ONE of the most dramatic races in Tour de France history came to a close on the Champs-Élysées Sunday evening with the ‘City of Light’ bathed in the golden glow of a setting sun and a famous win for Colombian Egan Bernal.
It also underlined the continued dominance of Team Ineos (formally Team Sky) in cycling’s premier race, a seventh win in eight years for the Manchester-based outfit only really surprising in that the man who wore yellow in Paris was not Geraint Thomas who finished as the runner-up.
The Welshman has been keen to emphasise the importance of the team above the individual when interviewed by television in the decisive Alpine stages last week but rather candidly pondered if it wasn’t meant to be as his teammate Bernal stormed up the Col de l’Iseran to all but seal top spot.
With a distraught Thibaut Pinot pulling out on the road and provisional leader Julian Alaphilippe unable to hold on up the climb, it was a desperate day for the French who still haven’t seen a home victor since 1985. For Dan Martin, this year’s tour seemed to be a bit of a head-scratcher.
After moving from Belgian team Quick-Step to UAE Team Emirates for the start of last season, the Birmingham-born Irish rider was hoping to build on last year’s eighth place finish and potentially shoot for a podium spot this time around.
The omens looked promising with Martin feeling confident in his form going into the race and despite losing some time in the early Time Trial in Brussels he was very much in the hunt some two minutes behind the leader going into the Pyrenees.
The weather had other ideas, orchestrating the utter chaos of the Friday and curtailing the final day’s activities towards Val Thorens but by that time Martin was forty-five minutes down on Bernal and heading into Paris in eighteenth place.
Collectively they were ninth overall, over two hours behind Movistar, and for a man who will be 33 in August it will be interesting to see the outcome of that review for a cyclist now accustomed to finishing in the top ten in cycling’s greatest race.
For Nicolas Roche, his role as ‘domestique’ in support of Team Sunweb’s marquee riders means a completely different role in the race. He admitted during July that he wasn’t particularly paying attention to his overall position in the General Classification, in the end finishing in 45th.
Meanwhile the disappointment of not being selected by his Bora-Hansgrohe team for the race contributed to Sam Bennett’s decision to transfer across to Quick-Step where he will hope for better opportunities to compete in the big Grand Tour races.