The Tour de France is over for another year, with 174-riders leaving Paris weary and perhaps a bit bleary-eyed.
Over three weeks ago I previewed seventeen contenders for the 103rd Tour, the riders I thought had the best chance of winning, finishing on the podium or inhabiting the top-10. How did they fare? In assessing their performances, perhaps it would be helpful to employ the evaluation terminology of modern education. Instead of A’s, B’s etc, we can use doesn’t meet expectations, barely meets expectations, meets expectations and exceeds expectations.
1st Place) Chris Froome: meets expectations Froome was the odds-on favourite to win his third Tour de France and did so with a few new moves: downhill attacks, thrusts into the wind and running up HC-rated climbs.
Froome and Sky will continue to dominate this race for several years, so race fans who like parity may want to look to the two other Grand Tours for something less predictable.
2) Romain Bardet: meets expectations Bardet is beginning to eclipse Thibaut Pinot as the Great French Hope, and breaking France’s duck on Stage 19 with an instinctive attack is the highlight of his career so far. Bardet, sixth in the French Surge of 2014, matches his teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud’s accomplishment of that edition in coming runner-up.
I predict a WorldTour stage race win for the 25-year-old next season.
— Romain Bardet (@romainbardet) July 25, 2016
3) Nairo Quintana: barely meets expectations Well, he’s on the podium, isn’t he? Twice runner-up to Froome in the Tour, and looking like he was getting closer to cracking the Sky puzzle, Quintana just wasn’t up to the task this year, looking quite ordinary while still getting on the Parisian steps.
As I wrote in the second day-off analysis, I think it might be time for Quintana to target another one of the Grand Tours, perhaps the Vuelta a España, a race he led until he crashed out during a time trial.
4) Adam Yates: exceeds expectations What a race for Adam Yates. In becoming the first Brit to win the white jersey, Yates attacked and held his own in the time trials. Like many, he came to grief on Stage 19, a crash that saw him slip off the podium. But Orica-BikeExchange must be thrilled to have Yates and Esteban Chaves on their rosters over the next couple of years, ensuring they’ll be in the mix in stage races and Grand Tours.
5) Richie Porte: meets expectations Finally, Porte lives up to the promise of his great debut ride in a Grand Tour, when he placed 7th in the 2010 Giro d’Italia while taking home the best young rider prize. Since then Porte has faltered in the Grand Tours, with 19th in the 2013 Tour his best and 48th his 2015 Tour mark.
The conventional wisdom is that Porte was only undone by a mechanical on Stage 2, that he was always up there with Froome afterwards (it was his collision with a motorbike on Ventoux Lite that led to the running-Froome incident) and was worthy of the podium. But Porte didn’t have a great first time trial either, a stage that could have levered him higher up the GC. He also was one of the crashers on Stage 19.
Still, 5th is Porte’s best Grand Tour ever.
7) Joaquim Rodriguez: meets expectations You expect El Purito to be in the top-10 of a Grand Tour like you expect Alejandro Valverde to. Rodriguez came good in the final week, attacking on Mont Blanc and into Morzine to snatch his second best Tour result in four tries, a fitting end to his Grand Boucle career.
11) Bauke Mollema: exceeds expectations All through the race I was belabouring the idea that Mollema was this race’s Steven Kruijswijk, a veteran Dutch campaigner on the best ride of his life. Mollema was sticking with the top men on the climbs and only lost 51-seconds to Froome in his first time trial, the best of all Froome’s rivals.
But like Kruijswijk, Mollema’s race came apart on the third to last stage, a wreck and dicey descending seeing him tumble from 2nd to 10th on the road to Mont Blanc. And then a wily Roman Kreuziger, part of Tinkoff’s tremendous triumph in the 103rd edition, went out in the day’s breakaway to nick the ten spot.
Hopefully Mollema will bounce back from the disappointment and take a swing at next year’s Giro or Vuelta–with Contador coming aboard next season, Trek’s protected rider at the Tour might be El Pistolero.
13) Fabio Aru: does not meet expectations Even before Aru’s jour sans, caused by a bonk, the 2015 Vuelta winner wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Astana was doing a load of work for him and he wasn’t able to finish it off.
It was a disappointing race for the fellow who also has two Giro podiums on his palmares and who put in a thrilling attack to win a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
16) Pierre Rolland: meets expectations Rolland showed a lot of grit to place as highly as he did after the second-most dramatic crash of the Tour. He was in breakaways riding with panache and deserved a little more.
23) Warren Barguil: does not meet expectations This was a step down for Barguil after last year’s 14th, even if one factors in the fact that the Frenchman was in that terrible training ride collision with a car in January.
He was found wanting on too many of the decisive climbs and came 46th on both time trials. One hopes that he will contest the Vuelta and replicate his successes of 2014 when he placed 8th and 2013 when he scored two stages.
25) Ilnur Zakarin: exceeds expectations Having crashed out of the Giro in 5th place, and with no warm-up race before the Tour, I didn’t expect much from Zakarin. But taking stage victory, getting into the right breakaways in general, and helping Rodriguez achieve 7th showed that Zakarin is among the top stage racers in the world. With Rodriguez retiring, he’ll have to step up his game.
29) Tejay Van Garderen: does not meet expectations After two fifth places and a stage win, the Great American Hope had a poor Tour de France, with teammate Porte outshining him by a long stretch. Clearly, something was wrong with Van Garderen.
30) Vincenzo Nibali: barely meets expectations There was some questions before and then late in the race about whether or not Nibali was working for Aru or himself. It was clear after Stage 5 to Le Lioran that the Shark of Messina wasn’t in GC contention. The Giro winner wasn’t interested in Aru’s fortunes on Stage 20 as he went for the stage win while his team captain had other teammates opening gels for him.
Aru and Nibali’s mediocrity was part of a general Italian lameness that saw them go without a stage win.
41) Julian Alaphilippe: barely meets expectations Winner of the most dramatic crash competition, one time white-jersey wearer and late-race breakaway ubiquity, Tour of California champion Alaphilippe will take solace from the fact that he jumped 10-spots on the last day. He lost the plot on the first day in the Pyrenees and had the freedom to get into escapes. Alaphilippe will learn from his first Grand Tour experience.
— Tommy (@Tomen8r) July 17, 2016
Alberto Contador: DNF
Thibaut Pinot: DNF
Tom Dumoulin: DNF