As the 2016 Tour de France unfolded over the past three weeks, a group of former champions successfully defending their titles in the various classifications and the same names popping up at the front of each breakaway, the race felt almost preordained at times. It isn’t true, of course — but with a slew of anticipated results falling into place, 2016 will go into the books as a rather underwhelming race with few surprises.
Peter Sagan almost matched Cavendish’s haul of four stage victories on Sunday’s final stage, but in a race that offered few real surprises it felt appropriate that Andre Greipel successfully defended his 2015 win on the Champs-Elysees. The race coasted along from Chantilly toward Paris, taking several hours for the processional to leisurely make its way to the capital. An eight-man breakaway hung precariously off the front, never gaining even a full minute of advantage. As usual, it was a sprinters’ day on one of the most famous stages for sprinting in all of cycling. Greg Van Avermaet, who spent a little time in yellow this year, rode off the front into the final lap but was swallowed by the sprinters as they positioned for potential glory.
Not everyone had a fun day, though. Just outside the three-kilometer mark, Reto Hollenstein fell to the deck and had to scramble in solo to the finish. Then Bryan Coquard punctured inside three kilometers, causing a premature end to his bid to become the first Frenchman since Jean-Patrick Nazon in 2003 to win on the famous final stage. Greipel had five Lotto Soudal teammates motoring the pace off the front, the sprint train guiding him up to speed efficiently.
Alexander Kristoff accelerated first, coming around Greipel and going from around 250 meters out hoping to hold a long sprint. The German national champion held on to Kristoff’s wheel, biding his time. Sagan hung right behind the pair, and once Greipel made his move inside the 200-meter mark, powering his way past the Norwegian to ramp up the pace further at the front. The green jersey continued to hang second wheel, coming around Greipel but ultimately running out of room at the end. Greipel was able to raise his arms in celebration as riders behind trickled over the line. Behind the field rolled in Chris Froome in the center of the Team Sky, all nine riders together as they crossed the finish line.
In the end Chris Froome simply had the strongest team guiding his way through the flats and the mountains, and a combination of illnesses and misfortunes among his top challengers put him comfortably into his third yellow jersey in Paris by nearly three minutes. Froome faced his own misfortunes, running up Mont Ventoux after being hit by a motorbike in a surreal scene and then hitting the pavement again in the Alps two days before the conclusion of the race, persevering thanks to Team Sky’s deep roster assisting him all along the way. Finally able to relax, they sipped beer rather than Champagne on the ride into Paris and rode together all the way to victory. Now, while some stars begin to focus on the Rio Olympics, Froome will set his sights instead on becoming the first rider to complete a Tour/Vuelta double.
Likewise Peter Sagan, in winning his fifth consecutive green jersey, set a new record for number of sprint points accumulated by a rider at the Tour de France. Though Mark Cavendish could claim more stage victories, Sagan has consistently dominated in the points classification as a result of his ability to remain in the mix in a more diverse range of terrain. After finally breaking through for his first win in a monument classic at this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, Sagan came to France even stronger than he has been in recent years and claimed three stage wins along the way to another green jersey. In the process the Slovak speedster also set himself up to possibly tie Erik Zabel’s record of six consecutive green jerseys when the race reconvenes for the start in Dusseldorf next July.
Rafal Majka was not the defending champion in the battle for the King of the Mountains, but he reclaimed the polka dots he last won in 2014 with a few calculated moves throughout the mountainous 2016 course. The Polish climber has already finished in the top five at the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, and proved that he can be a consistent threat in a grand tour. And even if he never matures into a viable GC contender in France, he has shown a propensity for choosing his spots and maximizing his ascending prowess.
Adam Yates held on by two minutes and change over Louis Meintjes for the white jersey given to the best young rider. Yates, a 23-year-old British climber riding for Orica-BikeExchange, became the first British rider ever to win the white jersey and ultimately finished fourth in the overall classification — just 21 seconds behind Nairo Quintana. Even as Froome continues to ride strong, the future of British cycling remains strong with riders such as Yates coming into their own.
Interestingly, however, despite their dominant performance Team Sky was not the best team of the 2016 Tour. That honor, calculated by the times of each team’s top three riders from each stage, went instead to the Spanish Movistar team. Given Froome’s desire to tackle the Vuelta this year, and the fact that Movistar regularly targets its home race as a primary goal, we could see another duel between these two teams in two months’ time.
Stay tuned for more fireworks, because while the Tour de France ostensibly feels like the conclusion to a season it is in actuality merely the zenith of a season that will continue to entertain until coming to its terminus in the autumn.
Stage Results and Standings after Stage 21
|1||André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal||2:43:08|
|2||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team|
|3||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha|
|4||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data|
|5||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange|
|6||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|7||Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale-Drapac|
|8||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|9||Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18|
|10||Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data|
General Classification (yellow jersey)
|1||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||89:04:48|
|2||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||+0:04:05|
|3||Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team||+0:04:21|
|4||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange||+0:04:42|
|5||Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team||+0:05:17|
|6||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||+0:06:16|
|7||Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha||+0:06:58|
|8||Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre – Merida|
|9||Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step||+0:07:04|
|10||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team||+0:07:11|
Points Classification (green jersey)
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team||470|
|2||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step||228|
|3||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange||199|
|4||André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal||178|
|5||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha||172|
|6||Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie||156|
|7||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||154|
|8||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||136|
|9||Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky||131|
|10||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team||120|
King of the Mountains (polka-dot jersey)
|1||Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team||209|
|2||Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal||130|
|3||Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling||121|
|4||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha||84|
|5||Rui Costa (Por) Lampre – Merida||76|
|6||Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data||62|
|7||Stef Clement (Ned) IAM Cycling||53|
|8||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||36|
|9||Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre – Merida||36|
|10||Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Direct Energie||33|
Best Young Rider (white jersey)
|1||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange||89:09:30|
|2||Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre – Merida||+0:02:16|
|3||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18||+0:42:58|
|4||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin||+0:47:32|
|5||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo||+1:19:56|
|6||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step||+1:55:27|
|7||Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre – Merida||+2:13:42|
|8||Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Fortuneo – Vital Concept||+2:23:45|
|9||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||+2:37:10|
|10||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Argon 18||+2:41:50|