AFP looks back over the 2019 Tour de France at those who reached beyond the norm and those who failed to deliver what had been expected of them.
Will go down in Tour history for an unrelentingly valiant ride with his bullet-like super tuck downhill charge, and his uphill short-climb kick, had a human touch and sheer guts as he thrilled France with his unlikely 14 days in yellow.
The Jumbo-Visma Team
The most improved team of the Tour with a first-day yellow jersey for Mike Teunissen, a sprint win for the grumpy speed king Dylan Groenewegen, rookie Wout van Aert emerging as an all-round man for the future and a team time-trial win all helping to put their man Steven Kruijswijk onto the podium in third place.
After winning his first sprint Ewan said the photo-finish victory was ‘almost worth leaving Australia for’. The 22-year-old ended the 2019 edition with three stage wins, one more than either Simon Yates or Julian Alaphilippe. In fact he lives in Monaco, and can put his three wins in the bank and look forward to winning more.
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Yates came to the Tour having flopped at the Giro d’Italia and was riding under the radar as sherpa for his twin Adam. He emerged from the shadows to close out a pair of breakaways and come home with his first two Tour de France stage wins. He told AFP he would next target the 2020 Olympic road race in Tokyo before turning his attention to the Tour de France in 2021.
The course designer has to be given a certain amount of credit for putting together 21 stages that encouraged the breakaways that ignited such a thrilling Tour and for placing the Alpine trilogy that ultimately decided the race right at the end, maintaining the suspense, even after the weather almost undid his work.
The Dane came into the Tour de France on the back of a Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day win where, he said, he had decided to win or die, and a one-week Criterium du Dauphine triumph that suggested he was a potential Tour champion. But the Astana captain built a reputation as a gripe when he moaned after losing time on the stage to Albi saying no-one had warned him about a crosswind, a claim that exasperated his bosses. His disappointing Tour ended when he crashed out, through no fault of his own.
Came to the 2019 Tour looking for a place in the top five or even the podium spot but struggled every time the going got tough on a climb. He was also unable to keep up in a breakaway of lesser riders on the Galibier after the main contenders decided to ignore him and let him go.
In the end, Bardet just about redeemed himself with the king of the mountains jersey, but the man who finished on the Tour de France podium spots in 2016 and 2017 was a flop having apparently overtrained and by Sunday was almost half an hour behind Bernal. After losing more than a minute to the big guns on the first big climb, up to La Planche des Belles Filles, he stopped at the finish line, wiped out. He cut a sorry sight as compatriots Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot shone.