One last sting in the 100th Tour de France

Team Sky
Team Sky celebrate winning the 2013 Tour de France - Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, David López, Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Peter Kennaugh.

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The French couldn’t let Britain have it all their own way on the 100th Tour de France, well with a bit of help from the Germans.

Some few minutes before Chris Froome and his remaining six Sky team-mates crossed the line arm in arm in a great celebration of the second consecutive British winner of the greatest bike race, Mark Cavendish lost his unbeaten record on the Champs Elysees. Marcel Kittel in winning his fourth stage of this Tour stopped Cav extending his run of last day stage victories in the French capital to five. Losing that proud record to the best sprinter in this race will be scant consolation.

Heading to the run in on the last lap Cav seemed to have the perfect set up from his team as they stretched it all out. But by the final bend that support was gone as they were swamped by Kittel’s Argos lead out riders. Whereas before we’re used to see Cav delivered round that corner by his lead out man, ready to slingshot past, this time he was alongside Greipel and behind Kittel. Head into the wind he wasn’t getting anywhere then using Kittel to slingshot he was gaining fast but had been pushed wide, yet again, so had more ground to make up over some rather bumpy terrain, but the line came too fast and that could also be said of Kittel.

2013 Tour de France stage 21.
Marcel Kittel (centre) wins the 21st stage of the 2013 Tour de France, ahead of Andre Greipel (right, 2nd) and Mark Cavendish (left, 3rd).

Just not Cav’s Tour. Everything seemed to go against him from the crash on the first day in Corsica through bronchitis, more knocks and crashes, the trots to a puncture an hour before the sprint that meant he had to work hard to catch up with a peloton that wasn’t hanging around for him.

You have to add in a tough Giro d’Italia with this tough Tour, but then he won the points jersey in Italy so that was fully justified. His main competition in France didn’t compete in Italy. So far from writing him off and handing his crown to Kittel, just figure without that exertion next year, fully focused on the Tour and possibly a better team make up around him, the greatest sprinter will be back.

So that was the disappointment but it couldn’t take away from the magnificent performance by the yellow jersey winner Chris Froome.

Strolling in linked arm in arm with the guys that have helped round France this last three weeks was fitting and the only way his rivals could take any real serious time off him since he picked up that first stage win and the race lead. Every other time he did lose time he immediately came back and regained it and more.

The only down side to the whole thing has been the lack of support certain media types showed over the last two weeks. Quick to right him off and talk his rivals up. Froome was always showing the strain and cracking, while the likes of Quintana were immense as Froome zoomed past the young Columbian. Oh Froome was gone on the second ascent of Alpe d’Huez, he cracked. Well no he ran out of food because of his team cars mechanical problems. Car works, he gets the gel, nothing happens.

Yes Quintana pulled away on that final climb in the Alps but by then there was nothing he could do to Froome’s lead that would merit being chased down as the Brit was, like Wiggo last year, a bit lost in all what he’s done on this the 100th Tour de France. The only time some seemed to have a good word to say about Britain’s second ever Tour winner was when they were talking about his birth place and upbringing in Africa.

At least this year he didn’t have to put up with some stupid bint murdering the national anthem. Just the ceremony going on with some looking lost at what was happing.

Chris Froome
Chris Froome standing on the final podium after winning the 2013 Tour de France.

The first post Armstrong Tour, a Brit having already done it, other sporting events going on – whose idea to put a Yank winning the Open on the front page and not a Brit winning the Tour? – it’s been tough on Froome but what he’s done on this Tour has been head and shoulders above everything. Probably even Wiggo’s victory, with just the way it was done and the stages involved – especially the win on Ventoux – though you can never take away the fact Wiggo was the first to do it.

Again I offer my apologies after questioning Froome during last year’s Vuelta, asking if he was up to being a leader and not a trusty lieutenant. This year has shown with the right team around him he can lead from the front he can be the heavy favourite the man with the target on his back and live up to it all.

Last four grand tours have seen him finish 2nd, 2nd, 4th and now first. Next up the World Championships and why not join Tom Simpson and Mark Cavendish in the rainbow jersey. Then on to make it three British victories in a row in France.

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