I might by a little late to the party in posting this entry nearly two weeks after the end of the Tour, but for anyone who’s living under a rock, Chris Froome’s gone and done it again, he’s won le Tour de France for the second time.
When I last posted about the Tour, Froome looked like he might end up dominating the race. However in the end it was one of the closest Tours in recent years, with Nario Quintana pushing Froome to his limits on the penultimate day up the Alpe d’Huez, cutting his lead in half. After cycling for three weeks over 3,300 km, Quintana was only 1 minute and 12 seconds behind Froome! In the end Froome was a deserving winner, donning the King of the Mountain’s jersey too, the first person to do since Eddy Merckx (G.O.A.T?) in 1970.
Naturally shortly after Froome had won the media began questioning who the greatest British cyclist may be (check out this BBC article). Whilst Chris Hoy is considered Britain’s greatest Olympian with 6 Golds on the track, he’s incredibly one dimensional as a cyclist.
Cavendish, who’s also had success on the track (although he was sadly the only GB track cyclist to not win a medal in Beijing in 2008) has won an incredible number of races on the road. This includes stages and the overall points jerseys at all three grand tours, Milan-San Remo (one of the five monuments of cycling) and the Road World Championships, making him probably one of world’s greatest sprinters ever.
Bradley Wiggins’ all-round track record speaks for itself though: 5 Olympic medals on the track, including 3 golds, a further Olympic gold Time-Trialling, current World Time-Trial Champion, current holder of the Hour record and of course a Tour de France winner. At the age of 35, he’s aiming for another track Olympic gold at Rio next year.
However Grand Tours are considered the pinnacle of cycling and at the age of 30 Froome definitely has time to win a few more, which would put him right up there.
Traditionally, as cycling is a team sport, the winnings of the Tour is split with the rest of the team, in this case Team Sky (the British based team that both Wiggins and Froome rode for). The reported winnings by Sky from the 2015 Tour de France was only EUR 556,630, EUR 450k due to Froome’s win.
The man at the helm of Team Sky is Dave Brailsford. Although not comparable to MLK or even K.Dot for that matter, Brailsford had a dream that Team Sky would win the Tour de France within five years with a British cyclist, when the team was created back in 2010. In five years, a British cyclist riding for Team Sky has won three times!
Team Sky is effectively a spin off stemming from the success of British Cycling (the national governing body of cycle racing). This began in the 90s, inspired by the likes of Chris Boardman, well invested Lottery funding and number of men with a vision, Brailsford being Performance Director of British Cycling until last year. This culminated with success at the Olympics in 2008 and 2012 (think Wiggins, Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott).
The Present and Future
This year’s Tour de France saw a record eight British finishers of the ten that started, many who’d come through the ranks of the British Cycling programme.
Apart from Froome, riding hard for Team Sky there was Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard, both British Cycling alumni , as well as Peter Kennaugh, a track Olympic Gold winner and the current British Road champion, who unfortunately did not finish due to injury.
One of this year’s stand out performances was Geraint Thomas, also a track Olympic Gold winner, he was Froome’s second in command. For nearly the entire three weeks he was at the front of the race supporting Froome. With three days to go, Thomas was 4th overall, however he suffered in the last two mountain stages, but still came 16th overall. At only 28, Thomas is definitely a contender for a Grand Tour in the future.
Cavendish could only manage one stage win this year and although he’s only 30, the new crop of sprinter’s might just be too good for him now. I’ve already made it clear that I have slight ‘man-crush’ so I won’t say any more.
It was 25 year old Essex lad Alex Dowsett’s first Tour this year, also coming through the British Cycling system and a former Team Sky rider, he’s the current British Time Trial champion and the former hour record holder (which Wiggin’s took off him earlier this year). Although he left the Tour injured, he’s another name to watch out for.
This was also twin brother’s Simon and Adam Yate’s first complete Tour de France experience. At an age of only 22 (it’s quite depressing that they’re younger than me) both had a couple of top 10 stage finishes. Riding for an Australian team, they’re still developing as Grand Tour riders, however both have an incredibly bright future ahead.
Finally veteran Steve Cummings completed his eight grand tour. The 34 year old is also a former track cyclist from the early 2000s and a former member of Team Sky, he won a phenomenal stage on day 14, flying past two top French riders to win the stage in the last few hundred metres. What made it more special was that he currently rides for the first African cycling team who were invited to the Tour in a number of years and won on Mandela day.
As you can see the previous success of British Cycling and the continuing success of Britain’s cyclists continues to inspire current and future champions. However perhaps more importantly it has inspired normal people from all walks of life to get on their bikes, get fitter and see a bit more of the beautiful British countryside.
Cycling has never been more popular and is considered to be the new Golf. It’s brilliant to see so many people out on their bikes on the weekends, even though the overweight MAMILs (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) on their £10k bikes does cause slight repulsion and jealousy (I’m jealous about the bike…).
Ultimately cycling is simply about having fun, as Australian Simon Haas wrote on his arm to remind himself during stage 14 of the Tour (yes, it’s smudged, but what do you expect after the man’s been riding for 200km in 40 degrees).