the last kilometres that could’ve easily distanced the likes of Kittel and Cavendish.

You see, the stage wasn’t designed for another Cavendish win, nor a Kristoff or Greipel win. Instead it was suited for Fabian Cancellara, a worthy yellow jersey wearer that was sadly in his final Tour. (‘Spartacus’ has worn the yellow jersey more than any other rider who has not won the overall GC. Unfortunate, really.) Thus, stage 16 featured a cobbled ending for the Classics specialist from Trek, with a sharp cobbled climb that could have seen the crowd favourite take the win.

LeTourData handily tweeted the ‘fact of the day’: Froome has now worn the Maillot Jaune for the 38th day, today. This places him tied 5th with Magne for days in yellow during the Tour. He wasn’t attacking on today’s mountain lacking stage however, as within the first 15 kilometres Tony Martin and teammate Julian Alaphilippe had distanced themselves from the peloton and showed no signs of relenting. Alaphilippe was trying his hardest to win a Tour stage for the second day in a row after a mechanical then a crash saw him lose the greatest opportunity for a stage 15 win. Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo – Vital Concept) were only two of the failed attempts to join Etixx today as the pair continued to elude the chasing mound of cyclists behind them. Yet if they were to go all the way, who would take the win? Experienced TT World Champion Tony Martin took the cobbled stage win at the 2014 Tour de France, yet Julian Alaphilippe is also a man on a mission after his failed (yet determined) attempt yesterday. By the time 50KM had passed they were maintaining their 1m15 lead with various counterattacks either shut down or falling too short.

However with only 25KM and at the beginning of the short climbs to complete, Alaphilippe cracked leaving Martin to go on his own. This didn’t last too long and he was caught 3KM later. Rui Costa (Lampre) attacked with 20KM left yet lasted just under 5KM, reeled back in. (He was still slightly in front of the peloton for another 5KM.) You have to admire his pained face and determination, especially how with 10KM to go he had extended his slight gap to 10 seconds. Could we see Rui take the stage?….

…Not if Trek have anything to say about it, working hard to give Fabian his final chance at a Tour stage win. They let BMC take over the work and Costa was caught just 2KM from the line. With 1KM to go, the high pace uphill saw plenty of potential winners dropped. Sagan, Kittel and Degenkolb weren’t. The pace was then set even higher, sprint trains dwindling and Kristoff went for the line. Could he finally have gained his stage win at the Tour after sadly ruling himself out to the likes of Sagan, Degenkolb and Kittel?

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Heartbreak for the man from Katusha, who makes the mistake of not lunging for the line like Sagan. The green jersey had taken it in a photo finish.

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“At the beginning we were really happy and celebrating because we thought we had the win. Then, it started to filter through that we hadn’t. It was disappointing. The organisers were saying Sagan had won and Kristoff was second. We lost by a tiny little margin.” – Jose Acevedo (Katusha director)

Therefore the biggest disappointment was felt by Kristoff, who came so close yet so far. Alaphilippe and Martin came close too after a fierce four hour breakaway, yet Cancellara also features here. Losing the finish to a stage designed for him must sting. However he mustn’t be too disheartened. Winning 7 stages of the Tour de France is a mighty feat indeed.

Tomorrow is another well deserved rest day as the peloton prepare to face the Alps prior to the final stage on the Champs-Élysées.

Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse > Culoz

Hors catégorie: (French) A climb that is “beyond categorization”.

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Quite possibly the hardest stage of the Tour as stated by Froome, Mollema and the majority of the peloton before the stage had begun, stage 15 saw an explosive start matched with an explosive finish that saw Pantano take on Majka to win a cat and mouse sprint finish.

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From the end of the neutralised start a large group of riders finally settled amidst all the attacks in the break with De Gendt leading the way. The pace almost immediately distanced the sprinters, with Greipel and Cavendish seen off the back while Stannard and Rowe were momentarily distanced before the latter two worked their way back up to reconnect with their Sky teammates in the peloton. Stannard then continued to lead them in climbing the Col du Berthiand before Team Sky later made sure to eat earlier than anyone else in the group. This raised a few eyebrows as attacking during a feed zone is rarely seen, yet Sky were making sure they were not exposed to any later attacks that they couldn’t follow from BMC, Movistar or Trek.

