2017 Tour de France: The final review
Jul 24 2017 08:40 pm CET

2017 Tour de France: The final review
2017 Tour de France: The final review
SUBSCRIBE TO RSS FEEDS

TOUR DE FRANCE

The 104th edition of the Tour de France has just ended with Christopher Froome as the overall winner and absolute owner of the race. Even when he lost the Yellow Jersey to Fabio Aru for two days on the second week, he and his team had the rest of the race under strict control to the point that only Team Sky riders wore the yellow jersey during the whole Grand Tour except those two days. The British squad also won the team classification rounding up a pretty much perfect Tour de France for them.

At the second rest day the GC of the race was still unclear. In the last review, I said that this Tour was the most unpredictable of recent history. This was true until the stages in the Alps where Froome and his squad ruled the peloton, at least on the most important sections like the Galibier and the Izoar, and with such solidness that no effort of his direct rivals was visible in the time gaps. The British rider arrived to the 20th stage in Marseille with virtually the same advantages he had at the beginning of the week, except with respect to Fabio Aru who had two really bad days in the Alps and was relegated to the 5th position of the GC after the Izoard stage.

But before the fight in the high mountains, a true battle had started for the points classification between Marcel Kittel and Michael Matthews. The German rider of Quick-Step Floors seemed to be the safe bet for the green jersey, especially after the impressive five stage victories that demonstrated that he was the strongest sprinter of the Tour. But he wasn’t expecting the bravery of Matthews and his team Sunweb who weren’t going to give up easily. The Australian had a superior performance in the mountain stages, getting involved in as many breakaways as he could in order to collect the points from intermediate sprints.

On stage 16 which finished at Romans sur Isere, Sunweb made an epic demonstration of team effort increasing the pace during the first section of the day with the result of a suffering Kittel that ended up dropped. Without the German rider involved in the bunch sprint, Sunweb focused on keeping Matthews at the front of the race where the wind of the last section of the stage caused echelons. At the end of the day the Australian took his second stage victory of the Tour and shortened the distances with Kittel, who was more affected by the fatigue of the mountain stages than anyone had expected.

On stage 17 the German crashed at the beginning of the day and given his low strength and his bruises, he couldn’t see any chance of recovery and had to abandon the race, leaving the path clear for Matthews to take home the green jersey. Nevertheless, it is likely that the Australian would have won the points classification even if Kittel remained in the race, considering that the German was having serious troubles and had an advantage of only seven points on stage 17, and the Galibier and Izoard stages weren’t going to help him to recover before the last flat days.

Matthews wasn’t the only rider of team Sunweb that delivered an epic performance. The young Frenchman Warren Barguil rode his best Tour so far not only by winning the King of Mountains classification but also taking two stage victories, one of them at the tough and iconic summit finish of the Izoard. Barguil was also awarded with the prize of Most combative rider of the Tour, a controversial decision considering that Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt accumulated more than 1200 km in breakaways. Even putting the Combative award aside, this was an excellent race by the Sunweb rider that adds up to the victory of the Giro and the green jersey of Matthews to make this 2017 a dreamed season for the German team.

Besides Barguil there were other riders that showed up on the mountain stages trying to achieve stage victories and other objectives. The attack of Primoz Roglic on the Galibier was particularly successful and ended up giving him the stage victory. At that point, the Slovenian still had a chance to fight for the Polka dot jersey but his chances were crushed after he couldn’t collect points on the Izoard stage.

There is no doubt that the most significant attacks were those of Alberto Contador. The Spaniard started the Tour as one of the main favourites for the GC but the development of the race proved that he isn’t as strong as in his best years, and he is probably not going to be able to win the Tour de France again.

As discouraging as this realization could be for a cyclist, Contador chose to keep fighting for stage victories, and he launched an ambitious attack at almost 100 km to go in the Galibier stage having two teammates in the breakaway ahead. Trek-Segafredo made a reasonable effort on the climb of the Telegraphe and the Galibier but Roglic was the strongest rider on the last one.

But Contador still had one shot at the Time Trial, where he managed to mark the best time at the first intermediate point and the second best at the second point. For a moment it was possible for him to take the Time Trial like in his old days, but in the last section of the stage he couldn’t keep the same aggressive pace and ended 24 seconds behind the stage winner: Maciej Bodnar. Once again the leader of Trek missed the stage victory, but he was faithful to his brave style of racing and cycling fans all over the world certainly appreciated the effort.

In that same time trial, the GC was going to be decided. Froome arrived to that day with a healthy time gap of 23 seconds with Bardet and 29 seconds with Urán; and given that the Briton has always delivered better time trials than his two rivals, it was unlikely that the yellow jersey could change hands. The surprise of the day was the worse than expected performance of Bardet who lost his second spot in the podium to a very good Urán, and was very close to losing the third place to Mikel Landa, saving himself by only one second after giving everything on the road.

Chris Froome rode an impressive time trial as was expected; being only 3 seconds short of winning the stage over Maciej Bodnar and leaving no room for surprises, so he arrived to Paris dressed in yellow for the fourth time. He is only one Tour away from reaching the best riders in history with 5 victories, but he is already in history books after he has dominated this race without any of his rivals being able to challenge him.

Fabio Aru managed to take the yellow for two days at the great cost of emptying his reserves and finally losing all his chances. AG2R tried to overcome Sky and lead the peloton to the benefit of its leader but in the most difficult stages it was the British team, with its best domestiques Michal Kwatkowski and Mikel Landa, to impose the pace. So all the other teams with aspirations of winning the Tour will have to work hard from now on, and line up new and more ambitious strategies if they want to be successful in the great challenge of preventing a fifth Tour de France win for Chris Froome.

By Marcelo Hernández
Image: Tour de France logo





COMMENTS