On-board footage from Marianne Vos' sprint victory in Paris at La Course by the Tour de France.
Editor’s Note: Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) won the inaugural La Course by the Tour de France on Sunday. Rabo-Liv provided this on-board footage from the final kilometer of racing on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
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AG2R La Mondiale won the team classification, thanks in part to Jean-Christophe Péraud's second-place GC finish. In more ways than one, their moment on the final Tour podium represented a new, upward trajectory for French cycling. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
PARIS (AFP) — When the 2014 Tour de France started in Britain, with a British reigning champion riding for a British team, there was the feeling, in some quarters, that a piece of French heritage was being dragged across the channel.
To make things even worse, Dave Brailsford, the British manager of the defending champion’s team, Sky, had almost condescendingly said that his next challenge might be to try to win the Tour with a Frenchman.
The insinuation was that it had been easier to win the Tour with a rider from a country with almost no cycling culture than it would be to do so with a cyclist from the sport’s spiritual home.
For the previous two years, Britain had been the epicenter of the Tour de France as Team Sky won the 2012 and 2013 editions with Bradley Wiggins and then Chris Froome.
On top of that, the best sprinter over the last few years was another Briton, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
French viewers and commentators could only stand back in awe, too, at the reception the Tour got, first in Yorkshire where the first two stages took place, and then along the route from Cambridge to London.
German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) described the crowds as “amazing” while two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) said he had been “speechless” at the reception.
Garmin-Sharp’s American manager Jonathan Vaughters said he’d only ever seen hoards that big on Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps.
Some were asking whether Britain was launching some sort of Trojan Horse takeover of the Grand Boucle.
But already, by the time the Tour left London to reconvene on the shores of its true home, the cracks in British domination were starting to show.
Cavendish crashed out of the race on the first stage, leaving only three Brits in the race.
It took only two more stages for Froome to crash out and leave Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) to dominate the race. Without Froome, Sky capitulated as Australian Richie Porte proved to be a poor substitute leader, finishing the race 23rd overall, more than an hour behind Nibali, and actually behind two of his domestiques.
By the end of the race, Welshman Geraint Thomas was the only Briton left, finishing 22nd overall, almost an hour in arrears.
In the meantime, the French were bristling.
Veteran Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale) proved his 37 years were no barrier to success, gradually improving as the race progressed to climb all the way up to a second place finish.
Behind him, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) secured third place, ensuring France had two riders on the podium for the first time since Laurent Fignon bested legend Bernard Hinault in 1984 for his second Tour win.
French team AG2R La Mondiale won the team competition, helped in no small measure by Péraud but also 23-year-old Romain Bardet’s sixth-place finish and Blel Kadri’s stage 8 win from Tomblaine to Gérardmer La Mauselaine.
In Pinot, 24, and Bardet, the future looks bright for French cycling. They finished first and second in the young riders’ white jersey competition and both held their own with the best in both the mountains and time trial.
As well as those two, France has a whole host of talented, young up-and-coming riders.
Sprinters Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr), 22, and teammate Nacer Bouhanni, 24, were French national road race champions in 2014 and 2012 respectively, with the latter also winning the sprinter’s jersey at May’s Giro d’Italia.
Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), 26, won the Tour’s 11th stage and wore the yellow jersey on Bastille Day. He’s a puncheur who many believe could become an overall challenger.
But the most brilliant of the lot is perhaps climber Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano), who won the Tour de l’Avenir — the Tour de France for young riders — in 2012 and claimed two stages in last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
In Paris, Brailsford’s tone was a bit humbled, though he seemed confident in Sky and Britain’s future.
“We won this race twice and that was fantastic,” he said. “When you win you have to win with dignity, and when you lose you have to lose with dignity. We had the pleasure of winning this great race twice, so chapeau to all the riders who rode well, especially to Nibali and also the French who have done well this year. This year wasn’t our year but we’ll try again next year.
“It’s good for everyone,” the Sky boss added. “It’s good for the French because it is, after all, the Tour de France. It’s good for all of French cycling and we’re happy for that.”
The future of the Tour appears to be bleu, blanc, and rouge — coincidentally the same colors found on the Union Jack.
John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel represent a new wave of German cyclists, hoping to change their nation's attitude toward a sport tarnished by doping scandals. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
PARIS (AFP) — Sprint ace Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) said he will target the green points jersey in the future after winning on the Champs-Élysées for the second year in a row.
The burly German exactly matched his achievement from last year, winning both the opening and final stages among four in total, and he wore the yellow jersey for a day.
And although he hadn’t tried to win the sprinters’ green jersey this year, the 26-year-old said he would challenge for it one day. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) claimed that honor for a third year in a row despite not winning a single stage.
“To think now already about the future is for me personally too much. I would like to enjoy this moment,” said the Giant-Shimano rider. “My goals won’t change regarding my future, especially in the Tour de France. I’d like to go for stage wins. I’m not focusing on records.
“Also, I said many times before the green jersey can be an option for me in the future.”
What the present brought, though, was one record as Kittel’s fourth stage win took the total won by German riders in this Tour to a new high of seven.
Tony Martin added two, including Saturday’s time trial, and Andre Greipel also won a sprint finish on stage 6.
