Stick or Twist: Rating the Tour de France top 10

Reviewing the top riders

A week after the Tour de France concluded in Paris and Cyclingnews look back at the 10 on GC, their performances and whether they should take aim at the Tour once more in 2019.

Name: Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Age: 32
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Overall victory
Tour report:  A consummate performance from a rider who had never challenged for a Grand Tour before this July. Thomas’s ascendancy began on stage 1 when he was the only Team Sky rider not to lose time, and it carried all the way through the first week. In the Alps Thomas claimed back-to-back stage wins and yellow and never looked close to cracking when the pressure came in the final week.  Off the bike he played down speculation of any possible rift with Froome, while his team nullified much of the opposition out on the road.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: Winning the Criterium du Dauphine.
Tour 2019? Only time will tell. Will Thomas embark on a Wiggins-style quest and turn his attention to the Giro d’Italia and Classics or will he look to defend his title next summer? Related to all of that is his contract situation, although few would bet on him leaving Team Sky.      

Name: Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)
Age: 27
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Second overall, and a stage win.
Tour report: Runner-up at his second consecutive Grand Tour but Dumoulin proved the strongest challenger to Team Sky’s dominance once more. He lost time in the first week and rarely had Thomas on the ropes in the final week, but the Dutchman’s consistency and final flurry in the time trial ensured he kept Froome and Roglic at bay. Mr. Consistency and joint youngest rider inside the top 10, alongside Bardet.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: Second overall, and a stage win at the Giro d’Italia.
Tour 2019? It’s hard to evaluate Dumoulin’s Grand Tour campaign as a failure but two second places will sting, especially as he beat Froome at the Tour only for Team Sky’s plan B to show up and claim yellow. Next year the focus for Dumoulin has to be on one Grand Tour, whether it’s the Tour or the Giro.    

Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky)

Name: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Age: 33
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Third overall
Tour report: Present at the key moments but never able to dictate the outcome or decide the race. Froome lost close to a minute on the first stage and from there Thomas chipped away at the established hierarchy with stronger performances in the mountains. Froome deserves credit for the way in which he looked to publicly quell speculation of a possible rift, and the manner of his support when it was clear that Thomas had the form to win.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: Winning the Giro d’Italia.
Tour 2019? Still hunting that fifth Tour de France title that would put him alongside the likes of Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain – a line you would have struggled to keep a straight face for back in 2011.    

Name:  Primoz Roglic (LottoNL Jumbo)
Age: 28
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Winning stage 18, almost making the podium in Paris.
Tour report:  Roglic started the Tour as a dark horse having never challenged for GC over three weeks, but this year’s Tour highlighted the Slovenian as a genuine contender for the coming years. He dovetailed superbly with Kruijswijk and put Team Sky under pressure on a number of stages. Arguably the strongest rider in the final week.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: Winning the Tour de Romandie.
Tour 2019? With this year under his belt Roglic can return in 2019 with the aim of at least making the podium.    

Name: Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL Jumbo)
Age: 31
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: That 75km solo break on the road to Alpe d’Huez. When Thomas Voeckler personally comes over the next morning to shake your hand and congratulate you on having the guts to open up the race, you must have done something right.
Tour report:  A consistent presence when the yellow jersey group was down to less than half a dozen riders, Kruijswijk and Roglic combined perfectly and were the strongest squad Team Sky had to deal with. This was a fine result for Kruijswijk too, who needed a new challenge after an illness-hit Giro a year ago.+
Best non-Tour result of 2018:  Nothing spectacular but a string of top-ten GC results coming into the Tour de France.
Tour 2019? Kruijswijk is one of the most underrated stage race riders in the peloton. Can he improve on fifth place? With a new generation coming through at Lotto, perhaps a return to the Giro or another Vuelta challenge would make more sense.

Romain Bardet ahead of Ilnur Zakarin

Name: Romain Bardet (AG2r La Mondiale)
Age: 27
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Third on Alpe d’Huez and at Laruns.
Tour report: The consensus is that Bardet’s Tour career has plateaued, or even gone backwards, with sixth overall his worst ride in several years. There were mitigating circumstances: a poor TTT, a squad ravaged by crashes, but the fundamental problem for Bardet was that he had no response when the race was being decided in the mountains. He stuck to the task, and his remaining teammates looked to unpick the lock to trouble Team Sky, but when the race is shut down you have to be exemplary to make things happen and Bardet simply wasn’t good enough.
Best non-Tour result of 2018:  Second in the Dauphine, and second at Strade Bianche.
Tour 2019?  There has been talk of a Giro challenge in the past but AG2R will demand a strong presence at the Tour in July. Sixth overall is far from a disaster, and at 27 Bardet has time to find his mojo again.  

Name: Mikel Landa (Team Movistar)
Age: 28
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Finishing higher that Quintana
Tour report: A mixed bag for the Spaniard who was hampered by a crash and never really imposed himself on the race. There were fleeting moments of his climbing ability but they were often snuffed out by Team Sky’s domestiques.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: Second overall at the Basque Country.
Tour 2019? His best results over three weeks have come at the Giro d’Italia, where he has won two stages and finished third overall. The jury is still out as to whether Landa can challenge for a Tour title but a podium challenge is within his locker. Movistar must manage their resources, however.  

Name: Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates)
Age: 31
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Winning his first stage in five years and attacking virtually every time the race went uphill.
Tour report: Martin may have hoped for a higher GC position but a shoddy TTT and crashes meant he was always chasing to make up ground. That said, no one in the top ten took the race by the scruff of the neck as much as Martin in the mountains. His most combative award was just rewards for a rider who looks to make things happen rather than sit back and ride defensively. In an age of predictability Martin should be praised for his style more than anything.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: A stage win at the Criterium du Dauphine.
Tour 2019? One could argue that a Giro route would suit Martin’s style but allergies have let him down in Italy before. The Irishman has a proven Tour pedigree, and has been a consistent top-tenner over the last few years. He may lack the firepower to make the podium but a stronger team would help.    

Name: Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha)
Age: 28
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Other than a decent final time trial there wasn’t much to shout about.
Tour report: Arguably the most anonymous rider to finish inside the top ten. Zakarin came into the Tour brimming with confidence after a third-place at last year’s Vuelta a Espana. However, a lack of support and a string of average rides in the mountains saw the Russian hover outside the top ten until Quintana’s late collapse.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: Tenth overall at the Criterium du Dauphine.
Tour 2019? Zakarin deserves another shot at the Tour de France in 2019 but his overall form must improve first. He has been quiet throughout this calendar year, but another tilt at the Vuelta later this summer could offer redemption.    

Name: Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar)
Age: 28
Highlight of the 2018 Tour: Winning stage 17
Tour report: Tenth overall and a stage were not Quintana’s goals coming into the race. Although Landa and to an extent Valverde had leadership responsibilities, Quintana still stuck out as the team’s primary candidate to take on Team Sky. Movistar laid the groundwork on several occasions but Quintana simply lacked the punch to trouble the podium. His crash cost him several places, and while a stage win rescued his race, 2018 represented another Tour GC failure.
Best non-Tour result of 2018: A stage win and third overall at the Tour de Suisse
Tour 2019? Is Quintana a Tour rider? Having won the Vuelta and the Giro but come up short in the Tour so consistently this seems like a legitimate question. Something isn’t quite right with his preparation and until that’s solved Movistar’s leader is going to remain an Tour enigma.

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