The 2017 Tour de France is done and dusted, with Chris Froome and Team Sky celebrating on the Champs-Élysées the fourth victory for the Briton, this time over Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale). Michael Matthews and Warren Barguil took home the final green and polka dot jerseys for Team Sunweb, and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) ended the race as the best young rider. From Dusseldorf to Paris, the three weeks were shaped by a number of key events, and Cyclingnews recalls the 10 defining moments of this year's Tour de France.
Rainy time trial wipes out Valverde
The Tour de France came to an extraordinarly early end for Alejandro Valverde, Movistar's key support rider for Nairo Quintana, as the Spaniard came crashing down in a rain-slicked corner in the stage 1 time trial. On any other course, Valverde might have jumped up and raced on with some bruises and road rash, but he careened into unprotected metal barriers and smashed his kneecap. Former racer and NBC commentator Bob Roll remarked that "if this is the best we can do at the very pinnacle of this sport, we should all be embarrassed."
It was the most controversial moment of the race, one that will be debated for years to come: In the sprint on stage 4 in Vittel, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was sprinting along the barriers on the right side of the road when Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) tried to squeeze past between the world champion and the barriers. As Cavendish approached, Sagan appeared to put out his elbow and the Manxman crashed spectacularly, fracturing his shoulder in the wreck.
Sagan was initially relegated to last place in the bunch, but the jury later decided to eject him from the race entirely. Although the two sprinters were quick to patch things up and declare no hard feelings, the debate on whether a disqualification was a fair choice has raged on.
Porte crashes out
Before the Tour de France, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) was touted as Froome's closest challenger. Indeed, Porte had shown superior form in the Criterium du Dauphine and had a far more successful early season than the Sky rider. But he already had 39 seconds to make up on Froome – thanks mainly to the stage 1 time trial – when he crested the Mont du Chat on stage 9.
Disaster struck on the descent, and Porte missed a right-hand bend, went off the pavement, and then, in trying to ride back onto the road, he caught the lip of the tarmac and went flying into the embankment on the other side of the road, taking down Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) in the process.
Thomas crashes out
Geraint Thomas, winner of the opening stage, was sitting second overall to Froome at 12 seconds when he crashed on stage 9 and broke his collarbone. It was not his first wreck of the Tour – he was already battered and bruised from a pair of less dramatic crashes – but his abandon removed an interesting tactical option for Team Sky.
Had Thomas, Valverde, and Porte all stayed upright, the Tour de France organisers parcours designed for attacking might have fulfilled that aim. However, without these three key riders, the other teams were simply put on the defensive, struggling just to keep a top 10 result.
Landa goes on the attack
With Thomas out, Mikel Landa proved to be a bit of a wildcard in the overall standings. Having raced the Giro d'Italia as the team's GC contender before a crash ruined his chances, it was uncertain how his form would go. After three more weeks of racing, Landa missed out on the podium by a single second.
That one second could be a moment's hesitation while wondering if he should wait for Froome on Peyragudes – or sitting up off the wheels in the sprint on stage 13 behind Barguil, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).
Landa's attack with Contador on that stage provided plenty of polemics and intrigue, but it proved that he is both a loyal teammate and a genuine Tour de France contender who will be a danger next year should his move to Movistar be confirmed.
Urán, twice runner-up at the Giro d'Italia but less successful over the past two seasons, had largely escaped the list of favourites before the Tour de France, and even after riding himself into fourth place overall thanks to that performance, he still continued to mostly get attention from the Colombian media. But with the collapse of Fabio Aru (Astana), who went crashing from second overall at 18 seconds to fifth at 3:05 in the last week, Urán proved himself to be a genuine Tour de France contender.
The 54 seconds that Uran lost came almost entirely in the opening stage, where he finished 51 seconds behind Froome – the rest was lost in time bonuses. The Cannondale rider had been written off as a Grand Tour contender after failing to follow up on a pair of second places in the Giro d'Italia (2014-2015), but no longer.
Marcel Kittel dominates sprints, but crashes out
The Tour's green jersey would have likely gone to Marcel Kittel had the German not crashed out of the race on stage 17. The Quick-Step Floors rider was the dominant sprinter of the race, winning five stages with a dramatic come-from-behind style.
Matthews had pulled himself into contention by going on the attack to gain intermediate sprint points and move to within 30 points of Kittel when disaster struck: Kittel was already suffering at the back on stage 17 when he crashed. It took him a long time to get back on the bike again, and he was in no shape to keep going.
Froome loses yellow at Peyragudes
After a week and a half of Sky control of the yellow jersey, stage 12 to Peyragudes brought welcome intrigue and uncertainty into the GC picture at the Tour.
The long, mountainous stage from Pau to Peyragudes went mostly according to script, with Sky pacing the peloton into the mountainous finale and spelling curtains for the day's breakaway – but that changed in the final kilometre. When Aru attacked the yellow jersey with around 300 metres to go, Froome found himself wanting on the double-digit gradients. A follow-up assault by Bardet dropped Froome altogether. Bardet went on to claim the stage victory, while Aru snatched the yellow from Froome's shoulders.
At least briefly, as questions about Froome's form swirled, what had been shaping up to be yet another Tour of unchallenged Sky dominance transitioned into a two-day stretch full of question marks for the three-time winner.
Froome reclaims yellow at Rodez
Froome did not wait long to re-stamp his authority on the race – and he did it at an uncategorised finish, no less.
Stage 14 from Blagnac to Rodez featured just two third-category climbs, but the final 570 metres kicked up at a gradient of 9.6 per cent. That had many prognosticators tipping the likes of Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) for the win, and indeed, the Australian and the Belgian went head to head in the punchy finale.
More surprising was the battle just behind, which saw Froome storm up the steep final metres well ahead of Aru, who had been struggling to move up through the peloton even several kilometres from the finish and found himself facing a whopping 25-second time loss in the end. Froome put a few seconds into Bardet, as well. More than simply a matter of reclaiming yellow, it was a statement performance that put to bed some of the uncertainties of a bad day in the Pyrenees.
The only rider within a minute on GC not losing time to Froome in Rodez? Urán, who was still perhaps seen as the less viable challenger with the likes of Bardet and Aru threatening as well – and yet it was Urán who would ultimately stand on the second step of the GC podium in Paris.
Barguil lights up the mountain stages
Matthews' Rodez stage win was only part of the big haul he and roommate Warren Barguil would earn Sunweb in the end.
Barguil followed up his emotional stage 13 victory with a brilliant final week of racing that saw him take complete control of the polka dot jersey and deliver another major mountain stage win atop the Col d'Izoard.
Tour exploits seemed like a long time coming for Barguil. He made an emphatic entrance as a climber to watch all the way back in 2013 at the Vuelta a España, where he won two stages, but since then had gone a few years without any big victories.
Still just 25, his emphatic return to prominence at this year's Tour suggests there's still a very bright future ahead for the Frenchman, who also managed to secure 10th in the Tour's general classification – his first ever Tour de France top 10 – with his consistent success in the high mountains.
The hard work Barguil and Matthews put in over the course of the race was rewarded with two spots on the final podium in Paris, bringing Sunweb's Grand Tour major jersey tally to three so far this year including Tom Dumoulin's maglia rosa.