Kittel said that those results sent a message to German public television, which pulled out of live coverage of the 2007 Tour due to doping scandals — including that of 1997 German Tour winner Jan Ullrich — and have not changed their stance since.
“I think that’s a big signal to all fans at home in Germany and a big signal to the media, without going into too many details,” said Kittel.
“Everyone can be proud of it, it’s great to see so many German riders here. You can talk about the seven victories, but don’t forget the two second places of John Degenkolb. With seven plus two that’s half the Tour in which Germans were in front. It shows German cycling is part of the top of the cycling world and that’s awesome.”
In keeping with tradition, the Tour de France peloton followed the Seine into Paris to finish on the Champs-Élysées. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was comfortably tucked into the group as they rounded a bend at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale) had a bit of a scare on the final circuits in Paris. He crashed with less than 44km to go, but the Frenchman returned to the peloton and confirmed his career-best second place GC finish. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The Arc de Triomphe is a welcome site for the Tour peloton after three weeks of demanding racing, inhospitable weather, and frequent crashes. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The French were especially pleased to welcome the Tour to Paris, as two of their own finished on the podium — the last time a native son earned a top-three was 1997. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) was the undisputed sprint king of the Tour. Though he didn't claim the green jersey, he won four stages, including the prestigious final dash on the Champs-Élysées. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Vincenzo Nibali was greeted at the finish by his wife, Rachele Perinelli and daughter Emma Nibali. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel were happy to finish the Tour and even happier to claim victory in a chaotic sprint finish on the final stage. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Michal Kwiatkowski finished third in the best young rider classification, and after the finish, his youthful spirit shone through. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The final Tour de France podium, featuring Thibault Pinot (FDJ.fr), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo). Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
AG2R La Mondiale won the team classification, thanks in part to Jean-Christophe Péraud's second-place GC finish. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Tinkoff-Saxo likely expected a successful Tour, but it's doubtful that the team knew it would play out the way it did. Despite losing its captain, Alberto Contador, to a violent crash, the team won three stages and the mountains classification. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Astana put together a nearly flawless Tour, protecting Nibali through the crowds of England, the rain and cobbles of northern France, and the brutal climbs in the Alps and Pyrénées. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Nibali was the first Italian to win the Tour since Marco Pantani did so in 1998. He was visibly emotional on the podium, alongside Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale) and white jersey-winner Thibault Pinot (FDJ.fr). Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Nibali will likely return to France in 2015 to defend his title. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
China's Ji Cheng (Giant-Shimano) may have finished dead last on GC, but he spent a lot of time at the front of the peloton on sprint stages, bringing back the breakaway on behalf of his team's sprinters. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
PARIS (AFP) — Chinese rider Ji Cheng said he wants to get away from cycling for a while after completing the Tour de France on Sunday.
Ji was a visible member of the peloton over the last three weeks, relishing his role as the “breakaway killer” for his Giant-Shimano team.
And although the 27-year-old did not set the world alight with his performances, he did gain cult status over 3,659 kilometers of racing around France.
But he’s had enough for this year.
Asked what he would do now, he said: “I have no idea. I will try to relax because I got married but 20 days later I came back to Europe for a training camp and then racing and it’s been eight months now since I’ve been home.
“That’s really long, I will try to relax and not think any more about cycling.”
It’s not been easy for Ji, who was expected to ride at the front of the peloton day after day to control breakaway groups and ensure his Giant team would be able to reel them in later so sprinter Marcel Kittel could finish off his work.
Kittel won four stages in total while another German sprinter, John Degenkolb, finished second in two others in which the lumpy run-ins weren’t suited to Kittel’s raw straight-line power.
But Ji’s also had his own challenges to overcome, having suffered from a knee problem.
“The hardest moments were just the first week and the last week,” he said. “The first week had more sprint stages and we had more chances for victories so I was working hard to control the group and working hard on the front. That was a hard week.”
“And the last week because I was injured in the left knee. Already I wasn’t looking forward to the mountains because of my injury which was so painful.
“But the second week was nice for me, I had more time to enjoy the race.”
Enjoyment would be a curious word for a race that lasted more than 90 hours.
And in Ji’s case, he rode for more than six hours longer than winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), in so doing managing the biggest gap between first and last since 1954.
Ji, who was 164th, also finished more than 50 minutes behind the second-to-last finisher and crashed on the final stage on the Champs Elysees, even suffering the ignominy of being lapped by the peloton as it completed eight circuits of the famous avenue.
But every day, Ji managed to get inside the time limit. And it’s not the first time he’s completed a grand tour.
He finished 175th (last place) at the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, although sickness prevented him from completing last year’s Giro d’Italia.
While the native of Harbin in the northeast of China may be the Tour’s “lanterne rouge,” the rider who finishes last, he at least finished, which is more than what 34 other starters managed, among them defending champion Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, and Mark Cavendish.
All three crashed out and Ji says that’s one of the risks in cycling.
“In cycling sometimes dangerous things can happen like a crash, or you can get sick or have a fever,” he said. “It’s normal, last year at the Giro the same thing happened to me. I got very sick before stage five and couldn’t start it.
