After officially re-opening the Tom Simpson memorial 50 years later, the absence of Mont Ventoux was a tactful decision by race organisers. Instead, Le Tour 2017 was a celebration of new and emerging talent, as well as an awesome display of power from Team Sky.
Fresh blood fills the gap
Whatever your opinion of that elbow, and Sagan’s subsequent dismissal from Le Tour, it was a shame to see Cavendish crash out of the race. Porte’s crash was thankfully just short of a real tragedy – but not by much. We wish Porte a speedy recovery from a crash that’s a timely reminder of the risks Le Tour cyclists endure.
In the absence of big personalities, it was impressive to see the range of talent emerging from the peloton. Robert Gesink crashing out could have been catastrophic for his team’s strategy, but no doubt Lotto-JumboNL were delighted with Primoz Roglic’s stage win in Serre-Chevalier – not to mention Groenwegen’s stunning victory in Paris.
Finally, the French have some heroes
One of my favourite moments of Le Tour was watching Direct Energie’s resident young gun, Lilian Clamejane, stamp his mark on the race with a sublime solo effort that won him stage 8. Lotto-JumboNL’s Gesink tried in vain to hunt down the 24-year old who buried himself so deep he had to work on cramping out his muscles in the closing kilometres.
Warren Barguil is the name that France, and many cycle-fans beyond the border, will take to their hearts. Stage 13 coincided with Bastille day and Barguil made sure the Tricoleur flew proudly with his monumental effort into Foix. Team Sky did their best to mark him, but Barguil’s aggressive countenance saw him win the King of the Mountains jersey – as well as the Super-Combative.
Froome isn’t invincible
About 1 km from the end of stage 5, I told a colleague that there was no chance that any cyclist could take significant time out of Froome’s lead given that Team Sky had made such a mockery of BMC’s high pace throughout the day. Just 750 m later, Aru had me cheering and shouting at the TV screen.
You may excuse Froome for feeling under the weather, but we must give credit where it’s due. Fabio Aru smelled weakness and his devastating attack took 20 seconds out of Froome’s lead. Team Sky were rattled and by stage 7, Aru was wearing yellow.
Attack is the best form of defence
Team Sky, however, were relentless – and as much as we should admire Froome’s undeniable talent, we should also take time to celebrate the efforts of Luke Rowe, Kiryienka, Kwiatowski, Nieve, and Henao, to name just a few.
In Mikel Landa, Froome has a powerful lieutenant and there are strong arguments to suggest Sky could have had at least two riders on the yellow jersey podium had Geraint Thomas’s race not ended in misfortune.
High tempo cycling by Team Sky made an attack a daunting prospect for their rivals – other teams will need a serious rethink of their long-term strategy if they’re to loosen the grip of Froome’s uber-team on Le Tour next year.