My Tour highs and lows

Six Tour de France wins in seven years for team Sky. Again they were boringly brilliant.
It’s a remarkable achievement. Even more so to have achieved it with three different riders – Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and now Geraint Thomas. A Murdoch budget certainly does help.
For the sake of some entertainment I held onto hope of a Wiggins v Froome in house feud.
Froome didn’t have the legs for it to eventuate but it was a credit to both of them that there wasn’t even a hint of tension between them.
And while Geraint Thomas’ on bike performance was impeccable, his victory speech was priceless.
It didn’t have the polish of a Roger Federer, thanking all the right people, saying all the right things. It had something else. No notes, no pre-rehearsed key messages. There was no mask of being an athletic brand. It was the real Geraint Thomas. Topped off with a microphone drop. I loved it.

THE ODD MOMENTS

The Tour always delivers moments that couldn’t be scripted. My top three “you cannot be serious” moments were:

Nude Gate – after winning the first stage Fernando Gaveria was ushered into the private backstage area, to get changed, only to be caught with his pants down, by a cameraman ushered in by a representative of the race organisation. All of it live on television.

Peppering the peloton – the farmers protest, on the stage to Bagneres-de-Luchon, saw the gendarmes cut loose with the pepper spray, which isn’t great in a headwind, and the riders got their first experience of the eye stinging protest stopper. Ouch.

The tackle – it wasn’t a great Tour for the gendarmes. Tackling Chris Froome as he descended off the Col du Portet was a headline grabber. In fairness the gendarmes had a massive task with some of the crowd behaviour, but tackling the four-time winner of the race…

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

Richie Porte’s crash on Stage 9, to Roubaix, felt like a double puncture, 100km from home, with one spare tube for the team at SBS. Last year’s crash was driver error, this year’s was pure bad luck.

Having Vincenzo Nibali and Rigoberto Uran abandon because of crashes really hurt the race. Particularly Nibali, who I’m certain would have animated the final week.

And it was a disappointing Tour for Mitchelton-Scott, who came in with high expectations for Adam Yates. To the teams credit they fought hard for a stage win but that also eluded them.

You win some, you learn some. It was definitely a learning experience for the team.

HIGHLIGHTS

The Young and Entertaining – Egan Bernal, Fernando Gaviria, Dylan Groenewegen, David Gaudu, Dani Martinez, Soren Kragh Anderson, Marc Soler, Pierre Latour. The arrival of this exciting group of riders under 25 years of age has me optimistic about the future of the sport.

John Degenkolb’s emotional interview after winning Stage 9 brought a tear to my eye. The near career ending collision with a car in 2016, the death of a family friend he considered his second father, it all came bubbling to the surface. It was a beautiful moment.

Philippe Gilbert emerging after going over the edge on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet. This was just a few hundred metres from where Fabio Casartelli died in 1995. At the moment of the crash I thought the worst and hoped for the best. He’s alive. Pure relief.

Julian Alaphilippe. Everything he did. Attacking. Descending. Always smiling. He brings as much fun to the race as Peter Sagan. He was superb.


Let the countdown to the start in Brussels next year begin.


 

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 Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.