Epic 106th Edition of the Tour de France
2nd August 2019
Known globally as the most prestigious and difficult bike race in existence, the Tour de France was started in 1903 and just finished its 108th edition last week, celebrating the 100th year of the yellow jersey. The Tour mostly traverses France, but also sometimes visits Italy, Spain, Belgium or Germany. It runs for 3 weeks in July, covering around 3,600 km (2,235 miles) over the course of 20 stages. Nowadays it’s the premier annual sporting event in the country with deep cultural ties, attracting large crowds to watch from the roadside.
There’s 22 teams of 8 cyclists competing each day for the lowest overall time, a cumulative figure of all the stages added together. This year just eight teams won stages over the course of the 3 weeks of racing, a common complaint each year that the bigger teams tend to leave something to be desired in the way of true competition but this year had its pleasant surprises.
An Historic Win for Colombia
The youngest rider in history, just 22 years old, claimed the yellow jersey for the country of Colombia this year, for the first time in the Tour’s history. Egan Bernal was left speechless, himself shocked at winning the much sought after yellow jersey. Watching him celebrate the first victory for a Latin American country in the tour’s more than 100 years of history with his family and friends, along with fellow fans, was a moving experience.
Of course French fans were a bit disappointed, as Julian Alaphilippe, one of the favorites over the course of those three weeks in July, full of talent and energy, failed to deliver the win. As many of the spectators along the side of the route are French, of course when French riders do well it animates the fans and makes for a fun atmosphere.
An Unforgettable Turn of Events
Critics have argued that this year’s Tour was mediocre because of the abandonment of Thibaut Pinot, a great climber, and the shortening of the two final stages (19 and 20), which held great potential for some interesting racing. The most memorable event, one to be remembered for years to come, has to be from stage 19, towards Tignes, when a mudslide cancelled the race – get this – mid race, with no forewarning. Hail, rain and snow created an impassable region in the path of the riders.
In stage 19, Bernal effortlessly climbed the Col l’Iseran, practically leaving his competitors in the dust. This happened just after Pinot scratched, in tears at the anguish of having to quit so close to the finish, and after working so hard to get to where he was. Learning of the muscular lesion and sharp pains in his thigh which caused him to quit, fellow cyclists wince at the thought. Sometimes the body just says, “Stop.” And you have to stop. The hope French fans had of winning for the first time in three decades scratched that day too, getting into the team car with Pinot and driving away. C’est la vie!
These unexpected weather events happen, in fact during stage 10 (between Saint-Flour and Albi), what was meant to be a rather dull ride with little action, massive crosswinds broke apart the peloton, resulting in big wins for some and big losses for others.
It’s Not All About the Yellow
Peter Sagan kept a firm hold on the green jersey this year, awarded for various points accrued throughout the race and introduced in 1953. This jersey generally goes to those who do well in finishing stages and also excel at intermediate sprints, which Sagan clearly dominates. As for the polka dot jersey, although the idea of it was introduced in 1933, the jersey itself didn’t appear until 1975! The polka dot jersey rewards climbers or Kings of the Mountain. This year there were three contenders, Greg Van Avermaet, Tim Wellins and Romain Bardet, with Bardet winning overall.
We’d be lying if we said we didn’t notice that no women ride in the Tour, but it’s true there is a lady’s cycling event called La Course by Le Tour de France. Instead of 20 stages there’s only 1, but we’ll take it. Can’t help but agree with this recap from El Espectador, a Colombian news site… Congratulations to Marianne Vos and Egan Bernal, true heroes of the sport!