“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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
- Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
- Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data)
- Michael Matthews (Orica BikeExchange)
- Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo)
- Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale)
- Christophe Laporte (Cofidis)
- Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon)
- Reinardt Jense van Rensburg (Dimension Data)
Here are the results for the general classification:
- Chris Froome (Team Sky) 89h 6’01”
- Romain Bardet (AG2R LaMondiale) +2’52”
- Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3’08”
- Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) +3’29”
- Richie Porte (BMC) +4’04”
- Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +5’03”
- Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) +5’45”
- Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) +5’51”
- Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) +5’58”
- Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) + 6’16”
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.
“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 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.
(photos are either Getty Images, Team Sky, BBC News, Sky Sports, Ella CyclingTips or LeTour’s Twitter)