1) The inevitability of Team Sky
When 32-year-old Froome felt under the weather at Peyragudes, they took control of the peloton and dictated the race, creating an impression of normality when their star was struggling. The final 200m climb at the end of that stage was the only time he gave an inch throughout the whole Tour.
If Sky’s ability to manage races wasn’t clear enough, Froome’s wheel change on the road Le Put-en-Velay provided further evidence. Lesser teams would have panicked and floundered in a rush to rejoin the bunch. But they didn’t. They dropped back. They regrouped and calmly lead their main man through the field. A crucial moment in solidifying his position at the head of the pack.
Much credit has to go to the likes of Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski and Vasil Kiryienka. Landa could have mounted a stronger GC challenge had he not been entrusted with shepherding Froome to top spot. Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard is mooted for a move to Movistar in pursuit of the yellow jersey in 2018.
Next up is the Vuelta a España. And who would bet against Team Sky?
2) The Good: The French are back
Bardet took third place on the GC podium, following a runners-up spot last year, after doggedly chasing Froome over the three weeks.
A monumental effort saw him claim stage 12 ahead of Froome and Rigoberto Uran. Unfortunately, a laboured time trial in Marseille ended his GC hopes for another year. The Brioude-born rider put his listless finish down to a lack of training in the discipline.
“I don’t like training on it and there’s no doubt that I paid for that today. I need to make more effort in that area. That will give me another boost,” he said.
Similarly, Barguil rode off with two stage wins, the mountains classification, a first top ten in a Grand Tour and the most-combative rider award. His stage 18 victory up the Col d’izoard confirmed his star status. Team-mate Mike Teunissen said on future GC hopes: “What does he need to do? Not much. He is already not far away. If he can beat Froome now, for sure there isn’t too much in this.
“He would need not too much time trial kilometres, and not many summit finishes. This Tour was one for him, but if he so strong it doesn’t matter [what the route is]. I’m really curious about how he will do in the next few years.”
FDJ’s Arnaud Démare and Direct Energie’s Lilian won stages, too.
Watch this space. French cycling may finally be back.
3) The Bad: UCI inconsistencies
Bora-Hansgrohe appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but the race rolled on without his inclusion.
Nader Bouhanni decided to take things up a level on stage 10, after being called an “idiot” and a “dick” by FDJ’s Jacopo Guarnieri on stage six, by punching Jack Bauer of Quick-Step Floors. He was fined just 200CHF.
Even Bardet bent the rules. En route to his epic Peyragudes triumph, video footage appears to show Ag2r La Mondiale taking a spectator’s bottle within 10km of the finish. Rigoberto Uran and George Bennett were docked 20 seconds apiece for identical offences, but the UCI jury accounted that because team cars had been unable to reach riders before the final climb, all feeding time penalties would be wiped off.
4) The Ugly: French fans let themselves down, again
Poor Romain even apologised for his fellow countrymen’s actions, saying “Froome is a champion and he deserves respect. I respect him as a rival and he does not deserve this sort of treatment”.
Listen to him, guys.