Below is our list of the 6 most extraordinary sights for this year’s second Grand Tour.
A great many spectators have dubbed the 2016 Tour de France one of the most boring in recent memory, with Team Sky dominating at the front. But it’s an unfair assessment of a race so full of surprises and twists that no one could have predicted.
Below is our list of the 6 most extraordinary sights for this year’s second Grand Tour. See if you can guess number 5 before you read it.
1. Cavendish Back to His Best
Many of us came into the 2016 Tour expecting Cavendish, who had never won a head-to-head sprint against Kittel, to fall prey to the German once more. By the end of the first week, however, Cavendish had silenced each and every one of his critics, taking 3 stages in the process.
Kittel, meanwhile, took only a solitary stage win.
Widely assumed to be past his explosive prime, the Manx Missile – now 31 – has structured his season around winning gold in Rio. However, despite initial uncertainty in which he stated training on track would be the best or worst thing he’s ever done, clearly his indoor training hasn’t damaged his road pedigree.
And while he didn’t make it to Paris – pulling out to prepare properly for Rio – Cavendish managed to take a scintillating 4th victory, bringing his Tour de France tally up to a meaty 30. Should he replicate his successes of the 2016 Tour next year, he’ll be neck and neck with ‘The Badger’ himself.
2. Yates Gets Burned by the Flamme Rouge
In an edition filled equally with spectacle and debacle, Yates’ tussle with the flamme rouge at the end of stage 7 stands head and shoulders above the rest as the most extraordinary crash of the 2016 Tour.
Unfortunately for Yates, this meant that the time he was due to gain on the white jersey of Alaphilippe was wiped out. Though it wasn’t to matter, with Yates delivering a compelling display and winning the white jersey on his way to 4th in Paris.
3. Froome Attacks… On a Descent (!)
If I’d have told you before the 2016 Tour de France that Froome was to take the yellow jersey after a daring attack on a descent, you’d likely have laughed me out of the room. But that’s just what he did on stage 8.
It felt like Sky had been making themselves appear boring since 2012, just so they had chips to cash in when everyone else least expected it. And it was the other team’s vacillation that led to Froome taking the yellow jersey. They simply couldn’t organise a chase. It was magnificent.
4. Mont Ventoux Madness
Mont Ventoux has, over the years, gained a fearsome reputation as one of the most difficult climbs featured in the Tour de France. But this year’s climb up the fabled slopes was something else entirely.
Shortened due to incredibly high winds, this wasn’t the iconic mountain top finish everyone was expecting. But when Richie Porte cycled straight into the back of the moto in front of him – itself slowed by a dangerously dense crowd of spectators – and Froome cycled into the back of him, everything went to shit.
No one knew what had happened…
5. And Froome’s Subsequent Duathlon
But when footage reconnected with the trio of Porte, Froome and Mollema, it became clear that the yellow jersey had been cast into some doubt. Froome’s bike was broken, Porte was significantly slowed, but Mollema – lucky for him – had managed to stay upright.
Keen to mitigate his losses, Froome did the unexpected. He started running. The greatest stage race on earth had become the world’s preeminent duathlon. And do you know what? Froome’s technique is better on foot than it is on a bicycle.
As the favourites started to pass no one knew what would happen. How much time would Froome be giving up? Would he be penalised for running without his bike?
The neutral service car delivered Froome a bike. It was too small. And when his team car caught up with a proper steed, the peloton was in the distance. Technically, the yellow jersey was his no longer, Sky’s campaign in disarray.
But it was the commissaires who saved the day. In an unprecedented display of sportsmanship, Froome and Porte were awarded the same time as Mollema. They had decided that the yellow jersey falling into Yates’ hands as a result of spectator interference was painfully unfair. The day was saved and Froome actually gained once more on expected challenger Quintana.
6. Farewell Purito
The first rest day of the 2016 Tour de France. The day when 37 year old Spaniard, Joaqium Rodriguez announced his retirement from professional cycling. One of the most enduring, respected and liked members of the professional peloton, Purito has been lucky enough to bow out at the top of his game.
Respected by his colleagues, a number of the top professionals – Froome among them – requested Rodriguez lead the peloton onto the Champs Elysees. An honour usually reserved for the yellow jersey, this spectacle certainly added an additional layer of emotion to the final day. Emotion again added to as Greipel took the stage, his record of winning at least one stage at every Grand Tour he’s ever entered still intact.