The 2019 Tour de France was a memorable edition of the race. Team Ineos were relatively weak but still walked away with first and second place. After Alaphillipe and Thibaut Pinot lit up the race to the excitement of the home nation, the only French podium was Romain Bardet – not something you could have predicted from the stage on the Tourmalet. There were many highlights of the race, but the sight of Alaphillipe racing away on short climbs to nab the yellow jersey and then hold on for such a long time, were probably the best. It’s not often you get excited about time trials, but Alaphillipe racing up the final climb of the TT stage with thousands of French roaring him on was a goose-pimple moment – he was going so fast, he could have been doing a 1-minute British hill climb.
I’ve been following the tour for many years now, but this year marked a decline in the rancour and bitterness which have been there even since the innumerable drug busts, Armstrong’s fall from grace and TUE sagas. It will never return to the days of innocence (or head in the sand attitude), but it’s at a stage where the pendulum of believability and trust has swung quite significantly to a couple of decades ago. There’s now a new generation of riders who have an opportunity to race without quite the same mists of cynicism which have blighted the sport for so long.
As much as I liked to see the French do well, at the end I was disappointed Geraint Thomas couldn’t bring home another British win, but he acted like a model sportsman in happily passing the baton on to a team mate and accepting his fate with good cheer. If I was in his shoes, I would really have liked to know what I could have done on final climb which got cancelled due to the landslip. At the end of the day, 2nd place in the tour, is a huge achievement for a rider, who had a difficult season.
Egan Bernal looks like a real champion and perhaps could dominate for many years. But then people were saying that about Nairo Quintana several years ago. Poor old Movistar, three riders in the top 10, and the last mountains stage seemed to sum them up. I don’t know how they managed to contrive not to win the stage. Still, it was great to see Quintana roll back the clock and literally shoot up the mountain for at least one day.
After such an intriguing tour, next year, we’ll be hoping for more of the same. I somehow doubt we’ve seen the last of the Team Ineos mountain train. Next year there’s the distinct possibility Ineos could end up with a rider on every step of the podium – Froome, Bernal, Thomas. But, on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if the French organisers try to replicate the drama of this year, I feel short sharp climbs near the finish may become more popular than Alpine passes of over 2,500m altitude.
I watched the race mainly on Eurosport. Bradley Wiggins was good value as the dude on a motorbike. Last Sunday, I think they were all demob happy, with Wiggins slipping in a comment about our new PM. I think I’ve enjoyed watching the tour so much I may even kind of miss Carlton Kirby. I always look forward to his annual joke about how he looks closely at the Arc de Triumph, but can never find any mention of Waterloo.
Pictures of Tour at Guardian