A few kilometres later saw Gallopin rejoin the peloton while Majka upped the pace and distanced further on the first climb. Zakarin then joined him ahead of the 15 chasers including Dumoulin and Nibali. Majka then scaled the top of the Berthiand, giving him 10 King of the Mountains points that placed him within 3 points of taking the polka dot jersey from De Gendt. They were soon reeled in to form a front group of 30 riders including Bennett (Lotto), Pantano (IAM), Rolland (Cannondale), Dumoulin (Giant), Voeckler (Direct Energie), Alaphilippe (Etixx) and Plaza (Orica). The one rider most threatening to Froome was Sébastien Reichenbach (FDJ), just over 11 minutes behind him in GC. The breakaway stood at over 4 minutes ahead at this point, yet they could slowly see that increasing if they worked together and the peloton were slow to react.

Voeckler attacked just before the summit of the category two climb Col du Sappel, taking the maximum 5 KoM points available from Majka who was then tied for the polka dot jersey with 90 points. Four breakaway riders formed from this group, with Alaphilippe leading ahead of Pantano, Zakarin and Majka. However when Alaphilippe looked strong enough to distance them, he crashed due to a mechanical. Leaving him and Zakarin behind, Majka and Pantano broke ahead onto the final climb of Lacets du Colombier. Meanwhile at the front of the peloton, Astana were trying hard to tire Froome and his teammates who were quick to shut down any moves. Aru and Valverde then attacked only to be brought back a few minutes later.

Back towards those challenging the stage win. Majka distanced Pantano while Vuillermoz (AG2R) and Reichenbach (FDJ) closed in behind. However they couldn’t stop Majka claiming the King of the Mountains points, giving him to polka dot jersey to wear for tomorrow, his lead now 127 points over De Gendt’s 90. Yet he almost crashed on the decent, (the same place Mikel Nieve then crashed a few minutes later) meaning Pantano was then on his wheel for the final few kilometres. With the flame rouge suddenly passed under, Majka and Pantano then proceeded to play a lengthy game of cat and mouse, almost unaware of the gaining Vuillermoz and Reichenbach. Majka attacked first, yet Pantano latched onto his wheel before powering himself forward to take the stage win.

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“It’s an incredible day for me, a dream come true. I didn’t think about a stage victory at all really, I just kept on going. Luckily I had the opportunity to be up at the front today. I’d like to thank my team-mates for all the great work they’ve done this week.”

Today’s relatively quiet stage as far as the GC was concerned showed no changes for the yellow jersey race. The main contenders of Froome, Quintana, Mollema and white jersey wearer Yates came in together, the only change to the top 10 being Van Garderen (BMC) losing a minute and a half, pushing him down to 8th.

Today’s biggest disappointment was probably felt by Alaphilippe, who could have challenged for the stage win if he had not crashed. Majka lost the stage win after attacking so well by himself, yet claimed the King of the Mountains jersey for tomorrow’s sprint stage. So, not all bad.

Stage 14: Montélimar > Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux

Baroudeur: (French) for fighter, warrior.                                                              >Used for riders not afraid to break away from the peloton and do things on their own, even if they might be an underdog.

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Stage 14 proved a stage just 4km too long for the barodeurs as the breakaway rejoined the peloton in the final kilometres of the stage with Mark Cavendish (DDD) taking the win. The group containing Howes, Benedetti, Roy and Elmiger seemed to be almost drawn back in to a peloton spearheaded by Daniel Teklehaimanot with 10km to go, yet Roy and Elmiger distanced a struggling Howes and Benedetti until reaching 4KM, shaking hands as they were passed by building sprint trains.

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The day was relatively quiet, starting 15 minutes earlier due to a head wind in the Rhone and after a minute’s silence for the Nice attack. 30 KM into the stage, De Gendt was first over the Colte de Puy-Saint-Martin and added to his King of the Mountains lead and Roy (FDJ) attacked with Elmiger (IAM), Howes (Cannondale) and Benedetti (Bora). The hours that followed echoed Kittel’s words before the start: “I think it’s going to be a bit boring in the first part”, with the helicopters providing us with picturesque French scenery while no real effort was made by the peloton to reel in the break. The man closest to Froome on GC was Elmiger, yet sitting just an hour and a half behind him in the general classification there was need to claw him back.

