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5 Lessons from Le Tour 2019

By Christopher Ashley

As Le Peloton approached the 72-km mark to the finish line in Paris, Colombia’s elder statesman summoned photographers to capture a profound moment.

Quintana gestured, shouted, and persisted until photographers were positioned to snap the above moment for posterity. So why were Egan Bernal, Rigoberto Urán, Sergio Henao, and Nairo Quintana riding out front? And what else can we learn from Le Tour 2019?

Colombia and France are bigger than any team

Sure, you can have a favourite team but it’s usually the cyclist that attracts you to that team.  Quintana spoke with great pride of Colombia’s first Tour de France victory and who can blame him?  Even though stage 19 was sadly shortened, it was still long enough for Bernal’s strike to earn him a decisive victory. After this, the peloton was never far from fans waving Colombian flags.

Quintana also raised the flag with his devastating victory over the Col du Galibier to win stage 18, finishing just 5:30 behind Bernal’s winning time, overall. French riders also overshadowed their teams early on before the heart-breaking sight of Pinot being told to abandon.

Ineos loves Brailsford loves Ineos

Fostering a good relationship with David Brailsford offers riders a serious opportunity to win Le Tour.  Brailsford seems happy to let the strongest rider go for the win in any given year – but I doubt that the spirit of respect and comradery has been easy to cultivate.

Geraint Thomas would have looked silly pulling rank given Bernal’s form in the classics but by stage 15, both Alaphilippe and Thomas were showing strain under pressure – suggesting that Thomas was there to check early aggressive riding, allowing Bernal to pace himself more.

Unsurprisingly, Ineos have continued offering Brailsford’s team the freedom to change the way tour cycling is approached. Brailsford’s winning streak will continue until the rest of the peloton adapts to his patient, tactical style, and ability to bring out the best in the talent he retains.

The peloton was faster

Bernal averaged 25.2mph over the entire race, which was 0.22mph faster than Thomas’s winning time in 2018. This owed a lot to the aggressive riding of the French cyclists early in Le Tour – Alaphilippe’s Combative jersey was well-earned.

Every Tour, there’s always far more footage than it’s possible to release but I hope we get to see some footage of Nils Politt’s hair-raising descent on Stage 18. The Katusha-Alpecin’s rider was the first rider to officially break 100kph, hitting 101.5kph on a -7% gradient section of the road.

Sagan is now a Senior Citizen

The Cyclistes Professionnels Associés are recognised by the UCI as a non-profit association that represents the interests of its riders. Sagan’s thinly veiled criticism of the CPA’s apparent inaction led to uncharacteristic relaxation of the racing rules. But then this was no ordinary racing event.

The UCI had to deal with a race featuring a record heatwave, mudslides, hailstorms, and a snow-plough, all within 4 stages alone. It’s probably fair to say that Sagan spoke with everyone’s best interests at heart, and displayed a maturity becoming of an elder statesman.