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WorldTour Wrap: the alternative Tour de France awards

Who are the real winners and losers of the Tour de France? We salute the fruitless efforts, displays of panache and the genuine MVP of the 2017 Tour

In a break from our usual format, we’ve decided to do an awards-style show this week, to celebrate those brave boys (and girls) who competed in and completed the Tour de France or La Course this month.

While Chris Froome stood atop the final podium in the yellow jersey, and Simon Yates won the white jersey, Michael Matthews the green and Warren Barguil the polka dots, there were plenty of other winners and losers of note at this year’s races.

Chris Froome won the yellow jersey, but who the real winners and losers at the 2017 Tour de France? (Pic: Sirotti)

So, without further, ado, here are the WorldTour Wrap Tour de France award winners of 2017…

The utterly pointless effort award

Thomas De Gendt was in more than 1,200-kilometres worth of breakaways across the 19 Tour de France road stages in 2017. In that time, he won exactly zero stages – although he did hoover up as many random KoM and intermediate sprint points as he could.

In popular parlance, he smashed it. In fact, De Gendt loves a breakaway so much, he has kept a record every-single-break he’s been in this season. More than 2,200km. Crazy. 

Thomas de Gendt: 1,100km in the breakaway but apparently not French combative enough (pic – Sirotti)

Which is why the jury for the Tour’s super combativity prize – given to the rider who most animated the whole of the race – gave their prize to, erm, young Frenchman Warren Barguil.

There were some who suggested that the jury being made up of five Frenchman and just one non-French did not help the Belgian De Gendt’s cause. You could even say it was a travesty of justice.

We’ve decided to give our own prize, the ‘utterly pointless effort award’, to try and redress the balance of this injustice. Unfortunately, our jury was also French, and gave the prize to Arnaud Demare’s timed-out domestique Mickael Delage instead. Sorry Thomas, maybe next year.

The ‘une dash de panache’ award

Thomas Voeckler is a legend of the sport, particularly for fans in France. For long years, Voeckler was the only game in town as far as French hopes in their national race were concerned, spending two ten-day stints in yellow and hogging the TV cameras at every opportunity with his trademark gurning. Voeckler was a sponsor’s dream, a rider who could be relied upon to get himself in a break and the logo on TV. He basically single-handedly carried Team Europcar, later Direct Energie, for years.

2017 was Voeckler’s final Tour de France and while his legs may be a bit too shot-out to bring home the fairytale stage win so many fans desired, you could argue we got the next best thing.

One of the young hopes expected to pick up the mantle of French expectation in a post-Voeckler world is Lilian Calmejane, also riding for Direct Energie and also partial to a breakaway. On stage eight, Calmejane lit up the race with a brilliant escapist’s win in the Voeckler mould, slowing down only when afflicted with cramp in the final metres – and as he struggled through the pain, he managed to pay tribute to a departing legend in a truly fitting way.

The Tejay van Garderen Invisible Man Award

Thibaut Pinot. We were surprised when Pinot abandoned the race on stage 17, because frankly we had no idea he was ever in it.

MVP (or should that be MVR?)

The eventual winners of the jersey classifications put in amazing performances at the Tour, as did the leaders of the other GC teams. Bravo, Froomey, Bling, WaWa, Yatesy, and a mega chapeau to BarBar, Rigo and DanDan (we may have made some of those nicknames up).

Chris Froome crossed the Paris finish line with domestique delux Michal Kwiatkowski – our MVP (Pic: Sirotti)

But what about the guys who don’t win, don’t podium, but still put in incredible performances? For that, we award the MVP (most valuable player). This year, we’re giving it to the mighty Michal Kwiatkowski. In any team but Sky, the Polish former world champion has the potential to be a leader in the GC, but in a squad of galacticos he was relegated to smashing the absolute bejaysus out of mountains in service of Chris Froome. And an occasional spot of bike maintenance.

It was while doing the former that we saw Kwiatkowski pull off two of his most baller moves from the whole race. First we witnessed him chucking a pair of PRICELESS Oakley Jawbreakers into the grassy verge as he motored up the Izoard. Presumably he did this because they were about to implode due to all the G-forces being exerted on them from the mighty wattage he was putting down. The second baller move was to ride so hard he literally couldn’t ride anymore, coming to a dead stop after pulling off the front. Michal, you earned this MVP.

Most confusing format

Hands down, this one goes to ASO, organisers of the Tour de France and La Course. The two-stage format of La Course this year was a departure from the old-fashioned Champs Elysees crit race, with a short and steep mountain stage up the Izoard, followed two days after by a baffling pursuit-style time trial in Marseille.

The short length of the mountain stage (just 65km) raised a few eyebrows when it was announced, but the part that really got people scratching their heads was stage two.

The starting times and gaps of the pursuit were determined by the gaps between the finishers on the Izoard, with Annemiek Van Vleuten starting the race 47 seconds ahead of next-placed Lizzie Deignan.

Annemiek Van Vleuten celebrates winning La Course on Col d’Izoard… sort of (Pic: ASO)

In the end, Van Vleuten extended her lead to win by more than a minute, while Deignan slowed down to wait for back-up, in the hope a team time trial effort might be the best way to close down the Dutchwoman’s advantage. It wasn’t.

But whether Deignan’s tactics were wrong, or if the gap Van Vleuten started with was simply too big to bridge remains as clear as mud.

Can we just have a week-long stage race next year, please?

Best shade thrown

This was a close one to call, but in the end we decided to go with the death-stare aimed at the Team Sky train by Steve Cummings, after Froome, Landa et al did their best to shut his attack down and deny him a stage win.

This award could also easily have gone to Lizzie Deignan, who, in the space of a single interview, managed to mug off not only the race organisers of the La Course by seemingly forgetting there was a second stage, but also her own team-mate, Megan Guarnier.

Best soloist

Remember stage four? The stage where Mark Cavendish was knocked down by Peter Sagan as they sprinted for the win, resulting in the world champion being booted from the race and Cavendish withdrawing with a busted shoulder. Well all that hoo-haa actually overshadowed something far more interesting that day.

Guillaume van Keirsbulck reveals how many people rode in the 190km breakaway on stage four (Pic: Sirotti)

Well, not ‘interesting’ in the traditional sense. Actually, a better phrasing would be, ‘notable, but in an incredibly tedious way’. We are of course talking about Guillaume van Keirsbulck’s incredible all-day solo breakaway, which saw the Belgian Wanty Groupe rider cover an almighty 190km. Alone. Completely alone.

He was caught (obviously) and Van Keirsbulck’s name was not heard again in commentary for the rest of the month.

Worst boozer on tour

There’s always a worst boozer on tour, at least, on a traditional sports tour there is. Typically, this poor individual gets a load of stick at the end-of-tour ‘court’, with other tourists deriding their meagre capacity for alcohol consumption.

Now, looking at this video, with that in mind, who might the worst boozer be on Team Sky?

Bet you didn’t watch all four minutes of that video before scrolling down did you? Well, we did. And would you like to know how many times Froome drank from that piddly thimbleful of Kir? Exactly one times. That is poor boozing, even for a professional athlete.

It remains to be seen whether Luke ‘Two Beers’ Rowe is social secretary as well as road captain, or if Michal Kwiatkowski will have to get naked and sing a song on the bus home.

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