The Tour de France came to an end on the Champs Elysees in Paris over the weekend. That’s where the sprinters of Le Tour got the chance to strut their stuff one last time, with “pocket rocket” Caleb Ewen demonstrating why he is amongst the fastest men on a bike right now. But more importantly, we saw what could be the start of a new era in cycling, as a young 22-year old rider by the name of Egan Bernal went home in the famed Yellow Jersey.
Bernal’s win capped three weeks of racing that were amongst the most interesting, exciting, and down-right fun in recent memory. At times, it seemed as if there were at least four or five riders who could win the race, with France’s Julian Alaphilippe gamely holding on to the Yellow Jersey as long as he could. Meanwhile, behind him lurked defending champ –– and Bernal teammate –– Geraint Thomas, as well as a who’s who of other great young cyclists. This made for a very competitive race, which ultimately wasn’t decided until Friday or Saturday of this past weekend, with both of those stages shortened due to bad weather, mudslides, and other difficulties.
Alaphilippe held his own as long as he could, but he isn’t a rider built to win Grand Tours and his team wasn’t one designed to defend the Yellow Jersey. In the end, he cracked in the Alps, sliding down from first to fifth overall in the final days of the Tour. As he dropped back however, Bernal rode to the occasion, attacking on State 19 and taking more time in stage 20. By the time he arrived in Paris on Sunday, the race was over and he was already celebrating. Thomas rode in support and took second place overall, while Steven Kruijswijk took third on the podium.
As the youngest winner in the modern age of the Tour, and the first rider from Colombia to finish at the front of the Peloton as well, Bernal’s life is about to change dramatically. He was already an rising star back in his home country and now he’s going to be a megastar. Expectations about his future are running high as well, especially since most riders don’t enter their prime until their late 20s and early 30s. That means he may have a decade of dominance ahead of him, although nothing is ever a sure thing in the world of competitive cycling.
Peter Sagan shrugged off a poor start to his cycling season to handily win the Tour’s Green Jersey for the seventh time in his career, which is a new record. Sagan would have won the last eight Green Jerseys had he not been disqualified from the race back in 2017 for bumping with another rider. Still, he looked as dominant as ever in this year’s Tour and is likely to win several more Green Jersey’s before the end of his already-storied career. The Polka Dot Jersey –– awarded to the best climber in the race –– went to Romain Bardet, while the White Jersey for the best young rider under the age of 25 goes to Bernal naturally. Also of no surprise was that Julian Alaphilippe was awarded the title of “Most Combative” rider, meaning the most aggressive overall.
Next year, thanks to the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Tour de France will start a few weeks earlier. That means we don’t have to wait as long to see these riders in action again. While the start of the race is still months away, fans are already thinking about the possibilities however, with not only this year’s riders back to challenge one another, but four-time champ Chris Froome expected to make his return alongside perennial contender Tom Dumoulin. Both men were out this season with injuries, but will certainly change the competitive landscape in 2020.
Congrats to Egan Bernal for such an impressive win. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching him develop into an even stronger rider over the next few years.
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