As you wake this morning I must bring you the inevitable and invariably sad news that the Tour de France is over for another year.
The news may well please some of you; perhaps you’ve had enough already and you just want to get some sleep. Fair enough. It has been a slog and I commend you if you made it the whole way through both the European Championships and the Tour. Bravo.
Treat yourself to some early evenings over the next fortnight, you’ve earned it. Plus the Olympics are on the horizon and the cycling events have all the makings for some fierce competition.
But knowing the nature of Olympic events, some dark-horse will probably come out of the woodwork and surprise everyone. Here’s hoping it’s Lithuania’s Ramunas Navardauskas. Good luck fitting his name on a medal.
Anyway, the 103rd edition is complete and Chris Froome sealed his third title at the ripe old age of 31. In cycling years that’s prime time for both mental and physical condition. Froome certainly proved it, too, matching almost all of his rivals’ attacks and then stealing time where it seemed least likely.
Froome is a powerhouse and clearly the best cyclist in the world
He didn’t let unfortunate crashes or broken bikes get in his way and when things seemed to be going awry, he found a way to deal with it. He’d never dwell on it post stage either, always thanking his team and teammates for their resounding support.
He is a powerhouse and clearly the best cyclist in the world. The talk of him starting his season at the 2017 Tour Down Under is a very exciting prospect.
Despite all of this though some people just hate him. Boos ring out as he stands on the podium. Hell, there have even been cases of people throwing urine on him as he rides. It’s absurd.
I hope I never have to eat my words (or my computer) in writing this; but Froome represents what the sport of cycling has been so desperately seeking for the last God knows how long: a clean cyclist.
He does not use performance enhancing drugs. He is simply naturally talented. A wonderful, charming and well mannered British man. And yet some people just hate him. Sure, I’m not saying that because he wins everyone has to love him, but there seems to be more displeasure than you’d usually expect to encounter for the overall champion. You could mistakenly assume he had done something wrong. Upset some people, ridden an unfair race. But he hasn’t.
I can’t work it out. Perhaps it’s because he’s not French? Or because the tactics and action seem overly orchestrated? Well newsflash folks, this is the way cycling is won now.
The much needed eradication of performance enhancing drugs from the professional peloton has shifted the sport of cycling away from audacious, unexpected and often unbelievable attacks to represent a tactical chess match where seconds and centimetres make all the difference.
And we should be proud that that’s how it is. The competition is closer than it has ever been; even though the winning time margin was over four minutes.
Imagine if Nairo Quintana’s form didn’t fail him. If Richie Porte didn’t have that mechanical farce early in the piece. If Alberto Contador hadn’t crashed hard and Thibaut Pinot hadn’t suffered from bronchitis.
I dare say we’d still be looking at the same rider wearing the leader’s jersey, but the race would have been an entirely different spectacle, and the gaps would be smaller.
Briefly on Richie Porte, it seems as though he’s following a similar trajectory to our national legend Cadel Evans. He’s not quite there yet, but he’ll eventually come good and fulfil his potential (hopefully it won’t be too late).
France’s Romain Bardet finished second overall and is a future superstar, though with a demeanour more akin to the gangly, quietly spoken kid at school who might play violin in the stage band. You would be wrong to disregard him though as he is a very talented rider and to be on the podium at 25 years old is an outstanding achievement. His best years are still to come.
He’s France’s shining light in their desperate attempt to find a successor to Bernard Hinault. Much is made of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, but right now I don’t think the French really care – they just want a winner, and either will suit.
We may well have seen the last of Alberto Contador at a Tour de France. Same goes with the likes of the breakaway warhorse Thomas Voeckler, who at 37 has his best years behind him but best facial expressions ahead. All hail Voeckler; a true legend!
Overall the 2016 Tour de France has been an interesting contest. Team Sky and Chris Froome dominated like many predicted and the fans turned out in the thousands to witness something great.
While the defining image might be Froome impatiently jogging up Mount Ventoux (Titanic music or no), one thing that is for certain is that this race takes dedication and a win at all costs attitude to conquer; and they are the traits that the overall winner, Chris Froome, has in spades.
This is the last in Chris Komorek’s series on the Tour.
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