It’s unclear one day after the 2019 Tour de France whether conventional wisdom characterizing the 106th edition as an “instant classic” has legs or if people will view eventually the race as one with plenty of thrills, twists and weirdness but an unsatisfying conclusion that reinforced the status quo, a continuation of Sky/Ineos’ stranglehold on this Grand Tour. After three weeks of the peloton suffering on the road, listing the “winners and losers” of the Tour (eg: Loser: the Alps) smacks of nattering negativity, so let’s appraise the race with a rosy lens and highlight ten aspects to celebrate.
Hooray for Colombia: One had to feel for Nairo Quintana in Paris: there he was witnessing the first Colombian to win the Tour de France and it wasn’t him. Colombia not only had its first winner in Egan Bernal, but three riders in the top-10, including Quintana and Rigoberto Uran. Factor in Richard Carapaz’s Giro d’Italia victory (off to Ineos next year!) and it has been a dream season for South America.
Hooray for the Lowland Countries-based teams: Jumbo-Visma had four stage wins, two days in yellow, fine team presence at the front of the peloton and a man on the podium for the second Grand Tour in a row. Lotto-Soudal also grabbed four stage wins, including a sprint hat trick for Caleb Ewan. Deceuninck-Quick Step took three stages and had Julian Alaphilippe raise French expectations to dangerous levels with fourteen days in yellow.
Hooray for “scraps”: Several GC men who fell out of the running for yellow nevertheless enjoyed success. Reigning Vuelta a España champ Simon Yates earned a brace of stage wins, while Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali took one each. Romain Bardet won his first ever polka dot jersey, giving the French three consecutive KOM victors.
Hooray for France: Wow! That was close, wasn’t it? The French almost broke its drought, and Alaphilippe became a legend with his scrappy defense of yellow. Thibaut Pinot teased the world with greatness until his body once more folded in the last week of a Grand Tour. Quel dommage. Three stage wins, a King of the Mountains title, two fellows in the top-10—not too shabby.
Hooray for Movistar winning the team competition: No one has yet cracked the enigma of what the Spanish team was doing in chasing down its riders, but it packed three them (one of whom might even have been the team leader) into the top-10 and won the team competition for the fourth time in five seasons. Factoring two titles more titles as Benesto in the 1990s, Movistar owns the record with six. They’ll take it.
— Movistar Team (@Movistar_Team) July 28, 2019
Hooray for Mitchelton-Scott: Sure, the Australian team’s designated GC man, Adam Yates, only placed 29th while never denting the top-10 of a single stage. But Mitchelton-Scott won four stages with three riders. Did anyone else notice that Stage 9 winner Daryl Impey finished with Dan Martin on Val Thorens?
Hooray for Michael Woods: Hampered by crashes and subsequent broken ribs, the Tour debutante was prominent in the final week’s breakaways, finishing seventh on Stage 17 and hauling himself up to 32nd in the GC from 54th following Tourmalet. He also finished 15th in the King of the Mountains competition, one place higher that Giulio Ciccone, the Giro d’Italia’s mountains winner. Hooray for Hugo Houle too, who also completed his first Tour.
Still have to finish today! 🤞 https://t.co/A9WpjW85Kz
— Michael Woods (@rusty_woods) July 28, 2019
Hooray for the Pyrenees: The Alps was where the race fizzled, with the hottest action coming in the Pyrenees. Simon Yates’ brace of well-taken wins thrilled. Pinot started his fight back from losing 1:40 in Stage 10’s crosswinds. Alaphilippe clung so tenaciously to his lead that he was making true believers. It still wasn’t clear if Bernal or Geraint Thomas was Ineos’ leader. Movistar was confusing everyone as Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa were all their top riders on GC over three days. Week Two was both the literal and figurative heart of the race.
Hooray for Yoann Offredo: A Frenchman riding for Wanty-Gobert, Offredo was last place on GC from Stages 5 to 20 when he became the penultimate rider (congratulations to Seb Langeveld for winning the Lanterne Rouge). Offredo’s greatest challenge came on Stage 8 when, quite ill, he lost contact with the peloton on the first of seven climbs over 200-km and fought valiantly to make the time cut in Saint-Etienne. At first he soldiered on with another sick rider before soloing over 100-km to survive another day. Not mincing words he told France TV after the finish, “I had to shit all day.” Chapeau.
Hooray for Peter Sagan: Whether or not one thinks that Alaphilippe has eclipsed Sagan as the most exciting rider in the peloton, the Slovakian’s accomplishments of a record seventh green jersey and 12th stage victory are fantastic. And he wheelies for fun and signs autographs while riding. He’s 29 and we still get at least five more years of this legend.