I am writing this post with the same feeling I get on Boxing Day (26 December), my next Christmas is another year away. But what a Christmas in July this was. The 100th edition of the Grand Boucle was freaking awesome! We saw the emergence of some great new talent. The tour organisers tried their best to kill the peloton. There was some heroics. There were tears. And I was cheering some real underdogs to wins. I also got my fix of Aussie riders doing well. But not only did Aussie riders do well, it was a truly global representation of athletes who were competing – now all we need to see are more Asian and African riders.

The stage itself as tradition has gone was half parade, half competition. Having lived in Paris previously, I get twangs of longing to return – and it has been a while for me. It is so very familiar seeing the streets and boulevards with the peloton riding through closed off streets. To top it off, how good was the light show on the L’Arc de Triomphe. I wish I had been there, and I can’t wait to catch up with my old workmate who went over there for the trip of a lifetime to hear his stories.

While I have been a bit (huh? – a lot) tongue in cheek describing Team Sky and their Lead Rider Christopher Froome’s attempt to win the Maillot Jaune, the reality is that he rode absolutely awesome over the three weeks and is a deserving champion. For me the highlight of his victory was when he absolutely blew every other rider away on the first day in the Pyrenees. His mindblowingly high cadence acceleration up the mountain was something else. It was ballsy of the highest order – with Froome saying to all his competitors “I am going to smash you, and then hang onto this jersey for the next two weeks. Catch me if you dare!” So to the Froome-dog from the Empire – congratulations. And to pay this rider the respect he deserves, he is humble and a gentleman. His speech on the podium on Sunday was deserving of a champion.

tdf2013-GC-winner

The Final Stage – Showdown on the Champs Elysees

Stage 21 of the Tour is now always a high speed shootout. But unlike previous years where the result was pretty much certain, this year’s Tour has featured four sprinters of class. And they are all characters to boot. First in the light blue corner we had the previous four time winner Mark “The Manx Missile” Cavendish (racing for Omega Pharma-Quickstep, an unfortunate sponsor name given professional cycling’s recent history). Second in the green corner we had the winner of this year’s Maillot Vert, “The Tourminator” Peter Sagan (from Cannondale). Third in the white corner we had Marcel “Ice Ice” Kittel (leader of the Argonauts – Argos Shimano) – if you don’t know what his nickname is about look at his hairstyle after he takes off his helmet. And last but definitely not least we had Andre “The Gorilla” Greipel (Lotto Belisol). With a motley bunch like this, no wonder my son finds it so amusing.

The shootout didn’t begin in earnest until after the first lap of the Champs Elysees. Then it was on for young and old with the peloton motoring. The Manx Missile copped a puncture while it all kicked on, and I think that this may have had an impact on his sprint in the end. David Millar (from the Rebellion – Garmin Sharp) tried to go out solo and broke away to nearly 25 seconds ahead of the raging peloton. But he must have known for sure that he was going to get reined in, and he was. The Missile eventually caught up and in the final lap the four sprint trains along with a couple of other pretenders started to form their lines. But with four sprint trains along the Rue de Rivoli and the tight left – right turns around the Place de La Concorde no clear train developed. From a pretty long distance out it was left to the four big guns to shoot it out. But it was Ice Ice Kittel who managed to keep both The Gorilla and The Missile at bay to take his fourth win for himself and his band of Argonauts. A lot of cycling fans don’t like the sprints, but I love the game of high speed chess and the sheer focus of these guys at speed. It was a fitting end to this year’s Tour.

tdf2013-etape_21-winner

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-21/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/21/tdf-stage-21-cest-fini/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50382/froome-crowned-tour-champion-as-kittel-wins-in-paris

The three jersey winners were well deserving, having shown a great degree of dominance in their respective competitions. Both the Maillot Jaune (Froome-dog) and the Maillot Vert (The Tourminator) were decisively earned early in the Tour by sheer bloody mindedness of their teams to attack with hugely dominant moves on decisive stages. It was the race for the Polka dots that was the most interesting, and it deservedly went to the new upcoming superstar Nairo Quintana (who trained by outrunning FARC Rebels and Colombian druglords in his home country). Being only 23, Quintana also took out the Maillot Blanc. Much respect to these three!

tdf2013-jersey_winners

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Next time Prudhomme comes to talk to us here in Australia, I will tell him what he needs to do to create the Grey Jersey. The podium for the Grey Jersey is…

1. Jens Voigt – oldest man in the peloton, king of pain, and a rider who entered in numerous breakaways. If this was your last Tour Jensie then you will be sorely missed. His attack on Stage 20 was epic! We love the Jensie!

2. Sylvain Chavanel – who missed out on a stage win on his birthday in Corsica and then proceeded to ride ANGRY for the rest of the Tour. I mean this guy hammered and set up The Missile for a win. Never mind his attempt at glory on Bastille Day.

3. Richie Porte – who on any other team would have been a team leader, but he basically blew everybody else away to set the Froome-dog up for a win. He was epic to watch, and if it wasn’t for his explosion on the second stage in the Pyrenees he would have been on the podium.

Special mention goes to Gerraint Thomas, who busted his hip early in the Tour and did not abandon. In the Team Time Trial, his individual time after being dropped from the Empire’s train was faster than 6 other teams at full strength! Giddy-up.

I lift my cement filled bidons in salute to these three riders and all the others who earned points in this competition.

The Turbo Training Challenge

I had the objective of kickstarting my winter training by turbo riding during as many of the stages as possible. While my plans were scampered by a busted and very costly rear wheel, I still managed to ride just under 6ookm (both on the turbo and on the road) during the Tour. Now time to rachet it up a gear for the Amy Gillet Gran Fondo in September.

 

Now I can also go back to blogging about something other than Cycling for a bit too.