Le Tour takeaway. Yes, it was dull.
Critics and journalists have questioned wether the Chris Froome – Team Sky domination of the Tour de France made for a dull race.
Quick answer: yes. The race for the maillot jaune was over before the race hit the final week in the Alps. Contador crashed and abandoned. Little climber Nairo Quintana suffered in the cumulative negative effects of the wind and allergies. His two main rivals never put Froome under pressure except for two short-lived and easily shut down attacks in on Pyrenean stage.
Riche Porte punctured and crashed and crashed again while his teammate Tejay van Garderen solely faded, his power evaporating by the day. Porte described his eventual firth place overall as bittersweet and Van Garderen admitted to being mystified by his loss of form.
Stage by stage the massive budget Team Sky simply crashed the spirit, hopes and legs of Movistar, Astana and BMC. It was a relentless, calculated and highly scripted bludgeoning. It was also a reminder that Sky’s 35 million euro budget is an incredible 20 million more than Movistar.
Just image how circumstances might have changed if Movistar could have bought up Mikel Landa last year and brought in Romain Bardet from AG2R, Rafal Majka of Tinkoff and Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha? Then you’d have a Spanish Sky and Le Tour would have some GC parity.
Given the deeply flawed financial model the of the sport, there’s no reason to think that Sky will stop out-spending and out-performing all the other WorldTour squads. That formula went a long way toward making this Tour underwhelming in terms of excitement and competition.
We won’t be the first to day that nobody came close to challenging Froome for le maillot jaune. His two biggest obstacles to winning a third Tour were Simon Gerrans and a TV motorbike. On stage 13, Gerrans’ crash on a high speed descent off the Col des Trois Termes, took down three of Froome’s teammates and he narrowly avoiding going down himself.
Then there was the now famous running portion of the Tour de France, after Porte, Froome and Bauke Mollema all slammed into a stopped motorbike on a fan blocked road up to Mont Ventoux. With Froome’s bike destroyed, he took off on foot until he could get another. It was a comical and shocking scene but after the judges ruling, Froome remained in yellow.
And that was that — on to the Alps were absolutely nothing happened to disturb Froome’s four minute cushion and arm chair ride to Paris. As TV spectacle, as closely fought battle, as drama and and tension, it wasn’t much to watch. It was, in short, dull and disappointing.
In fact, for the first time since we’ve been watching the Tour de France — going back twenty years — the sprint stager were more engaging and exciting that the battles in the mountains. The quality of the field was super high, there were lots of photo-finishes and nearly every top sprinter got at least one victory. Kittel, Cavendish, Sagan, Matthews and finally, on the Champs-Élysées, Andre Greipel, all got their wins. Only Bryan Coquard of Direct Energie and Alexander Kristof of Katusha had to settle for second places.
There were fireworks on every single sprint stage in this Tour de France. If only Contador and Quintana had mounted a serious challenge to Froome and Sky, this would have been an all-tole awesome Tour.