Roundtable: Did Tour de France 2018 live up to expectations?
Another season, another Tour de France in the books — so how does the 2018 vintage stack up?
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Another season, another Tour de France in the books — so how does the 2018 vintage stack up? With cobblestones, a short stage, and plenty of mountains, this Tour promised unpredictable, exciting action. Did it deliver? Can we put this high on our list of favorite Tours in recent memory? Let’s roundtable.
Describe your emotional arc during the three weeks of the 2018 Tour de France.
Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: There were lots of ups and downs. Of course, the first week brings a lot of anticipation, but with a somewhat uninspired first eight stages, lots of top favorites losing time in stupid crashes, and those painfully long sprint stages (7 and 8), I needed a jolt of energy. Stage 9 on the cobbles gave me that, and then excitement kept ramping up through the Alps and into the Pyrenees. Yes, Sky was in control, but it felt different without Froome in yellow.
Chris Case @chrisjustincase: My emotional arc followed a traditional curve: pre-race jitters and first-week butterflies — the anxiety behind frantic sprint finishes — were followed by day after day of fidgeting in my seat, hoping someone, somehow, could break the Sky stranglehold. By the last few days I was resigned to the fact that another year would pass with unbelievable domination.
Dane Cash @danecash: The first week was pretty exciting on the ground in France but with plenty of ups and downs thanks to all the crashes. Heading into the Alps, I started to get nervous that my pre-Tour opinion piece saying that Chris Froome wouldn’t win the race might turn out to be on the garbage end of the hot take spectrum. In the Pyrenees, I realized that Froome’s Tour campaign would fall short. Then, I was able to enjoy some fresher faces (Thomas, Dumoulin, and Roglic) making the Tour GC battle interesting.
What was the high point, and what was the low point of this Tour?
Spencer: I couldn’t get enough of Julian Alaphilippe’s breakaway exploits — winning two stages, bombing descents, sprinting for KOM points, and giving the French something to cheer about. The low point for me was finding out that Vincenzo Nibali had abandoned after a fan’s camera strap caused him to crash. I think we missed out on a lot of potential action in the third week without him.
Chris: Dare I say some of my favorite moments in the three weeks were watching Chris Froome’s tongue dangle from his mouth as he struggled to keep the pace with the other GC stars, and I knew he wouldn’t win his fourth grand tour in a row. Cruel, maybe, but we need variety in this world, and we also need to have some indications that these riders are human. The low point? Somewhere in that second week, when most of the big GC hopes like Quintana and Bardet started to show the signs that they just didn’t have it in them again to make a run for the yellow jersey.
Dane: The high point of the Tour for me had to be John Degenkolb’s Roubaix win. That was a long time coming for the 2015 Roubaix champ after the horror crash he and his Sunweb teammates suffered while training in 2016. Stage 9 also delivered the low point for me: Yet another Tour de France mishap for Richie Porte. I was really hoping to see Porte put his talents on display this July. As a climber and a time trialist, he’s one of the few riders who might have challenged Sky. But once again, he was out of the race before the GC battle heated up.
Was this Tour enjoyable to watch as a fan?
Spencer: I enjoyed the thrill of Fernando Gaviria’s first Tour stage win, the anticipation as Toms Skujins kept the polka-dot jersey until the Alps, the uncertainty of Steven Kruijswijk’s bold solo breakaway to Alpe d’Huez, and his teammate Primoz Roglic’s fearless descent off the Aubsique to win stage 19. I did not enjoy the utter domination by Team Sky that limited the GC race to a few tepid attacks through the Pyrenees. On the whole, yes, it was enjoyable.
Chris: The Tour is some kind of fun. There’s the pageantry, the tradition, the sense of hope, the routine of it all. But I just don’t see it as exciting as many other races on the calendar, especially the other two grand tours. That said, I still watched because hope springs eternal!
Dane: I thought so. I know people complain about the lack of attacks in grand tours, but at this point, I think you need to accept that Tours are not going to be raced like they were in the ’90s and ’00s anymore, and that’s a good thing. The fact that we didn’t know who was going to win until the final mountain stage is a really big deal compared to recent Tours, so I am coming out of the race very pleased with the entertainment value.
How did the Tour change our view of Geraint Thomas?
Spencer: I’ll cop to being a real Negative Nancy when it comes to super-domestiques that try to take on GC responsibilities, but gosh darnit, Geraint Thomas stole my heart this Tour. For all my dislike of Sky’s Borg-like domination of pro cycling, G has a humble, laidback manner and he races with aggression and panache. Plus, he likes to knock back a few beers now and again — don’t believe me? Read Fred’s story on the guy!
Chris: Well, I must admit I’ve never paid much attention to Geraint as a GC contender. He’s clearly been a very solid rider on the road for years, but he’s never seemed to have much success when racing for himself. There’s been hype, whether it be the classics or the Giro. But it’s never quite panned out. All that’s changed. From what those who know him well say, he’s as dedicated as they come. Chapeau, for that. Good things come to those who wait.
Dane: Thomas had already proven to be a super talent in the one week races, both as a climber and a time trialist. All that was left was to prove that he could stay sharp through an entire grand tour, and he did that with aplomb after years of uncertainty. He’s already 32, so I doubt he has a decade of Tour domination ahead, but he’ll certainly be a huge contender for a few more grand tours after putting it all together this July.