“It’s really sad but it’s like this. Maybe next year I’ll have this situation. I was pretty lucky really, I didn’t crash or get sick or anything.”
Having made history as the first Chinese rider to compete in the Tour, Ji said he hopes to be a pioneer for his countrymen, but said it will take more than just him to change things.
“I hope so but a cycling project in the country cannot be one man like me,” he said. “Maybe I can show them something but I cannot change anything.
“I hope they can see it’s possible to build a team or train riders to be top professionals. That’s what I hope.”
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Alexandr Vinokourov's presence on Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team staff attracted some criticism during this year's Tour de France. Now, Brian Cookson wants the Kazakh to testify before the anti-doping commission. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The UCI president, Brian Cookson, has called upon Alexandr Vinokourov and Bjarne Riis, the heads of the two most prominent teams in this year’s Tour de France, to testify before the independent commission on cycling’s doping history as a way of helping the sport move on from its past.
Vinokourov, who is in charge of the Tour de France winner’s Astana squad, tested positive for blood doping in 2007. Riis, who is in charge of Tinkoff-Saxo, winners of three mountain stages and the king of the mountains prize, confessed to having used erythropoietin to win the 1996 Tour; he was initially expunged from the record but subsequently reinstated.
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Vincenzo Nibali's Tour de France win has given Kazakhstan the idea to host a Tour start. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
PARIS (AFP) — After Kazakhstan won the Tour de France, the Central Asian state now wants to host the Tour, a top official said Monday.
Rejoicing after Vincenzo Nibali of the government backed Astana team clinched victory on Sunday, Kairat Kelimbetov, president of Kazakh Cycling, told AFP his country wants to host the start of the race like England did this year.
Kelimbetov, who is also head of Kazakhstan’s central bank, said the idea may seem “a joke” now but his oil-rich country is serious and is negotiating for a chance before 2020.
The northern English county of Yorkshire staged the first three days of this year’s Tour de France, bringing millions onto the streets to watch.
“It’s like a joke now, but this Yorkshire experience is very interesting for us,” said Kelimbetov.
“The Tour de France has become global and cycling has become global and everyone was absolutely excited when five million people came onto the streets” in England.
“The idea is to one day bring it to Kazakhstan,” he said. “It took three years for Yorkshire to be prepared and I think we could deliver it also.”
It is some 3,000 miles from Astana, capital of the world’s biggest landlocked country, to Paris. But Kelimbetov said the western tip of Kazakhstan is part of Europe, “so why not?”
Kazakhstan will host the world junior cycling championships next year. The cycling chief said he had asked the UCI, cycling’s governing body, about staging the main world cycling and road racing championships after 2018.
The country’s former capital Almaty is also challenging Oslo and Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
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Vincenzo Nibali won the 2014 Tour de France, and the team's sponsor Specialized commemorated the day with this rather understated (relative to some recent Tour winner's bikes, which appeared to have been dipped in a vat of yellow paint) black and yellow paint job. The team had this bike in France for over a week but kept it separate from the riders — Nibali certainly never saw it. Bike racers are superstitious. Photo: Chris Riekert | Specialized
Yellow highlights all around, and some light fleur-de-lis on the seat tube. Photo: Chris Riekert | Specialized
Plenty of yellow up front. Photo: Chris Riekert | Specialized
NIbali rode the same bike for the entire Tour except for Sunday's stage into Paris. Photo: Chris Riekert | Specialized
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Geraint Thomas rode to the best grand tour finish of his career at the Tour this year. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
PARIS (AFP) — British rider Geraint Thomas has extended his contract with Sky for an extra two years, the British outfit revealed Monday.
Just a day after finishing the Tour de France in 22nd position, his best ever grand tour finish, the 28-year-old Welshman signed on until 2016.
His current deal had been due to run out at the end of this year.
“I’m really happy to be staying with Team Sky for another two years,” said Thomas in a team statement.
“I’ve been here since the start and I firmly believe it is the best place for me to fulfill my potential as a bike rider.”
The double Olympic champion on the track joined Sky from its beginnings in 2010 and is one of eight Britons on the team, a lineup that includes former Tour de France champions Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
Thomas, who also won three team pursuit world titles on the track, has had his most successful season on the road in 2014.
He developed into a top one-day classics rider, finishing seventh at the prestigious Paris-Roubaix and eighth at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
“On and off the bike Geraint is an influential member of Team Sky,” said Sky manager Dave Brailsford.
“Not only is he a strong character but he’s one of a handful of world class riders that can do it all, whether that’s on the climbs, flat, cobbles or time trials, which proves what a valuable member of the team he is.”
Vincenzo Nibali earned the first Tour de France victory of his career on Sunday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) rode resplendent into Paris on Sunday, shining victorious in the yellow jersey and seemingly immune to the danger that befell nearly everyone around him.
The 2014 Tour de France was marked not only by Nibali’s seamless dominance, but also by the chaos that unfolded in his wake.
Pounded by extreme weather throughout much of the race, the peloton succumbed one by one to illness, crashes, and the accumulative effects of the punishment of a challenging course.
