TDF’16 St.21: Gorilla Roars Again!
Race Report: André Greipel took his second win on the Champs Élysées in a row to close the book on the 2016 Tour de France on stage 21 in Paris. Chris Froome avoided any late drama and secured his third maillot jaune in four years.
The peloton set off from Chantilly for the annual procession into Paris. The early stages consisted of riders congratulating Chris Froome and the Sky team for an incredible effort to control the race for 21 stages and deliver their Kenyan born leader to a third Tour de France victory. When the riders hit the cobbles of the Champs Élysées the real racing began and an eight man group formed. They were kept in check by the Direct Energie team for their sprinter Bryan Coquard. With 15km left to ride the break were brought back but a counter attack by Alexey Lutsenko and Greg Van Avermaet looked like it might spoil the party until IAM Cycling, riding for Sondre Holst Enger, took up the chase. There was some late drama though as both Bryan Coquard and Holst Enger punctured and their team’s effort came to nothing. Inside the final 3km and Lotto Soudal were leading the peloton but on the final corner they were overtaken by Kristoff on the wheel of his lead out man. The Norwegian had gone too soon into the headwind however and he was ambushed by Griepel who stormed to the line. Peter Sagan was a fast finisher in second place but the line came too soon for the Slovak.
The final stage of the 2016 Tour de France began in Chantilly, home of the delicious Chantilly Cream. They enjoyed a flat trip down towards the south-west of Paris and through the large park of the Bois de Boulogne before they really hit the French capital for the usual eight laps of the Champs Elysees. There’s one climb on the route, the fourth category Cote de l’Ermitage (900m @ 7%), this was a chance for the peloton to stretch their legs with Rafa Majka (Tinkoff) wrapping up the jersey a few days ago without any real opposition. Everything before the Champs Élysées is just a chance for the riders to chat and share stories from the Tour. The real racing began on the cobbled streets of the most famous sprint finish in cycling history.
You’d have to be very charitable to describe this as a good Tour. All of the jerseys were really tied up before the final weekend and you could argue that Sagan’s fifth green jersey in a row, albeit very well deserved, was secured as soon as Mark Cavendish packed up and left. Chris Froome’s dominance, and that of his team, led to a straightforward overall victory and the way he took victory was a textbook example of the Sky way.
However, the major disappointment was the complete lack of attacking riding from the other top 10 contenders, Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) grabbing a podium place off the back of one attack and Dan Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) securing a top 10 thanks to some attacks across the race. Richie Porte (BMC) lost some time early in the race and looked to be the best challenger to Froome but the Australian’s charge faltered in the final week and he was reduced, like the rest of the top 10, to just follow Froome and Poels. The final stage really summed the whole race up, despite a podium place being within the grasp of a number of riders the only person to launch an attack was Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), he took some seconds and ended up in 7th.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, the re-emergence of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) had been sensational as had the overall performance of the team. The final week performance of Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) had also been wonderful and he had firmly planted himself in the shop window for next season after his team has disbanded.
Champions on the Champs
Finally we had some racing as Joaquin Rodriguez, on his final ever Tour de France, was given the privilege of leading the peloton onto the Champs Elysees. After soaking up the atmosphere he was mopped up and we had the traditional final breakaway of the Tour consisting of: Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Lawson Craddock (Cannondale-Drapac), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Vital Concept).
Behind there was some very bad news for Etixx – Quick-Step, Tony Martin had suffered through the final stage in the Alps but he’d reached the end of his resources and pulled out before the finish. Added to this, Marcel Kittel required a change of bike and then immediately required another change of bike. He’d thrown his back wheel to the ground in frustration and a slow wheel change meant that he was now a minute behind the peloton. However, some judicious drafting behind team cars allowed him to come back into the fold without sacrificing any team mates as Direct Energie whipped up the pace at the front for their sprinter, Bryan Coquard.
Marcus Burghardt was the first person to give up from the break and he drifted back to the peloton just 15 seconds behind. The other seven continued on despite Thomas Voeckler’s (Direct Energie) hard pace keeping their lead down. Luke Rowe and Wout Poels (Sky) were the next to ignite the stage, they attacked and closed the gap to the break almost instantly. Their presence in the break was the signal for the peloton to pick up the pace and they mopped up the break with the exception of Teklehaimanot who pushed on alone. The Eritrean was brought back but there was an immediate attack by Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) who went clear by himself with 12km left to ride. He was joined by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) as the pace got higher and higher on the Champs Elysees.
Cobbles and Glory
The peloton was now being led by IAM Cycling, who were working for their Norwegian hard man sprinter, Sondre Holst Enger. They were doing a huge amount of work but there was still more than a lap to ride before the final sprint. Their upping of the pace was enough to wipe out the two leaders but there was drama as Holst Enger suffered a puncture with his whole team committed to the front of the peloton. It was game over for him.
The disappearance of IAM Cycling meant that there was a mix of teams on the front of the peloton with Etixx – Quick-Step lurking ominously behind. Just 3km left to ride and Cofidis and Cannondale-Drapac were sharing the lead but there was more drama as, after all the work that Direct Energie had done, Coquard picked up a late puncture and was forced out of contention.
Lotto Soudal were forced to the front with 1.5km left but Etixx were also gathering for Kittel. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) was close to the front with Dan McClay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) on his wheel. But it was Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who opened his sprint first after being left with just one lead out man with 400m left to sprint. The Norwegian went hard but André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) was on his wheel and the German flew by on the right hand side of the road. It wasn’t sprint over yet though as Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) turned on the afterburners and would’ve caught Greipel had the finish line been a little further on.
Greipel had saved his Tour after failing to get the better of Cavendish and Kittel on the sprint stages earlier in the race. But, it was a stunning effort from Sagan to get so close to the German on this pure sprinter’s stage.
Behind there was no drama for Chris Froome (Sky) who wrapped up his third Tour de France, the fourth for Sky. In contrast to Froome, Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) had crashed on the very first sprint finish and had struggled through 20 more stages despite injury and finishing in the last group on almost all of them. He was able to rouse himself for one final effort and came in 9th to cap off a courageous race for the Irishman. His story, and stories like his, are what make the Tour de France.
Tour de France Stage 21 result:
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal in 2:43:08
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
5. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
6. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale-Drapac
8. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
9. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
10. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
11. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
12. Daniel Mclay (GB) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
13. Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling
14. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Etixx – Quick-Step
15. Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ
16. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
17. Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Giant-Alpecin
18. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNl-Jumbo
19. Michael Valgren (Den) Tinkoff
20. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
21. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana
22. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff
23. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Cofidis
24. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Tinkoff
25. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step.
Tour de France Final Overall:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 89:06:01
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 2:52
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3:08
4. Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange at 3:29
5. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC at 4:04
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 5:03
7. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida at 5:45
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step at 5:51
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff at 5:58
10. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 6:16
11. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 13:13
12. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 18:51
13. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 19:20
14. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ at 24:59
15. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 28:31
16. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac at 30:42
17. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Sky at 38:30
18. Stef Clement (Ned) IAM Cycling at 38:57
19. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling at 38:59
20. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 42:28
21. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18 at 47:40
22. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC at 48:23
23. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 52:14
24. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 53:06
25. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 56:33.