Commentator discussions throughout the day varied to not lose viewer attention through the quiet ‘transition’ stage. Carlton Kirby spoke about how La Vuelta was more difficult than the Tour due to the endless amounts of Spanish desert with a large lack of scenery to commentate on. At least there was a topic of discussion available as the cyclists passed a French town ‘orange’, which seemed to have no oranges on show. The French’s tireless and dogged anti-Froome media campaign was also addressed, as well as the fact Nairo Quintana has received zero punishment, fine or otherwise, for his illegal tow on Mont Ventoux. Interesting, yet unfortunately not surprising.

After the Elmiger/Roy catch just under 4K to go, cyclists were seen to have been pushed off the road into grass as the sprint trains formed and speed increased. McLay seemed to find himself in the perfect position on Cavendish’s wheel while Dimension Data surged towards the right hand side of the road for prime position. Cavendish then won his 30th stage of the Tour de France, in front of Kristoff (KAT) and Sagan (TNK). John Degenkolb – who I still want to see win a Tour stage (hopefully this year) – finished 4th in front of Kittel and Greipel. The best placed German sprinter.

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The biggest disappointment of the day (if we’re clutching at straws) was presumably felt by Cannondale, the only team with no top 10 result so far. They were in the break with Howes yet the 4 men were all recognising their own team failure to produce either a stage win, or not showing their sponsors enough to please. (Cannondale-Drapac are one of the teams in the peloton who receive the least amount of money). The team are also still moving on from the loss of Dan Martin to Etixx who is currently sitting 9th in GC with no sign of form dipping yet. Cannondale seemed to replace him with Uran, who was not included in the Tour line up. Neither was Andrew Talansky who they’re aiming for some form of Vuelta success with, podium or top 5. They lost Breschel during today’s stage after a crash saw him needing hospital treatment. He was a key player that could’ve impacted on Cannondale finally gaining a stage win.

Tomorrow’s stage features 2 x Category 3 climbs, 1 x Category 2, 2 x Category 1’s and 1x ‘Hors catégorie’ climb. Prepare to see sprinters such as Cavendish and Kittel dropped out the back, (despite Greipel’s breakaway climbing on stage 12, he will unfortunately be here too) while Froome and Quintana use their team trains for as long as possible to tackle the climbs.

Stage 13: Bourg-Saint-Andéol > La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc

“We’re never happy. We always want more.”Nicolas Portal

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Stage 13 saw the first of the two time trial stages in the year’s edition of the Tour de France, with a TTT left out in place of a second individual time trial six days later. Today’s stage was the longest of the pair and had the greater impact on the Maillot Jaune. It featured two climbs, one from essentially KM 0 and another around 34 KM, just 3 K from the finish. The technical mid-section involved a constantly weaving road, pushing riders close to the edge and testing their bike handling skills as they attempted to stay upright in blustering wind.

“If you want to win you have to take risks.” – Dumoulin

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Tom Dumoulin was an obvious favourite to win the stage, which the Dutch time trial champion achieved with a time of 50m15s, second placed Froome finishing with a time of 51m18s. Froome had produced a solid ride, further tightening his grip on the yellow jersey as his smooth time trial catapulted him almost 2 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor in GC. (Mollema, back 1m47) Bauke declared it “the best time trial of my life”, never relenting at the various checkpoints and only losing time to one of his GC rivals, Froome. Quintana hadn’t had the easiest ride, with no wheels to follow this stage. He appeared to need to drink a lot more than any rider out on the road and came close to scraping the crowd stood in front of a large stone wall, the same Bardet had only just missed minutes before. Little impact was made by Valverde, who is now over 3 minutes behind in GC.

“I couldn’t hear anything on the radio. It was so windy out there and I didn’t know what the times were out there. It hurt like hell, to be honest, and yesterday with the motorbike doesn’t help either. I’m a little bit sore, it’s disappointing. I’m sure the race is not over yet.”