When Nibali stood tall, those around him crumbled, cracked, fell ill, or simply fell down.
Nibali admitted that he took his decisive time differences in the first week of the Tour, particularly over the cobblestones in stage 5. His deft bike-handling skills and Astana’s bulldozer tactics over the pavé put him in the yellow jersey for good.
“I was already in the lead [when others crashed out]. I also showed I could climb well,” Nibali said when someone suggested that his yellow jersey might come with an asterisk. “It’s unfortunate that Froome and Contador are not here. I was focused on my race and managed to avoid troubles. My team did a great job.”
The Tour’s final GC in Paris is marked just as much by the riders who stand atop the final classification as by those who are not there.
Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing), sprinter Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) were all gone in the first five days. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), who arrived at the Tour perhaps in his best form ever, never made it out of the Vosges. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), who was hoping to capitalize on his dramatic Critérium du Dauphiné victory, flamed out as well in a dramatic battle into Oyonnox.
The sense of frustration, regret, and what could have happened settled across the peloton.
“I am sure Alberto could have battled for this Tour, even with the time losses on the cobblestones,” said Tinkoff manager Bjarne Riis. “Alberto prepared for this Tour like no other. He was in the best condition of his career. But we’ll never know …”
With several marquee names missing, others were ready to step into the void, but the ravages of cold, rainy weather, coupled with the demands of tension-filled racing across England and northern France, set a chest infection rampaging across the peloton.
Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) was poised to ride onto the podium, but he was zapped by a chest bug that saw him go on antibiotics for a week. He rode through the worst of it, but the collective fatigued caught him out in the Pyrénées. One bad day cost him a shot at the podium, but he recovered to ride to tying his career-best fifth.
“I learned never to give up. I really had to fight through a lot,” van Garderen said Saturday. “I am really proud of my guys and what I did. It shows you can take your lumps, and get back up, and fight to the end.”
World champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) started his first Tour as outright rider, but his body too succumbed to the rigors of Mother Nature.
Richie Porte was Team Sky’s Plan B who moved up to be “Plan A-” after Froome crashed heavily in stage 4. By the time Froome was out the next day, Porte was second overall, with a chance of a lifetime to ride onto the podium. The plucky Tasmanian also fell ill, but unlike van Garderen, who could bounce back, Porte sunk out of the GC for good in two difficult stages across the Alps.
Sky, which left the Tour empty-handed after dominating and winning the past two editions, vowed to return to its “all-for-one” game plan next year. Bad luck is simply part of racing.
“Not many people can win this race,” Sky’s David Brailsford said. “If you’ve got one of those guys who you think can win, my thinking is, let’s go and try to win it. If that doesn’t work, then it’s pretty unlikely that anything else will work, so you go all for ‘Plan A’ if you want to win.”
In sharp contrast, Tinkoff managed to win three mountain stages in a row and put Rafal Majka into the best climber’s jersey, further evidence that perhaps Tinkoff was the deepest team in the peloton.
Those who survived the crashes and the illnesses then faced a brutal final week across the Pyrénées as summer heat finally enveloped the Tour.
Others simply ran out of gas.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) also had an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, riding out of the Alps second overall, but he was wildly inconsistent across the Pyrénées. Instead of attacking, Valverde became the hunted, with the French riders Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) sticking it to him at Hautacam. Unable to respond in Saturday’s time trial, a weary and whipped Valverde could only muster fourth overall.
“I tried as hard as I could, but the legs didn’t respond,” Valverde said. “This Tour was difficult, above all in the final week. There was no chance to recover.”
Others suffered as well. Bauke Mollema (Belkin), who is expected to join Trek next season, was hoping for a top-5 result, but he too was hampered by a chest infection and couldn’t ride with the best in the mountains, finishing 10th.
“The crashes marked this Tour, and I know with Froome and Contador in the race, I probably wouldn’t be on the podium,” said runner-up Peraud. “That doesn’t stop me from feeling an enormous happiness and satisfaction to finish on the podium.”
In the end, Nibali won because he was able to avoid the traps that ensnarled so many others. He was by far the strongest of the riders remaining in the peloton, and there is no need to put an asterisk next to his yellow jersey. He won four stages, wore the yellow jersey nearly from start to finish, and was fastest among the GC riders in Saturday’s final time trial.
Crashing and illness, and avoiding them both, are part of racing. Nibali did both immaculately.
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The Tour champ with his wife, Rachel, and daughter Emma. Photo: AFP
PARIS (AFP) — When Vincenzo Nibali pulled on the race winner’s yellow jersey on the podium beneath the Arc du Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Astana captain was fulfilling in some ways his own destiny.
The 29-year-old Sicilian became the first Italian since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Tour de France, but his success will have surprised no one who knew him as a child.
The Shark, as he has long been known, has been certain about his true calling since falling in love with cycling as a boy in Messina.
He once told a surgeon sewing up a gash in his thigh to “do a good job because I’m going to be a professional cyclist.”
Even back then, Nibali, known as the best and most fearless descender in the peloton, was a daredevil whose escapades regularly necessitated a trip to hospital to be patched up. His mother, Giovanna, said “all the doctors knew his name.”
