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Best of the 2017 Tour de France
21 Moments That Made the Race
Words by Jered Gruber
Forget all the other races – there’s nothing that holds a candle to the goliath in cycling: the Tour de France. When it’s all done and the riders are rolling down the Champs-Elysees after nearly 4000k, there’s no other race that leaves everyone with such a feeling of accomplishment, of satisfaction. And it’s from here that we rewind the tape and head back to Düsseldorf, back to Germany, to take in the greatest moments from the 2017 Tour de France.
1. Germany Returns
An enormously talented new wave of German talent has brought cycling back to the fore in Germany – and its popularity was never more evident than at this year’s Grand Depart. Extraordinary.
At times catapulting from 10 bike lengths back to victory, Marcel Kittel might not have finished the Tour de France, but he left with five stage wins and the honor of once again owning the crown as the fastest sprinter in the world.
3. Sunflowers and Long Days
During the 200+ kilometer, flattish stages, the riders try to take it as easy as possible, and the photographers go in search of sunflowers.
The Tour de France gives and it takes away. It births legends forged in the flames of chaos. And it ends seasons and snuffs out careers in the blink of an eye it takes for a crash to unfold.
On Stage 3, Cannondale-Drapac’s Nate Brown rode into the polka dot jersey for two days during his first ever Tour. And a legend was born.
Two crashes changed the face of this year’s Tour de France, and one in particular will be talked about for decades to come. Cavendish returned to the bus with an insecure Sagan waiting to apologize as one of the most dramatic moments of the Tour unfolded.
Richie Porte’s ride on La Planche des Belles Filles underlined the fact that he was a true contender for the Yellow Jersey, and it would only make his catastrophic wreck on the descent of the Mont du Chat a few days later all the more painful.
In the middle of the joyful mob is young Tiesj Benoot. Two years ago, at 21, he turned heads with a 5th at the Tour of Flanders. A steady 20th overall at the Tour is his next step toward a bright future.
Thomas De Gendt pulls double duty – both as a rider that relishes chasing wins off the front of the race, but also one that can control the race with his seemingly endless supply of power. After controlling the race for hours, the pace dials up, up, up, and still, a rider like De Gendt is at the front of the race, drilling it.
Thomas De Gendt spent more than 1000 kilometers off the front of this year’s Tour de France – in every single kind of break imaginable. Chapeau!
11. The People’s Champion: Marcus Burghardt
German National Champion, Marcus Burghardt, came into the Tour as a super domestique for World Champion, Peter Sagan – as well as for Rafal Majka and Emanuel Buchmann. Team fortunes changed, but he made breaks and spent his rest day answering questions from the Strava community using Athlete Posts.
Romain Bardet came within a breath of the overall victory, but a wretched final time trial nearly tossed him off the podium. His confession after the time trial made him even more endearing when he admitted that he didn’t like to train for time trials, because they were so boring and that’s not why he got into cycling.
Take a closer look at the speed and power marked in this chart – that’s where the race blew to pieces. Less than 30 riders made that front group. The effort was herculean.
15. MVP Teammate of the Tour: Michal Kwiatkowski
Kwiatkowski was everywhere, all Tour long – grabbing bottles, riding the front on the flats, riding an incessant, soul-crushing tempo in the mountains, and then he came within a second of winning the final time trial in Marseille. It was a monster performance. Of all of that though, his ride on the Izoard might be his best performance as a teammate. On the barren slopes of the Izoard, he bludgeoned the lead group into small pieces, pushed himself so far that when he swung off – he came to an actual stop. He had given Sky and Froome absolutely everything, then took a moment to catch his breath on the side of the road. Kudos for days.
From the Maurienne Valley to the top of the Galibier, riders gain nearly 2000 vertical meters (6600ft). The Telegraphe/Galibier combo is one of the more difficult climbs in all of cycling – and not because it’s steep – because it’s tough, and it’s gigantic.
The North Side of the Galibier is very nice, but the South Side – that’s where jaws drop and the wows flow like a mountain stream – and the speeds go very, very fast down a road with zero guardrails and huge drops. It’s a hair-raising descent.
To keep this year’s Tour outcome as suspenseful as possible, the organizers cut out most of the time trial kilometers and mountaintop finishes – except for short ones (La Planche and the Peyragudes – for example). They did allow for one classic mountaintop finish though – and it was a doozy: the Col d’Izoard.
20. One Last Chance for GC: the Marseille Time Trial
The Tour was always headed for a showdown in Marseille, the only problem is that Chris Froome is one of the best time trialists in the world – against anyone. He came into the final TT with a half-minute lead and soared onward toward Tour victory #4.
One could say that professional cycling has three truly legendary finishes – the Roubaix velodrome (Paris-Roubaix), Siena (Strade Bianche) and the Champs-Elysees. There’s no better finish to a Grand Tour than Paris. Sorry, Giro and Vuelta – you’re both fantastic – but your Stage 21 will never be able to reach the sky-high bar of Paris.