Luke Rowe (Team Sky) rolled into Paris on Sunday to complete his debut Tour de France as part of a race winning team. After rain caused several big crashes during La Course earlier in the day, the race organisers ASO decided to neutralise the circuits in the centre of Paris, allowing Rowe and his teammates to lap up the atmosphere.
“It’s just incredible. The last few laps I had goosebumps the whole time and in the last week we knew that we could do it. We knew that it was there or thereabouts but just finally getting it and getting here is just absolutely incredible,” Rowe told Cyclingnews as his soigneur offered him a cold beer, instead of the usual can of coke.
“We’re over the moon, it’s what we dream of as little kids and to pull it off is pretty incredible.”
Rowe was brought into the race primarily for his classics skills, to help guide Chris Froome through a tricky first week. He was also used on the descents during the big mountain stages, picking his way down the twisting roads and the Pyrenees and Alps.
“For me it’s been brutal, it’s been really tough but you speak to the guys that have done numerous Tours de France and even they say it’s been the hardest by far and I certainly need a well-deserved rest after this,” said Rowe.
Team Sky have had to work hard defending the yellow jersey after Froome resumed the lead following Tony Martin’s abandon ahead of stage seven. Unlike previous seasons, the team took a less aggressive approach to their defence of the jersey and allowed the breakaways much more leeway to ensure they reserved their energy for when it was most needed.
“As soon as he took the yellow jersey so early on, it was a bit of a concern. We had such a long way to go, you use so much energy but we dealt with it every day, we weren’t greedy, we didn’t go for all the stages. We accepted that the breakaway was going to stay away and we were happy with that,” explained Rowe.
“You’re racing the best in the world so you can never be too confident, you’re always a little cautious. In the last few days you could see that a few of the guys were really tired, possibly including Froomey. It was about limiting the losses and we did that perfectly.”
While Rowe will take away a lot of good memories from this year’s Tour de France, there were some tough times for the team. The incidents involving his team leader Froome, who had urine thrown on him and was spat at, have been reported heavily in the media but his teammates also had to endure it. Richie Porte was punched during the second week and Rowe himself has been on the receiving end of disgruntled spectators but he’s not letting it take the shine of the yellow jersey.
“It was sad to be honest. I don’t even call them fans, they’re just hooligans and scum of the earth that should just stay at home. I’ve taken the odd jab, I’ve been spat at and I’ve been booed and swore at but I don’t give a shit about that. I’m here on the Champs Élysées in my fancy yellow kit and Froomey is on the top step of the podium and to me that just conquers everything.”
And just how was he planning on celebrating the race victory? “With a big bottle of Belvedere Vodka,” he joked. Judging by the photos on twitter on Monday morning, there are a few sore heads in the Sky camp.