It was just such single-minded determination that would eventually produce a Tour de France champion.
When he set out at the beginning of this season, Nibali had only one goal in his mind.
“All season I was focusing on the Tour while other riders tried to be strong in every race,” he said.
There was also a certain logical progression to the Astana leader’s success at the Grand Boucle.
Nibali is no Chris Froome, darting out of obscurity as a rider for the Continental squad Barloworld in 2009 to announce himself as a major player with a runner-up finish at the 2011 Vuelta a España. The Italian is the same age as his predecessor as Tour champion, but their career trajectories have been very different.
Right from the beginning Nibali showed promise, winning a stage of the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali as a 21-year-old. A year later he finished 19th in his first grand-tour appearance at the Giro d’Italia.
He developed gradually, finishing sixth at the 2009 Tour and third at the 2010 Giro before winning the 2010 Vuelta, widely considered the least prestigious of the three grand tours.
Nibali’s progress continued with a second-place finish at the 2011 Giro, third at the Tour a year later, and then a Giro victory in 2013.
With Froome and former winner Alberto Contador crashing out of this Tour in the first 10 days and Movistar climber Nairo Quintana skipping the race altogether, having won May’s Giro, nothing could be more logical than seeing Nibali standing atop the winner’s podium.
The Italian simply performed consistently, yet not dramatically, better than his competition, never losing a single second on any stage to any of his overall rivals. He has gradually pulled away from the field rather than blitzing them in a single demonstration of his superiority.
“Every day I’ve taken a few seconds, 20 seconds here, 30 seconds there, maybe a minute and that’s been important in building my lead,” he said.
It has made Nibali perhaps the most credible Tour winner since the darkest days of doping.
But what now remains to be seen is whether or not “The Shark” will have the same bite in 12 months’ time, when Froome, Contador and Quintana will all be lining up to knock him from his perch, not to mention improving young French guns such as Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet.
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Richie Porte had a rough day on stage 13. Unable to keep pace on the final climb, Porte lost almost nine minutes and dropped from second on GC, to 16th place. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
PÉRIGUEUX, France (VN) — Team Sky considers Richie Porte a grand-tour rider for the future despite his struggles at the 2014 Tour de France.
Porte wrote in his online diary that he felt “buckled” after the final mountain stage to Hautacam on Thursday. He went into the 2014 race as plan B after helping Bradley Wiggins win in 2012 and Chris Froome in 2013, and took the reins this year when Froome crashed and abandoned in stage five.
Instead of leading Sky to Paris in yellow, the 29-year-old faded on the first big Alpine stage to Chamrousse and lost 8:48 minutes. He said later that a chest infection might have taken the best out of him, but added that he did not want to look for excuses.
Eyebrows were raised, however. Followers questioned just how reliable and durable Porte is for the grand tour job.
He placed seventh and won the white jersey in his first grand tour, the 2010 Giro d’Italia, but that was largely thanks to taking a massive gain through a mid-race breakaway. In subsequent grand tours, he put his head down, worked, and finished in the 60s to 80s on the classification sheet.
In the 2013 Tour he reached 19th overall, but that was a bit of a letdown for him after he lost 17:39 in the Bagnéres de Bigorre stage.
As the 2014 Tour arrived in Paris, Porte rebounded to take part in a breakaway that saw him last man standing before the peloton finally overhauled him with 7.4km remaining. He finished the 2014 Tour in 23rd place, 1:01:08 behind the victorious Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
But as workers rolled away the stage on the Champs-Élysées, and Sky began to evaluate its Tour de France, its preparation and its riders, it seemed Porte need not fear being relegated to the role of super-domestique.
“There’s no doubt about it,” team boss David Brailsford said of Porte’s leadership ability. “I think in the right race, in the right conditions, the right form … yes. He just needs to get into a scenario where he’s on top and he’s fighting from the front.”
Brailsford added that “absolutely” Porte would have his chance to lead a grand tour again.
“Why not?” he asked.
After the 2013 season, when Porte helped Froome win almost every stage race and pocketed Paris-Nice for himself, Sky selected him to lead its team in the 2014 Giro d’Italia. Porte, though, never reached top speed this spring. He won a stage in the Tour Down Under and pushed on through Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-march, when he fell sick and could not get going again.
“I was where I needed to be, but then I got sick, then sick again on top of that, then a few issues with my bike and things,” he said.
Sky went to the Giro with a team focused on stage wins and left Porte home to recover for the Tour. Ahead of the race, Froome said that his Porte’s training numbers were even better than his and that his Aussie mate could stand beside him on the Paris podium.
But the foul weather that contributed to Froome’s crash out of the Tour likewise brought down Porte with illness, leaving Sky without a GC leader and others wondering if Porte has the ability to lead a grand tour team.
“It knocked the wind out of his sails, to be honest. Like everything, you dust yourself down, you recalibrate, you set yourself new goals,” Brailsford said.
“Has he got the physical ability to be up there in GC in a grand tour? The answer is yes. That’s a fact. Can he do it, mentally and physically? I think he can, but he hasn’t so far. That’s a fact.”
