The 5 Defining Moments of the 2014 Tour de France
This entry was posted on August 4, 2014.
It's been a little more than a week since the 2014 Tour de France ended with Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali from team Astana grabbing the victory. His win was largely dominant -- he led for 18 of the 21 race days this year and took the first spot in four stages. It was an incredible ride, and if you're like some of us, you're now suffering from a little bit of TdF withdrawal. To help you relive the good times, here's our pick for the top five defining moments from this year's Tour.
5. The falls
This was a year of falls, and some of the top riders suffered because of it. Chris Froome, the 2013 overall winner of the race, fell three times over the course of stages 4 and 5, and was forced to withdraw after being diagnosed with fractures in his left wrist and right hand.
Alberto Contador, widely seen as the #1 or #2 favorite to win the race, crashed during stage 10 and fractured his tibia. The Spanish rider is recovering but has been forced to miss the Vuelta de Espana later this month.
Another top rider, Mark Cavendish out of Britain, was forced out of the race due to a crash on the very first stage. During the sprint, a tangle with Simon Gerrans took Cavendish down, dislocating his shoulder and causing ligament damage.
The American rider Andrew Talansky was forced to pull out of the Tour as well after a serious crash during the final sprint of stage seven.
It's never nice to see so many falls in the Tour, but it does define the race.
4. Close, but not quite
The precision displayed by riders in the Tour is incredible. A breakaway will have a lead of minutes, and yet the aggressive elements of the peleton or other breakaways seem to reel them in more often than not. Stage 15 was an incredible example of this. New Zealander Jack Bauer -- who'd ridden hard in a two-man breakaway for the entirety of the day -- was caught less than 50 yards from the finish line, and ended up finishing 10th.
Alexander Kristoff, of Norway, took the stage victory, and Bauer ended up cursing. He had led for some 221.9 km of the total 222 km race day, and put in an incredible ride with almost everyone expecting him to grab the stage victory. But it was snatched out from beneath him with just a few pedal strokes to go. A New Zealander has never won a stage in the Tour de France.
3. Podium finish for the French
2014 was a good year for the French. Two French riders, Jean-Christope Péraud and Thibaut Pinot finished in second and third place respectively - the first time in 17 years that a Frenchmen was on the podium.
A victory at the Tour de France has been even longer in coming for the French. It's been a long 29 years since the great rider Bernard Hinault claimed his last victory, in 1985. Another French rider, 23-year-old Romain Bardet, rode well and finished in sixth position overall, leading many to wonder: is 2015 the year for the French?
2. Stage 2 - Nibali takes the lead
It was only on Stage 2, a 201 km ride from York to Sheffield in the North of England, that Vincenzo Nibali made his first mark. In a gritty, determined finish down a steep, downhill section, Nibali rode away from the pack over the last few kilometers to take the victory. Contador, Froome, and a few other riders including Peter Sagan, didn't react quickly enough to Nibali's attack to catch him.
The victory only gained him a few seconds over his chief rivals, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, who both left the race in later stages due to crashes, but it established Nibali as a serious contender and set the tone for the rest of the tour.
1. Stage 10 - Nibali cements his lead
About halfway through the Tour, the peleton moved into the mountains, and Nibali cemented his lead with a commanding win on stage 10. The climb, known as the Plance des Belles Filles, started out with a break led by the young Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski. He led most of the stage, but was caught by Nabili and the rest of the general classification leaders with a few kilometers to go.
Nibali rode the stage with precision, poised in the peleton most of the day with his teammates doing the heavy lifting. It wasn't until the end of the race that Nibali put his foot on the gas, dropping the peleton and soon catching the last remaining rider from the original breakaway, Joaquim Rodriguez. Nibali took the yellow jersey and over 2 minutes lead on his nearest rival.
Honorable mention: Bike cams
This year, bike cams - small cameras mounted on the front and rear of the racer's bicycles - have finally showed up at the Tour. They've been allowed in other races for some time, and they make for some spectacular footage. We're looking forward to seeing more of this in the coming years.
Funny moment: Demare's bathroom break
In the midst of Stage 14, French national champ rider Arnaud Demare was a few seconds ahead of the pack when nature called. The rider pulled off the side of the narrow mountain road, spoke briefly to a spectator, and then entered the man's RV to use the facilities. It was an unexpected, and comic, moment.