Tour de France: Five winners, five losers
PARIS (AFP) — Following the end of the 2015 Tour de France on Sunday, AFP Sport evaluates the winners and losers from this year’s race:
Chris Froome (Sky)
A second Tour victory, the first Briton to win two Tours, and the first rider since Eddy Merckx in 1970 to claim the yellow and polka-dot jerseys in the same Tour, Froome was obviously the big winner this year. After crashing out of last year’s Tour just five stages in, he reasserted his supremacy in the world’s most prestigious bike race. Even being spat at, insulted, accused of cheating, and doused with urine couldn’t dampen his joy.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
The Colombian climber may have come up just short in his victory quest, but he was a lot closer to Froome than he was two years ago and proved that he could threaten and worry the Briton in the mountains. He’s only 25 and as he says himself, he has many more years to come to try to win the Tour.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
The 35-year-old Spaniard broke into tears after Saturday’s 20th stage ahead of his third-place overall finish. It may seem curious for a rider with so many great victories to his name, but it was Valverde’s first time on the Tour podium. Quintana’s evergreen teammate is still as hungry as ever.
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
The burly German has spent the last few years in the shadow of sprint greats Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) and compatriot Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin). At 33-years of age, Greipel might have thought his best sprint years were behind him, but with Kittel absent and Cavendish’s fabled acceleration a distant memory, Greipel won four stages — his best result at the Tour.
If becoming the first African team to ride the Tour de France wasn’t enough, MTN made the most of its debut. Briton Steve Cummings won the 14th stage and Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot wore the polka-dot jersey for four days. The squad’s Tour was a resounding success.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
The reigning champion was one of the “fantastic four” coming into the race but he ended up taking fourth, 8:36 behind Froome. Nibali had a lackluster first week, which included losing 1:28 in crosswinds on the second stage. He then started the second week by cracking in spectacular fashion on the opening mountain stage and his victory hopes were already gone. He did salvage some pride, however, with a victory on stage 19.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)
The two-time Tour champion from Spain had set himself the goal of winning the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double this year. He came into the Tour after winning the previous two grand tours (the 2014 Vuelta a Espana and the 2015 Giro), but Contador simply ran out of energy in France, finishing fifth at 9:48.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
The popular Slovak may have won the green points jersey for the fourth year in a row, but it was his near-misses in stages that were most striking. He has now gone 56 Tour stages since claiming a victory. Second five times, third twice, fourth twice and fifth once this year alone, Sagan tries to hide his frustration, but his team would certainly swap that consistency for a stage win.
Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step)
From 2008 to 2012 he was undoubtedly the best sprinter in the world, but it is now three Tours in a row in which he has had to sit back and watch a German dominate. Cavendish did win a stage, but Greipel won four, just as Kittel did so in both 2013 and 2014. The “Manx Missile” is no longer supersonic.
Finishing second and third last year and with a new generation of talented youngsters, hopes were high for the hosts this year. But crashes and illness wrecked their dreams as Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) all disappointed in terms of the overall standings. The latter two did win a stage but only after their overall hopes had disintegrated. Even sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) could not bring cheer as he crashed out in the first week.