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Marcel Kittel wins the finale in Paris, his second on the Champs-Élysées and the fourth of this year's Tour. Photo: AFP
PARIS, France (VN) — He went from the challenger to the sprint king in one short year. And if there had been any doubt, Marcel Kittel’s 2014 Tour de France confirmed his place as the sprinter’s man to beat. All told, Kittel won four stages at the Tour this year, including the finale in Paris, and asserted himself as the fastest man in the peloton.
For his Giant-Shimano manager, this was the Tour the young German needed. Last season was his surprise crashing of the party. This season was his rightful seating at the head of the table.
“It’s more difficult, eh? Last year, when you challenge somebody it’s nice. You can only win. But this year he can only lose,” Iwan Spekenbrink told VeloNews.
“Especially the first stage. I had a big respect for him. You saw the tension. For all the sprinters second place was not an option. They were so tense. And that he managed to get above himself. After the pressure that he has from himself and from the outside? I think that he proved there that he is one of the three now.”
The other two main men in the sprints, Spekenbrink said, are Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Mark Cavendish and Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel.
Kittel won a yellow jersey for the second year running, and now has eight stage wins in the last two Tours, more than any other true sprinter. His Giant-Shimano squad is also the best in the leadout business right now, making Kittel even harder to beat.
The handsome sprinter with the movie-star hair (and aviator shades) fits the bill physically, without question. But in interviews he lacks that famous sharp edge most of them — the best, anyways — seem to possess. It’s a bit of a gentle-giant vibe he puts out.
But Spekenbrink says he’s just as focused as anyone, if not more so. Just as driven.
“Marcel is a sprinter … For a sprinter, second is the first loser,” he said. “And so they have that tension that you have to cope with. And in the end he wants to win badly.”
For Giant, the success here isn’t something that happened simply on the legs of Kittel, or off the wheel of John Degenkolb. It’s just one more day in a long process that began months, years, ago.
“We make goals and we prepare on every detail as good as we can. Training. Nutrition. Equipment. Focus. Rest. Innovation. And when we do all the steps right then the result is outcome,” Spekenbrink said.
“Then you perform at your level or even above your level. That’s how you perform. You are good. If it’s five, it’s five; if it’s three, it’s three; if it’s one, it’s one … That way we keep developing.
“We focus not on ‘You have to win today,’ but we focus on the work that we do from November. Then here at the start basically we have not so much to say anymore.”
After the 2014 Tour, Kittel doesn’t have to say a word.
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The jersey winners of the 2014 Tour de France. Photo: AFP
The final podium in the 2014 Tour de France. Photo: AFP
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) collected the final yellow jersey of the 2014 Tour de France on Sunday in Paris as Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won the 21st and final stage, a 136km leg from Evry that ended with a sprint on the Champs-Élysées.
Kittel took his second win on the fabled boulevard ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp).
“I was hoping I could still make it,” said Kittel after collecting his fourth stage win of this Tour. “Kristoff really held against me. I tried to pass him. At one moment, he couldn’t accelerate any more, and that was my moment. I’m super proud and very happy.”
On the overall, it was Nibali triumphant by 7:52 over Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) with Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) third.
“This is the most beautiful moment of my life,” said Nibali. “It is even more beautiful than I imagined. I dedicate this success to my team and my family. It’s like a fairy tale.”
As Astana led Nibali onto the finishing circuit first Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), then Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) had a go, before a four-man break went clear — Richie Porte (Sky), Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Seche Environnement)
Péraud had a fright early on, sliding out with less than 44km to go, but remounted and rejoined with the help of three teammates.
“It’s never easy in the race, and I never do things simply,” he said afterward. “I suspected something was going to happen.”
A few kilometers further along Kristoff punctured and likewise found himself frantically chasing the bunch.
With 25km to race the break had shed Fonseca and had just 18 seconds’ advantage.
As the bunch closed in Svein Tuft and Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), Marcel Sieberg (Lotto-Belisol) and Samuel Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) tried to bridge to the leaders, but fell short.
Porte would be the last man standing, but not for long. He was yanked back as a light sprinkle began to fall, with 7.4km to go.
Then Lotto, Katusha and Giant set about arranging themselves for the sprint, only to see Simon Clarke (Orica-Green-Edge) take a last dig.
With 4km to go Clarke had seven seconds over the bunch. But he, too, was caught and Giant, Omega Pharma and Katusha all went to war in the final 3km, with Kittel taking the final stage —and Nibali the final yellow jersey — of the 2014 Tour de France.
“I fought for this every day,” said Nibali. “I started building from a long way out with a winter preparation with the team because we had decided this was our objective.
“I want to thank my team because when you achieve an objective, you do so together, not just those here with me but also those back in Italy. It’s a success that I want to dedicate to all the staff in the team and to my family, my wife, Rachelle, and my daughter Emma.
“If it hadn’t been for my parents who have supported me since the beginning then I wouldn’t have been here. I’ve never felt more emotional in my career.”Race note
Before the men took center stage, Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv) won the inaugural La Course by Le Tour de France, an 89km race using the same finishing circuit as the men would attack later in the day.
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Vos (right) beat out Wild (center) and Kirchmann (far left) in a hectic sprint finale.
PARIS, France (VN) — As if it were ever in doubt.
