Now that's entertainment! The final days of racing at the Tour de France were fantastic. French honour was certainly saved by Christophe Riblon's win on Alpe d'Huez, a day marked by the crazy descent off Col de Sarenne and the crowds on the final climb.
If that downhill was too dangerous to send most of the motorbikes onto then why have a bike race there? Luckily it wasn't wet and Team Sky showed great sense in letting Contador go off the front to waste some energy in the valley. That was a sign of desperation if ever there was one. Then there were the massive crowds on the Alpe. I've done the 21 bends a few times but I've never seen so many people there. It was crazy and I bet it was almost scary at times to ride through. To give you an idea of how loud the fans are in circumstances like that, you have to imagine going to a gig or nightclub and standing in front of the speakers and then ask your friends to shout in your ears in an attempt to communicate. Of course you can't tell what they are saying because there's too much noise. That's how loud it is. And it does do your head in, which may partly explain why Chris Froome cracked ever so slightly and probably did not help Tejay Van Garderen in his quest to stay in control of his energy.
I noticed a bit of debate over the penalty for illegal feeding that Team Sky was given but it's equivalent of the professional foul in other sports. Sometimes you've got to do it, so it's no big deal and it's better to take the punishment than have something worse happen.
Poor van Garderen tried valiantly to save BMC's Tour de France. Being hunted down by Riblon at the death like that must have hurt but it was a great ride by the AG2r-La Mondiale rider. If you ever need an example of giving everything to win then that would serve nicely.
As would Rui Costa's descent of the Croix Fry the next day: it was smooth and just wonderful to watch. It was a bit of an epic stage what with the Col du Glandon and La Madeleine to open proceedings. Pierre Rolland's attempts to drag himself back into the lead of the climber's competition was brave and he must like those spotty shorts more than the rest of us. His riding merited more recompense than he got at the end of the day.
Back in the favourites group again the return of Ritchie Porte in full form helped Froomey from making too many efforts or getting involved in the squabble between Contador, Rodriguez and Quintana for the podium places. Spanish sounding swear words were no doubt flying in that particular environment.
I'm sure similar language was being used on the last mountain stage when Rolland put Igor Anton into the barriers for some climber's jersey points. And all to no avail at the end of the day because it came down to Froome or Quintana taking the climbers prize on the last hilltop finish. I can't say I agree with the way the points system has been biased towards the HC mountains in recent years, as it removes the need for the guys interested in that classification having to do all the other sprints. It used to be you had to do all the climbs not just the biggest ones and I'm sure Rolland agrees. He was so desperate that he even tried giving up on his spotted shorts and went with an old school look. Sadly he ran out of climbs and energy.
Colombia must be delighted though. Their new hero Nairo Quintana won a stage, the climber's polka dot jersey and the best young rider's white jersey.
You have to say he looked solid all race, with just one tactical decision on Ax 3-Domaines seeing him distanced significantly. The crumbling of Contador was coming though, we could see early in the race. He made too many petty attacks and followed his ego too much, suggesting he was always going to another bad moment. I did like the way Chris Froome let the gap go on the Semnoz climb when Quintana and Rodriguez attacked and then looked at Alberto as if to say your turn now to close a gap. Then when he saw the Spaniard was cooked, he left him for dead. That was payback in action.
The traditional last stage in Paris ought to be an evening affair every year. It was amazing. The fly over by the Patrouille de France timed with the first passage on the Champs Élysées , the sequined yellow jersey, going around the Arc de Triomphe every lap, the organisers ASO really got the grand spectacle out for the 100th edition and to end it all there was a fantastic sprint by the world's best sprinters.
Not many would have bet against Mark Cavendish making it five in a row on the Champs Elysees but Argos-Shimano got the jump on everyone into the last corner and the combination of having Greipel put him on the bumpy line and Kittel going like motorbike, meant the Manx man was defeated. It says more about Cavendish's profile and success that he makes almost as much news when he doesn't win as when he does. In comparison it almost went unnoticed that green jersey winner Peter Sagan was only fourth and that he didn't pull a wheelie on this occasion.
A great edition of the Tour
All in all one of the great editions of the Tour de France. Chris Froome arrived in Corsica as favourite and ended as the winner but it was never simple and it was never boring. We can thank Contador's ego for that and Movistar's collective strength for pushing Team Sky to their limits.
Quintana will revive Colombia with their love of the Tour de France and there are a number of young guys like Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) showing great promise for the future. Sagan is surely now the new Sean Kelly and he didn't touch up any podium girls either.
It would be easy to pick on the disappointments such as BMC or the lack of a good Tommy Voeckler during the Tour but for the 100th edition, a great race was a vital ingredient this year's race was certainly a gourmet Tour de France that has left us hungry for many more like it in the years to come.
This Week's Awards
The Jens Voigt Award for attacking goes to Jens Voigt: the last stage, the last mountain and still dealing out the pain. And he's 41. Respect.
The Bubblegum Award for shiny kit goes to Michal Kwiatkowski and his stylish Polish national champion outfit.
The Joker Award goes to Jan Bakelants: still smiling three weeks after a great start to his Tour in Corsica.
The Bike of the Week: Team Europcar's white Colnago. Ooooooh.
The Invisible Man Award is for Sven Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge). There has to be some kudos in being the last man and lantern rouge.
Song of the Week has to be Aux Champs Elysees by Joe Dassin: the perfect cheese.
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.
Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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