Colombian Youngster Wins the Tour de France
The Champs Elysées never disappoints. —2017 Tour winner, Chris Froome
Magic in the French capital
By Roger Childs
18 years ago, I ran down the Champs–Elysées at 6 o’clock in the morning [we assume you were jogging, not escaping —Eds] and there was hardly anyone about. Yesterday there were more than 100,000 people cheering on the Tour de France riders completing their last stage on the famous Avenue.
Following the 10 laps of the Champs–Elysées, the finale of the gruelling, three week bike race was carried out with a combination of French flair, style and panache. There was:-
- the rousing playing of the magnificent Marseillaise
- the fly-past of jets streaming red, white and blue smoke
- the excitable commentator who loves drawing out the last syllable of the winners names
- the statuesque beauties leading riders on to the podium dressed à la mode in appropriate colour dresses to match the jerseys
- the clockwork presentations complete with wonderful trophies for the winners.
An incredible spectacle in this tough sporting event
The television coverage of the 21 stages of the Tour is a treat for the eyes. The executive producer observed that it is not just about the race but a showpiece for the French landscapes and heritage.
Cameras from helicopters make a meal of the visual splendour of tour filming and provide wonderful aerial perspectives of the plains and mountains, castles and cathedrals, villages and cities, peaks and passes, lakes and rivers, bridges and tunnels… not to mention the biking, caught up close by cameramen on motorbikes!
The winner was 22 year old Egan Bernal in 82 hours 57 minutes! –the first Columbian to take the prestigious Tour title. The sprinters’ green jersey went to Slovak Peter Sagan for a record seventh time, while the popular Frenchman, Romain Bardet, won the polka dot jersey for King of the Mountains.
In the general classification, based on overall time, last year’s winner Welshman Geraint Thomas – a team mate of Bernal — was second and Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk was third.
French hope fades in the mountains
Perhaps the unluckiest rider was Julian Alaphilippe. He was the great yellow hope to be the first French winner in 36 years. He picked up the yellow jersey on the fourth stage and battled gamely in the mountain stages to retain it. It was only on Stage 19 in the French Alps that he lost it to the young Columbian.
That stage was the first time this century that a leg in the Tour had to be cut short. On the high slopes of the final climb rain, hail and snow covered the narrow road and slips came off the steep slopes. An alert cameraman caught dramatic footage of a small landslide drifting across the road. Understandably the decision was made to abandon that final climb and take the bike riders’ times over the top of the previous climb.
Aliphilippe did have some consolation in receiving the trophy for the super combative rider.
Survival of the fittest
22 of the starters were forced to abandon for various reasons, mainly because of injuries sustained in the many crashes and pile-ups. However, more than 120 riders survived the circuitous and mountainous route of 3460 km from Brussels to Paris, including Kiwis George Bennett and Tom Scully, even though the former had two nasty crashes on Stage 18.
So the survivors had the joy of riding along the Champs–Elysées yesterday in front of in excess of 100,000 adoring fans, who had gathered from many nations to witness the climax of the most gruelling event in world sport.