Richie Porte had professionally kept his cool when a crowd member threw something into his face which the wind carried away just in time during his time trial. He had a self-confessed disappointing stage when revealing afterwards that he couldn’t hear anything on the radio, and as such couldn’t judge his position, speed and distance in relation to other GC contenders and Dumoulin. He placed 21st.

One of the other biggest disappointments of the day was felt by Tony Martin, the three-time world champion in the discipline was spent after the stage, sitting on the steps of the Etixx team bus while still being able to produce an intelligible interview. Obviously dejected, yet gave his all.

The Brits also had a good stage. White jersey wearer Adam Yates beat Quintana, taking 18th on the day while Geraint Thomas also saw his time of 52m14 place him 7th. Steve Cummings also managed to hold on to 10th place, just 2m24 back on stage winner Dumoulin.

However successes weren’t celebrated at the end of the stage. Instead all the jersey wearers of Froome, De Gendt, Yates, Sagan and stage winner Dumoulin were invited on to the stage together where a minute silence took place as a tribute for the victims in Nice.

Tomorrow’s stage sees more of an impact towards the green jersey, with the sprint stage suiting the likes of Sagan, Kittel and Cavendish. Yet could Degenkolb finally get his Tour stage win?

Stage 12: Montpellier > Mont Ventoux

“The Ventoux is a god of Evil, to which sacrifices must be made. It never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering.”                                                               – Roland Barthes

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Mont Ventoux had a supposed 5/5 rating impact on the Maillot Jaune. It was ideally the stage that Chris Froome could attack with either Quintana following and Valverde on his wheel, or be left to go the climb alone.

Chris Froome doesn’t fear Mont Ventoux, in fact he has history with it. On stage 15 of the 2013 Tour he became the first Briton to win there, yet leaving his rivals behind came with a price. He pushed himself to and beyond his limit, needing oxygen after the stage in order to recover. He made up the time previously lost to Contador with a brutal acceleration and gained a historic stage win in the process.

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Today’s stage was flat from the start, from KM 0 to just past the intermediate sprint finish for the only Green Jersey points available today. Greipel took second for the intermediate sprint behind Keisse as he later turned from sprinter to breakaway climber with 4KM to go, defying his own odds and showing the world that like Froome, who had turned sprinter yesterday, he could also change his role.

The last kilometres of today’s climb somewhat echoed the final kilometres in the previous stage. Froome had left Quintana behind yet again and like yesterday, which saw Froome improvise and latch onto the wheel of Sagan, with a determined Geraint Thomas close behind, Ventoux threw Sky into a sudden need for quick thinking and improvisation. A stopped motorbike in the final stretch of the climb saw Porte, Mollema and Froome hit the ground, with Chris then detaching himself from the tangled mess and running alongside past a cycling Porte who was now upright. But run he did. Kittel had tweeted post-stage that Froome’s ‘Kenyan genes’ must have helped him, this was proved by the sheer determination of Chris running up an unclassified mountain climb in cycling cleats while desperately looking behind for the Mavic service car, stuck behind the unacceptably large mass of uncontrolled fans and 5 motorbikes. When he had finally got his hands on another bike he had been passed by numerous GC contenders, Quintana included who had held onto the back of a motorbike when passing Froome.

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The last minute panic had seen a shake of the head and he crossed the line, yet he was ultimately not the biggest loser on the day. Astana hadn’t had the greatest stage, with Aru (1m54 down) needing countless bike changes throughout coinciding with the numerous sticky bottles he had also taken and Nibali (irrelevant in GC now, really) getting a flat tyre earlier in the stage. Simon Gerrans was also forced to retire from the Tour after a gust of wind on a corner had forced him down and broken his collarbone – yet again – and bringing down Ian Stannard and Wouter Poels heavily with him.

The biggest winner was indeed Thomas De Gendt, who saw off a suddenly present Navarro and fellow Belgian Pauwels to take the dreaded Ventoux stage win.

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Mont Ventoux had extracted an unfair amount of suffering from those who needed it the least. However after a tense wait after crossing the line, Froome heard he retained the Yellow Jersey, with a lead of 47 seconds over closest competitor and fellow Brit Adam Yates.

This was only stage 12.

Expect big things still from Froome tomorrow and also keep an eye out for Tom Dumoulin who’s aiming for his second win at the Tour this year, as well as Rohan Dennis.