1. Britain went bananas over the Tour this year and the tides have clearly changed since 2007, when the Tour first arrived in the UK. Millions of people were lining the route in firm belief that Chris Froome would defend the yellow jersey he won in 2013 and that Mark Cavendish would win the stage ending in his mother’s hometown. Both of those hopes were crushed, but nevertheless the three stages in the UK were wonderful and the fans were fantastic. In a word, the start of the world’s most famous cycling race in the UK was “magnifique.” And the noise made by the hordes who turned out to cheer was still ringing in the riders’ ears, long after they got to the mainland. Conservative estimates put the number of spectators who turned out for the first stage at two million. At some points there were so many of them that the riders had to make their way through a very narrow corridor, forcing many of them to even dismount their bikes.
2. Ouch, those cobble stones! Even before the Tour, riders had been concerned about the slippery cobbles and narrow roads they would be facing in Stage 5, between the Belgian town of Ypres and Arenberg Porte du Hainaut in France. “Uncertainty is part of the competition and we don’t want the results to be an obvious prediction. It would not make sense to avoid the cobbles when going through northern France,” said Christian Prudhomme, the Tour Director. Then, many riders’ nightmare came true and it started to rain heavily. As a result, stage 5 saw the end of Chris Froome, who withdrew after falling a number of times. Belgium’s Jürgen van den Broeck also took a nasty tumble, somersaulting over his handlebars. Other fallers included American rider Andrew Talansky and sprinter Marcel Kittel, who won three stages this year. The later two were both able to continue, however.
3. Peter Sagan, the eternal runner-up, won the green jersey for the third year in a row. The Slovak rocket came second four times and third once, but did not win a single stage, losing one by just a tire’s width. He can find consolation in the green jersey for being the best sprinter, which he wore into Paris for the third year in a row. Who knows? If the 24-year old Slovakian had been riding for a different team, he might have arrived on the Champs-Élysées in the yellow jersey. It’s interesting to compare Sagan with Marcel Kittel. Backed by a strong team, Kittel claimed four stages victories. Sagan, on the other hand, had to fight almost on his own. Perhaps Sagan, nicknamed Rambo, is the best rider of the 2014 Tour! Anyway, all he had to say on the topic was, “It’s just a matter of fate”.
4. Vincenzo Nibali’s name will go down in the cycling history-books, after he became only the sixth rider in history to win all three of the Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España). Even stars like Indurain have not managed such a feat. His performances were breathtaking and a reminder of the era dominated by the most famous cyclist in history, Eddy Merckx, better known as the Cannibal. Nibali confirmed that he was in unstoppable form at this year’s Tour on the last mountain stage. He broke away from the peloton 10 kilometres from the finish, climbed up the formidable path to Hautacam (1.520 m) and easily won the stage, increasing his overall lead to more than seven minutes. “I felt great and wanted to get this win for the team, since they have worked so hard for me,” said Nibali. He had a fantastic Tour and his performance is not diminished by early exit of many pre-race favourites.
5. France celebrates! You wait 17 long years for a Frenchman to finish the overall classification of the Tour on the podium and then two of them appear! Host-nation riders Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot finished second and third respectively. French team Ag2r-La Mondiale also dominated the team competition, a massive 34’44” ahead of the second-placed Belkin-Pro Cycling Team.
Text: Pavel Eichler