We all knew he could win the tour. But we didn’t know when. Well, now we do. I am of course talking about Egan Arley Bernal Gómez. Winner of the 2019 Tour de France. The first Colombian ever to win the prestigious Maillot Jaune. In this week’s Double Espresso we pick apart a thundery end to the Tour, we hail Julian Alaphilippe and wonder if anyone will ever beat the Brailsford led team of Ineos and its trio of winners.
Before we get stuck into the meaty subject of the Bernal’s victory let us swiftly wrap up the stages that graced the last week of the Tour.
With a certain Mark Cavendish not selected for the race it seems that we might have found a suitable replacement in the shape of Australian aero maniac Caleb Ewan. In a bizarre turn of events Ewan’s sprint win in the blisteringly hot Nîmes air perfectly mirrored Mark Cavendish’s entrée to Tour de France stage win glory. Ewan followed in the Manx Missiles footsteps by taking his first and second stage win in Toulouse and then Nîmes as Cav had done in 2008. Stage 16 also saw the withdrawal of Jakob Fuglsang who crashed heavily with 28 km’s to go. This years winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege will have to wait another year to prove his Tour de France pedigree.
The expression where your waiting for a bus, none come for a while and then they all come at once springs to mind when thinking about Mitchelton-Scott’s race. Having not won a stage since 2016 with Michael Matthews, Mitchelton-Scott have waited patiently only to be rewarded with four in this year’s edition. Perhaps luck, perhaps hard work or even inspiration following Daryl Impey’s watershed win on Bastille day. Either way Matteo Trentin rode the perfect race from Pont du Gard to Gap. Unusually for a sprinter he attacked the break at the bottom of the final climb and held off his pursuers to take his first win since 2014 at the historic race.
Stage 18 saw the beginning of the vengeful trilogy of alpine stages that would draw the GC battle to a close. It was to be a double win for Colombia and perhaps sowed the seed of victory for Bernal. On Thursday the 25th of July however it was to be Nairo Quintana who attacked from the break on the Col du Galibier. Perhaps the biggest win on stage 18 was Romain Bardet’s polka dot climbers jersey. The tour took a turn for the worse on the col du Soulor in the Pyrenees for the talented and oh so cool Bardet. This perhaps worked in his favour in the end as he was given ample room to attack and turn his attention to the maillot á pois rouges.
The most dramatic stage of the Tour de France ever? Stage 19 might well be the most qualified contender for this competition. An epic day even before anyone looked at the weather forecast. The stage was stopped just as Bernal and Simon Yates flew down the col de L’Iseran because of a hail storm at the finish in Tignes, that also saw a landslide blocking the road.
It saw the times for the GC taken at the top of the Iseran and just as Yates was furious to be denied the chance of a hatrick of stage wins Bernal was elated to pull on his first maillot jaune. This stage saw Alaphilippe lose the coveted maillot jaune that he held for 14 days.
The following day Egan Bernal lined up at the start with only a shortened stage of 60 km’s between himself and yellow in Paris. 30 km’s flat followed by 30 uphill. Vincenzo Nibali took the last chance for a stage win and just about clung on. A true legend of the sport, having taken 2nd place at the Giro this year he pulled out a big win on a short but fast stage at the end of the Tour. Chapeau to the shark and long may his sparkling career continue.
Finally we have the unofficial sprinters world champs to admire. A true spectacle of strength and power. With the parade done at the start of stage 21 a gallant attempt to ride away from a hungry pack saw 4 riders clip off the front. Never given much of a lead they were reeled in with a couple of laps to go. In the end it appeared that a gun had fired in the bunch as Caleb Ewan shot up the rougher right hand side of the Champs Elysees to take his third win of his first Tour. Yours truly is hailing him the next Cavendish and although that might be a bold statement I really think that he has what it takes. Fives wins in Grand Tours this year he is no stranger to success so as long as he keeps his face out of his front wheel then he should be set to leap up the leaderboard.
With a recap of the stages done and dusted, what does it all mean? Of course a difficult question to answer but here are my thoughts on another beautiful three weeks in France.
Let’s face it. We all wanted Allaphillipe to win. It doesn’t mean we can’t be happy for Bernal but it does mean one thing. The French will still hate team Ineos, formerly team Sky. The dramatic and bizarre end to stage 19 saw Alaphilippe robbed of his opportunity to chase back the long ranging attack of Bernal. I don’t think he could have come back from that deficit but then again when did France need much of an excuse to bear a grudge against the British team?
What is particularly galling for the rest of the World Tour is that team Ineos won the race having not dominated the race. I wrote in the Breakaway Digital tour preview post that I thought the lack of Froome would hamper the dominance of Ineos but in fact it appears to have done the opposite.
No Froome meant no pressure and therefore conservation of much more energy. On the one hand the relative lack of pace applied by Ineos with the intention of blowing the race apart meant that we did indeed have a more open and exciting race. However, on the other hand it meant that Bernal was clearly never really put in trouble, save for his lackluster time trial performance, and with his relative freshness in the closing days was able to capitalise on a quiet Tour.
A big shoutout has got to go to Romain Bardet. From the disaster on stage 14 that saw him lose upwards of 20 minutes he got up, turned his attention to new goals and got stuck in. His podium in Paris certainly gave the French something to cheer about. With the 2017 climbers jersey being won by Warren Barguil, 2018 Alaphilippe and this year Bardet we have seen three different winners of the spotty jersey. Could we see Thibaut Pinot take the glory next year? I think a rider like Bardet will always struggle to win yellow partly because of his weakness against the clock, and also because he always seems to lose heaps of time during the first week. I wonder whether this win for him will spark new hope and I hope we see him defend the jersey next year and maybe take a stage win with it.
What can we say about Sagan? A record breaker, Peter Sagan is unstoppable. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him extend his green jersey’s to 10 or even more by the time he retires.
Bernal is a star. Growing up in very modest surroundings he has proven his worth on the biggest stage cycling has to offer. Perhaps the hardest thing for Bernal now won’t be the fame from the Tour but more how does he fit into Ineos in the future. If as I suspect Froome will be back with a vengeance next year, and if G stops partying over the winter then there will surely have to be some team orders next year. It is hard to see Bernal giving up his place in a team like Ineos but I think moving to a team like Movistar wouldn’t be a bad step. There is no doubt he would be their leader and would have a fiercely strong team to support him, but who would blame him staying at Ineos. What with the large amount of support, knowledge and salary he is probably in the best place there is. One thing is for sure, being 12 years younger than Froome he has fewer commitments outside of riding, therefore more time on his side and clearly no lack of talent. Could we see him win more than the record equalling 5 Tours. Yes I think we can.
Finally we turn to Julian Alaphilippe. Could he have won? Should he have won? Ultimately I think even he knows that he was beaten by the better rider in the end. If you had told him he would come that close to a win at his dream race let alone 2 stage wins and the yellow jersey for 14 days he would have been over the moon. That is if he had believed you. A true team player and a stone cold favourite of Breakaway Digital’s for his attacking and ruthless style of racing he might not have done it this time but we can’t wait to see him back in action at the front of a race doing his crazy thing.
As we bid farewell to the Tour for another year we ought to say a big chapeau to all the riders, team personnel and fans who make the Tour so special every year. As Egan Bernal said in his closing speech Vive le Tour and Vive Colombia!