Philippa York's Tour de France analysis

'It's remarkable no one has figured out how to challenge Team Sky'

It's all over, and Geraint Thomas has won the 2018 Tour de France for Team Sky, claiming their sixth victory in seven years. That the Welshman was never really put in difficulty was, of course, as much to do with his team's strength as it was his own impressive form and exemplary seizing of every opportunity to distance his rivals.

Whether or not Chris Froome was one of those rivals, I'll leave to others to discuss to death.

The remarkable thing with the continued success of the British squad is not that they dominate but that the other GC teams don't seem to have figured out how to get their game plan and their respective leaders into a position to change the outcome.

The scenario on the first mountain stage has always been the same, and this isn't a Team Sky master plan because it's what every Tour-winning team intends to do; ride a ridiculously high tempo using up the climbing domestiques and then inside the last three kilometres the last helper pulls off and immediately your team leader attacks. It's what has happened in previous editions, so how Nairo Quintana and the rest seem unable to cope with it is a bit of a disappointment. It's not like Movistar don't know the inside information because Mikel Landa was part of the set-up and yet the Spaniards didn't have an answer.

The promise of three against one, with Alejandro Valverde backing up Landa and Quintana, never really worked. They tried on stage 11, with Marc Soler pulling the veteran star but even that didn't work out as the resources Sky had were a match for the long-range attack. And that's the problem for Movistar; the domestiques at Sky are better utilised and Thomas and Froome were stronger in the finale. Quintana's victory on the Col du Portet saved his blushes somewhat, but he wasn't a GC threat by then so there was no panic in having to chase him. All in all, Movistar came with their trident of leaders but not one of them was sharp enough to burst the Sky bubble.

The good points of the race are that we've seen the return of the Dutch to the fore. Tom Dumoulin and Sunweb rode brilliantly, maybe lacking some climbing talent to aid last year's Giro winner in the high mountains, but everywhere else they did what they had to do. Certainly, Dumoulin comes out of the Tour with real hopes of one day standing on the top step of the podium in Paris.

Then there's Lotto NL-Jumbo; they have been the surprise of this year's race, with Dylan Groenewegen taking two stages when every other sprinter was still in the race and the GC duo of Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic in the front when the road went upwards. The Kruijswijk attack on the day to Alpe d'Huez was an epic ride and Roglic's progress from Pais Vasco and Tour de Romandie victories to almost making the podium bodes well for the future.

Other names we'll be hearing again are Julian Alaphilippe and Fernando Gaviria, the latter in sparkling form in the first week, and the polka-dot jersey winner shining throughout the whole Tour. There's something satisfying about watching certain riders take control of a classification and Alaphilippe did that with panache. In much the same way as Peter Sagan stamped his authority on the green jersey, the little Frenchman rode brilliantly and his two stage wins will have been the highlight of the home fans' race.

The case of Peter Sagan is a strange one because we all expect him to win stages and win the points competition so when he does there's almost an anti-climactic feeling to it, but this year we saw just how much it means to him after he fell on stage 17 and really struggled to survive the final mountains.

The final team who can be happy with their Tour is UAE, with Dan Martin being awarded the combativity prize for his performances and Alexander Kristoff winning the most prestigious sprint on the Champs-Elysées. Martin is in a curious situation as his natural tendency is to attack and yet the GC game is all about patience, waiting on the right move and not really exposing yourself to a counter, so until he loses some time then he's in a tricky position tactically.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) during stage 1 at the Tour de France

Disappointments

On to the disappointments, starting with the podium hopefuls.

Richie Porte has an excuse that he was taken out by a crash when there was everything still to play for, so his woes are entirely defendable and BMC are compensated by the TTT stage win and Greg Van Avermaet's subsequent stint in yellow. For Porte, it's another year of 'what if'.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) gets the same benefit of the doubt, that he might have come good in the final week if he hadn't been taken down on Alpe d'Huez, but he had already shipped time and been found lacking at La Rosière.

Rigoberto Urán started quietly but crashed on the cobbled stage and then struggled in the Alps. EF Education First-Drapac thankfully had Daniel Martínez as some comfort of hope but other than that it wasn't a great Tour de France for them.

Neither was it for AG2R La Mondiale, with Romain Bardet never really looking strong enough to shake things up. This certainly wasn't the Bardet of previous Tours when he was robust enough to survive the Sky-led tempo. This time there were moments you thought he might sustain his attack but, ultimately, he couldn't. Pierre Latour's white jersey is some consolation but the team - and the French fans - hoped for more.

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) wanted to make the top 10 and he did but only moved up to ninth because Quintana crashed and hurt himself in the final week. The Russian was a spectator most of the time.

As were Jakob Fuglsang, Rafal Majka and Warren Barguil. The latter tried to take on Julian Alaphilippe for the mountains jersey but just wasn't good enough, while the GC hopes of Astana and Bora-Hansgrohe rarely showed the form that their position in their respective teams merited. They survived the first selections when the mountains came along but then the next one was usually fatal to any ambitions of a stage win or a high placing on GC.

It wasn't all doom and gloom, though, as Bora-Hansgrohe could rely on Sagan, while the Astana team were saved by two individual efforts from Omar Fraile and Maguns Cort Nielsen, but that just highlighted that trying to do the GC and have a sprint train isn't really a viable option with an eight-man team.

Lastly of the GC hopefuls, there's the case of Adam Yates, who came with the full support of Michelton-Scott and looked to have survived the opening part of the Tour in reasonable shape. Then it all fell apart and even a stage win eluded him through bad luck. He'll be back, no doubt, as the talent is there.

The conclusion is once again that Team Sky executed their plan and no-one could challenge it, Geraint Thomas took the initiative when he needed to and defended when he didn't, and we saw enough of Egan Bernal's potential to know his is a name we are going to be hearing of in the future.

Egan Bernal (Team Sky) during  stage 2 of the Tour de France

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