Golden light kisses the cobbles, riders eyes blink with each passage of the Jardin des Tuileries. Dancing their way up Rue de Rivoli, bathed in yellow 100 years after the first rider claimed the famous jersey. Only one man owns that jersey this year, the young pretender, the King of Colombia. Anointed on the Col de L’Iseran as Mother Nature unleashed giant hailstones to ratify the victory.
The future of stage racing has never looked more exciting, France finally has cycling heroes who can truly challenge for the highest of honours, a new Grand Tour Champion is crowned at the age of 22 and a new generation of sprinteurs, puncheurs and breakaway men are burning bright. The Tour de France celebrated 100 years of the Maillot Jaune and half a century since the great Eddy Merckx’s first win. Fittingly the 2019 edition was filled with panache, flair and romance and our guests on KOM cycling trips and Spectator trips can proudly say “we were there” to witness it.
As the dust settles on another Tour de France, we look back on the greatest race in decades. One that started way back in Brussels with a celebration of Eddy Merckx, who seemed to imbibe the race with his own attacking panache. If ever there was a Grand Tour raced in the spirit of the Cannibal, it was this one.
Yellow for Yellow
We had our first surprise when Mike Tuenissen swapped his yellow Jumbo-Visma jersey for a different jersey of the same colour. A Team Time Trial added substance to the Dutch team’s grip on the leaders jersey before we headed for France. The country that gave us this spectacular race has been longing for a champion for longer than we can remember and finally they’re rewarded with many.
Julian Alaphilippe has been drawing attention for a couple of years, but when he took yellow in the champagne region of Epernay we assumed he would lose his fizz fairly quickly. A rider who’s attacking style is counter to the modern GC rider’s defensive outlook and one without a team capable of support in the high mountains. But a cross wind split that kept Alaphilippe, Pinot and Bernal 5 seconds ahead of Thomas and others would prove to be more than circumstantial.
Three Guesses for Green
Peter Sagan started his annual parade to the Green Jersey with a stage win in Colmar whilst Caleb Ewan opened his account with three stage wins. With Dylan Groenewegen and Elia Viviani both netting a stage each the scene is set for the sprint players of this generation. Mark Cavendish was, in truth, not missed and his non-selection justified – even though Dimension Data did little in the race without him.
The Planche des Belles Filles was the first mountain test and it was Giulio Ciccone who took yellow in the Vosges. A dusty track with 22% ramps was no match for Dylan Tuens who took the stage and the Strade Bianche couldn’t even separate the GC contenders significantly. Yoann Offredo joined the ranks of the French riders winning our affections, attacking constantly to get himself in breaks and then hanging on for grim death for the rest of the race.
Take A Break
Breakaway specialist Thomas de Gendt continued to add to his legend with a stunning win in Saint-Etienne. Alaphilippe attacked late wth compatriot Pinot to win back his leaders jersey and raise expectations of the pair’s form. French dreams were starting to soar about what could be whilst we waited to see when Ineos and Movistar might shift through the gears.
The Yates brothers had a mixed Tour, with Adam’s GC hopes being dashed fairly early on in the race. Simon bagged the team two stage wins in the Pyrenees to rescue the race for the Australian team as Mitchelton-Scott’s quest for another Grand Tour victory goes on.
The Time Trial in Pau was supposed to move the race into the next phase, with Thomas’s superior skills expected to propel his defence of the 2018 win. Alaphilippe decided to ignore the script and cruised to victory in soaring temperatures, looking every bit the champion.
The high mountains became the next waypoint for the race and the expectations of the yellow jersey to crack rose along with the altitude. Movistar chose the Tourmalet to blow apart their own race, riding their team leader off the wheel and then going back to tow him to the summit. Pinot was the hero of the day, attacking over the top of Bora’s Manny Buchmann to claim a prestigious mountain victory.
Pinot’s late attacks the following day saw him close the gaps he had lost earlier in the race and renew hope for own GC chances. With Thomas starting to flag the race for yellow was still open with the race drawing to a close. By the time stage 18 was due to start anyone from Alaphilippe, Thomas, Kruijswijk, Pinot, Bernal and Buchmann could still take victory – all being within 2:14 of each other.
Stage 18 was the first big day in the Alps and one that saw Nairo Quintana take stage victory after attacking on the Galibier. Bernal jumped not long after with Thomas trying to bridge across and failing. A sign that perhaps the balance of power had shifted within that team.
Mother Nature Steps In
It was on the next day’s stage that the scriptwriters really outdid themselves. Pinot was out, last seen sobbing as he climbed into the team car. A sight that broke the hearts of a nation and the wider cycling audience. Then the weather struck, impossibly bringing to a halt a Yates / Bernal attack that would surely have brought victory for either man. A landslide ended the days race with the times taken at the top of the Col d’Iseran.
A bizarre and confusing end to a stage that left as many questions as answers. Would Alaphilippe have made up time on the descents, would Thomas have fought back on the final climb, would Bernal have extended an already race winning lead? The final stage proper was curtailed due to the same weather, bringing stage victory for Nibali and securing the KOM jersey for France and Romain Bardet.
Vive La France
The raced finished with a Team Ineos winner once more, but contained more surprises than that result suggests. We saw battles aplenty, a resurgent Pinot – brimming with vigour, a swashbuckling Alaphilippe with more staying power than anyone gave him credit for and a new young champion in Egan Bernal.
All this has served to whet our appetite for next year. The future looks bright for Grand Tour cycling with a new guard sweeping in. We’ll see what 2020 brings as details of the route begin to leak out, but with we’re sure it’ll be another race not to miss. Thankfully with an Olympic year in 2020 the race has been brought forward, so there’s less time to wait!
Don’t Miss Out On 2020
We love the idea of the perfect climb or the ultimate route laying undiscovered, waiting for us. Whether it’s finding new routes, improving existing ones or refining how we do things, we’re on a never-ending quest for perfect. No matter how good a trip has been, we want to make it even better for the following year. We don’t want you to miss out on this incredible experience, so we have opened out Advanced Reservations for 2020 trips. With a no-risk $100 deposit you can secure your place in the team for next year, so don’t delay!