World champion Marianne Vos won the first La Course by Le Tour de France in Paris on Sunday, in an excruciatingly long sprint up the bumpy Champs-Élyseés. She coasted through the sunny finish here in her white jersey with rainbow stripes, smiling and happy; a rider used to making history adding another line to her ever-lengthening story.
Dutch rider Kirsten Wild (Giant-Shimano) finished second, with Canadian national champion Leah Kirchmann (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) taking third. Just centimeters separated the three riders at the line.
“We started the sprint at the same time,” Vos said. “Then I had one gear left, then I pushed the extra gear, and I felt I was going to win. But you’re never sure till you’re over the line.”
After the race, Vos’ Rabo-Liv teammates pooled around her, hugs and smiles for the champ on the world’s grandest cycling stage. It may have been a long time coming, this event for women’s cycling, but it was here now, and that much wasn’t lost.
“It’s only the very first but it’s really prestigious. Everybody was focused on this race. Everybody was motivated to show themselves. And the whole world was watching,” Vos said. “There were a lot of sprinters. Good sprinters here. On the cobbles, slightly uphill with the wind … it’s not easy to win. But definitely that makes the win even better.”
Indeed, the cycling world was watching. The crowds were large but not huge, but the event was broadcast in more than 150 countries.
“Definitely this is a start in the right direction for women’s cycling,” said Specialized-lulumon’s Carmen Small. “And to be on such a big platform — the crowds were great today. And what was it,  countries live, something like that? So that’s incredible in itself. I think everyone’s pretty excited, as this is a start for showcasing women’s cycling.”
The race itself — 90 kilometers played out in the early afternoon sun on a splendid summer day — was hectic, with attacks off the front and little control from Vos’ Rabo-Liv team.
“The last couple circuits were pretty active. Lots of attacks and everything. I think at the end of the day everybody wanted it to come down to a sprint finish. Pretty surprised there wasn’t one main, dominant team in the leadout,” UnitedHealthcare’s Coryn Rivera said. “I felt like it was really scattered. But yeah, I was just surfing wheels from the last K or so … there was a crash by the barriers kind of like, you know, put everyone on their toes, but yeah, it was being like third or fourth, through that last corner.”
Rivera finished sixth on the day, a place behind Shelley Olds (Ale Cipollini), the best-placed U.S rider.
Kirchmann, the Canadian champion, rode a tactically astute race to finish on the podium. “In the last few corners, I was looking for the big sprinters in the race and wanted to play off of them,” said Kirchmann, “I saw Wild come by me very fast and I knew she was a favorite to win the race, so I hopped on her wheel and followed it all the way into the final straightaway to have a chance at the podium. It was our goal to get on the podium here and I am incredibly excited to be part of such a historic event for women’s cycling.”
The avenue, which plays host to the men’s race hours later, is cycling’s hallowed sprint ground, and one of the world’s iconic boulevards. Not that people could notice.
“I don’t know about anyone else but I was suffering pretty bad out there,” Small said. For UHC’s Scottie Wilbourne it was her first one-day race in Europe.
“I’m pretty whupped,” she said. “It was awesome. It’s a pleasure to be here … I’m pretty new to UHC, so I was pretty honored to be asked to be a part of it. I’m just happy to be here.”
Full results from the inaugural La Course can be found here.
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Vincenzo Nibali says he would not have had the opportunity to win the Tour de France without the sport's improved anti-doping tests. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
PARIS (AFP) — Vincenzo Nibali said he would never have had a chance to win the Tour de France had it not been for recent improvements in anti-doping efforts.
The 29-year-old Italian is widely regarded as a clean rider, and his impending victory at the 2014 Tour is seen as proof that cyclists can win without cheating.
The reaction to his success is a far cry from that which greeted Lance Armstrong’s seven consecutive wins during the darkest days of blood doping and use of the banned substance Erythropoietin (EPO).
When Armstrong won his first Tour — he has since been stripped of all seven — there was no test for EPO. Throughout his reign, testers were struggling to keep up with the cheats.
But now with random out-of-competition tests and the biological passport, cycling has come a long way.
“Steps have been taken and great progress has been made, and with it so my results have arrived,” said Nibali.
“I have to thank them (doping controllers) because without these iron controls maybe I wouldn’t be here today.”
Barring a disaster on Sunday’s final stage procession that culminates on the Champs-Élysées, Nibali will join a select group of six riders to have won all three grand tours — after taking the Vuelta a España in 2010 and Giro d’Italia in 2013.
He admitted that while each grand tour had its merits, there was something special about winning the Tour.
“For me the Vuelta was the most important because it showed me that I could aim to win big tours like the Giro and the Tour in the following years,” he said.
“As an Italian it’s obvious that for me the Giro is very important but it’s also special for the Italian fans. But what makes the Tour so much bigger is the international attention it demands. It’s different, it’s bigger, it’s more beautiful.
“The level of competition is also higher than the others, although I had great rivals in both the Giro and the Vuelta.”
Nibali will become the 10th Italian to win the Tour but he said he still has some way to go to match the achievements of the likes of Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Felice Gimondi.
