This was the thirteenth Tour de France that I’ve worked on and it surpasses any of the previous twelve, including 2011 when Cadel Evans won.

That was a great edition. Yet this year was even better.

Entering the final alpine stages, with two days remaining in the mountains, it was still possible any one of six riders could win.

The French were on a high with Julian Alaphilippe in yellow and Thibaut Pinot being proclaimed as the most likely to end the 34 year French draught.

The defending champion, Geraint Thomas, wasn’t the clear leader of his team as Egan Bernal always looked superior in the mountains.

Steven Kruijswijk had his Jumbo Visma team fully commitment and he looked a genuine chance to win.

And Emanual Buchmann was riding el la Cadel of 2007 and 2008, not making any mistakes, no signs of weakness and shaping up as an unlikely hero.

Even the epic eight second, Greg Lemond vs Laurent Fignon, 1989 edition was a simple battle of two men.

This year there were six genuine contenders in the final wee.

The race was an emotional roller coaster and full of uncertainty. I’ve never had so much fun in the commentary box.

Alaphilippe surprised everyone by not just defending but extending his lead in the individual time trial. Fittingly closed out like a teenager on a BMX with a skid across the finish line, on his ITT bike.

Marc Madiot blew a gasquette when Pinot won on the Tourmalet.

Then I suffered from sudden on-set hay fever when Pinot abandoned the race in tears a few days later. It was heartbreaking to watch.

But even this drama was surpassed…just three hours later when Mother Nature won the most combative prize by forcing Stage 19, to Tignes, to be called to a premature halt. Don’t argue with a landslide.

I could hear everything on race radio, as the organiser was trying to communicate with the team cars, and I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. It was padomoniam everywhere.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, on that same day Bernal took the yellow jersey from Alaphilippe and looked set to become the first Colombian to win the Tour.

The final day in the mountains, reduced from 130km to 59km (again, don’t mess with Mother Nature) and Bernal consolidated as the French hero of the Tour, Alaphilippe, cracked and slipped from second to fifth.

Alaphilippe didn’t win the Tour but he did win the hearts of all of France, plus a few more beyond those boarders.

As Bernal rode into Paris in yellow, Geraint Thomas has secured second and Steven Kruijswijk was possibly the happiest third place finisher in the race’s history.

Then, on the Champs Elysées, Caleb Ewan shot from clouds to win his third stage of the race and Robbie left with me a bruised right shoulder as he rode every pedal stroke.

I was emotionally exhausted. But the joy of the race had one more act to play.

Then at 22, Colombia’s Egan Bernal, decked out in yellow embraced his brother, mum, girlfriend and dad, with a religious ritual and I was once again struck by sudden on-set hay fever.

As curtain draw the 106th Tour de France to a close there was a barely a dry eye in Paris.

 


 

Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.