And he said he still has many ambitions left in the sport.
“I’ve taken my place in the history of the Tour and that’s very important, but those others also made their names in other great races, such as the classics,” he said.
“I never thought about making history, I just concentrated on trying to win the Tour, like I won the Giro and the Vuelta, because I’m a stage racer.
“Of course there are other races that I want to to win, like the Tour of Lombardy in which I’ve come close many times but not had the luck. Or the World Championships, which I tried to win last year, or Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“I’ve always liked these races and I’d like to try to win them, even though I’m more suited to stage races.”
Nibali has won four stages in this Tour and has never had a bad day or lost time to any of his rivals on any stage.
But he said Sunday would probably top all the joy he’s had over the last three weeks.
“I’m used to the emotions, it’s not my first Tour nor my first win in a grand tour. But there have been a lot of emotions and victories, such as the one in Sheffield [on the second stage], although I think the best one will be on Sunday.”
After that, he still has one more aim for the season, to win the world championships in Spain in September.
“That’s a good dream. I tried last year in Florence because I was in good form but things didn’t quite go as I’d hoped.
“But I will try to do it, and who knows, although after the Tour it’s difficult to arrive at the end of the season in good form.”
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Bianchi has a brand new time trial frame, the Aquila CV. The CFD-designed frame borrows technology from a bike at the opposite end of the road spectrum, Bianchi's Infinito CV endurance bike. The Countervail material used in both frames is designed to remove vibrations within the frame. The Aquila appears to be a significant step up from Bianchi's current Pico frameset, cleanly integrating both brakes and all cables and housing into the frame. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The front end of the Aquila is much cleaner than the Pico's. In fact, it's one of the cleanest bikes on the market. The front brakes are integrated neatly into the fork and all cables, housing, and Di2 wires are tucked away inside the handlebars and frame. The base bar is a NACA airfoil and is designed and built by Bianchi. The extensions are from Vision. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The CV stands for Countervail, a special layer embedded within the carbon fiber itself that is designed to remove vibrations before they reach the rider. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Geometry has been adjusted from the Pico to reflect modern time trial fits. That means the head tube is a bit taller, the seat tube angle is now 76.5 degrees and the head tube angle is 72 degrees. The stem and base bar are integrated into the top tube and the stem is available in 90, 110, and 130mm lengths. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The down tube has been dropped and tucks tightly around the front wheel. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The rear brake has been moved away from the seat stay and is now tucked in behind the bottom bracket. That means Bianchi could make the seat stays very short and flow them into the seat tube smoothly. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Bianchi has exclusive rights to the Countervail material, which can also be found in things like helicopter blades and snowboards. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
This bit of Di2 wire, and another even shorter one near the front derailleur, are the only two wires visible anywhere on the frame. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Many brands are shortening seat stays and attaching them lower on the seat tube as a way to decrease aerodynamic drag. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The rear TRP linear pull brake is tucked into the chainstay behind the bottom bracket. The front brake is also a linear pull design, and is hidden inside the fork. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Stout chainstays should keep the rear end stiff. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The Aquila CV will be available with both Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2 builds, but is also compatible with mechanical drivetrains. There is a triathlon version coming as well, though details of that model were scarce. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
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Peter Sagan has locked onto the Tour's green jersey aboard this custom-painted Cannondale SuperSix EVO, built with SRAM Red, a Cannondale Hollowgram SRM power meter, FSA cockpit and seatpost, Fizik saddle, and Vision wheels. Gold and green accents throughout the frame certainly set it apart, but most glaring, of course, is the pair of Sagan eyes staring out of the top tube. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Sagan seems unbeatable in the green jersey competition. He's just too consistent, able to take points on stages that see all the other top sprinters dropped. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Sagan eyes, glaring at you from his top tube. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
A Slovakian flag graces Sagan's 120mm FSA stem. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
These deep Vision Metron 81 tubulars are only used on completely flat stages, and only when the forecast calls for light to moderate wind. In the right conditions, though, they are a great sprint weapon. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Gold EVO accents on Sagan's fork. The SuperSix EVO is one of the lightest production bikes available, just about 700 grams for a 56cm frame. Sagan's is probably at least 100 grams heavier simply because it has so much paint. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The seat stays of the EVO are flattened to provide a bit of comfort. It's one of the stiffest bikes to go through the VeloLab test process, and testers marked it with some of the highest ride quality scores ever as well. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The SuperSix EVO doesn't have a heavily sloped top tube, as many modern bikes do, so Sagan doesn't have much of his FSA seatpost sticking out of the frame. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
The SuperSix EVO is also one of the few top-tier frames to use external cable routing. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Sagan and the rest of his Cannondale team use SRAM Red mechanical drivetrains. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Elite Cannibal cages. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Sagan doesn't have any odd cockpit preferences. Just a 120mm stem and 42cm bars, both at a normal angle. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Sagan's mechanics use a few Nokon links to smooth the transition from brake housing to frame. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Cannondale pulled out all the stops for Sagan's custom Tour de France bike. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Sagan uses a Cannondale Hollowgram crankset with an SRM power meter spider. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
Sagan and team get custom green on their SRAM Red levers. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com
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