2018 Tour De France Recap

The 105th Tour de France began in Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, opening a week late (July 7) to accommodate the World Cup. This year's Tour featured eight riders per team rather than nine. The U.S. broadcast on NBCSN highlighted 15 contenders: Romain Bardet, Tom Dumoulin, Christopher Froome, Jakob Fuglsang, Mikel Landa, Dan Martin, Vincenzo Nibali, Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana, Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas, Rigoberto Uran, Alejandro Valverde, Adam Yates, and Ilnur Zakarin.

Froome, the winner of the last three Grand Tours, was considered the favorite. Entering the race, the strongest teams appeared to be Froome's Team Sky and the Movistar Team featuring co-leaders Landa, Quintana, and Valverde.

Stages 1-3

The General Classification got an early shake-up as a result of multiple crashes in the final 10 kilometers of Stage 1, with Froome, Porte, and Yates all losing over :50. The key sprinters survived, however, and TDF rookie Fernando Gaviria out-dueled his peers to win the stage and the yellow jersey. Gaviria got caught in a crash on the final turn of Stage 2, and Peter Sagan won the sprint from a reduced field. On day three, BMC Racing won the team time trial, earning 2016 Olympic Road Race champion Greg Van Avermaet the yellow jersey of the race leader. While several contenders' teams lost significant time, the losses largely balanced the issues from Stage 1, leaving most of the top riders relatively even.

Van Avermaet's teammate Tejay Van Garderen was tied for the race lead (+ :00), with Geraint Thomas (+ :03) third, Tom Dumoulin (+ :11) seventh, and most of the other contenders :30 to 1:30 back. The exception was Movistar's Nairo Quintana (+ 2:08), who lost over a minute due to a poorly-timed (and poorly-handled) mechanical issue in Stage 1. Sagan (104 pts) led Gaviria (78) in the Points Competition, while Team Sunweb's Soren Kragh Andersen wore the white jersey of Best Young Rider, with a 1:08 advantage on his nearest rival. Dion Smith and Kevin Ledanois tied for the Mountains lead, with Smith wearing the polka dot jersey on a tiebreaker.

Stages 4-6

Stage 4 offered a thrilling finale, as the four-man breakaway was caught at the 1 km banner, followed by a near-photo finish in which Gaviria edged Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel at the line. Michael Matthews, who won the green jersey last year, withdrew before Stage 5 due to illness, further solidifying Gaviria and especially Sagan as this year's green jersey contenders. A stressful day of racing throughout the field, the stage saw Direct Energie put two riders in a contentious four-man breakaway, then launch Rein Taaramae with 10k to go after the break got caught. The peloton recovered, but Quick-Step failed to sync the tactics of its multiple stage contenders, and Sagan won the uphill finish.

Crosswinds in Stage 6 fractured the peloton, and several General Classification contenders suffered crashes or mechanical problems on or near the final ascents, both of the Mur de Bretagne. Dan Martin charged the second climb to win the stage, earning a time bonus, plus small gains on most of his competitors and large gains on a few, such as Romain Bardet and Tom Dumoulin, who collided with 5.5 km remaining and needed new bikes.

Heading into day seven, Van Avermaet retained the maillot jaune, with Geraint Thomas (+ :03), Tejay Van Garderen (+ :05), and Julian Alaphilippe (+ :06) all within 10 seconds of the lead. Most of the major GC contenders were :45 to 1:45 back, within striking distance of one another.

Sagan maintained a narrow lead over Gaviria in the Points Competition, while Trek-Segafredo's Toms Skujins led the climbers and Soren Kragh Andersen comfortably kept the white jersey of Best Young Rider.

Stages 7-9: The Cobbles Take Their Toll

The 2018 Tour's longest day of racing was also its calmest, with minimal drama before Dylan Groenewegen's perfectly-timed sprint victory. Groenewegen won again in Stage 8, but his triumph was overshadowed by the relegation of second-place Andre Greipel and third-place Fernando Gaviria, for jostling each other in the finale. It was a harsh penalty with significant ramifications for the green jersey. Gaviria lost his 20 points, while Peter Sagan moved up from fourth on the stage to second, gaining 12 points as a result of the judges' decision, a 32-point swing that left Sagan with a 63-point lead.

The most dreaded day of this year's Tour came not in the Alps or the Pyrenees, but in the Hell of the North, the cobblestones on the road to Roubaix. Tensions were high throughout the day, with dozens of crashes and mechanical problems, even outside the cobbled sections. Team BMC leader Richie Porte broke his collarbone for the second year in a row, and backup option Tejay Van Garderen, who started the day just :09 back, suffered three flat tires and a crash, losing nearly 6 minutes. Teammate Greg Van Avermaet survived the war of attrition and expanded his GC lead, but lost the final sprint to Trek's John Degenkolb. Although Porte was the only major casualty, many overall contenders suffered injuries, lost time, or both.

Approaching a much-needed rest day before beginning the Alps, Van Avermaet led by :43, with Geraint Thomas still the closest competition. The other GC contenders were between 1:30 to 3:00 back, with Dan Martin (+ 3:22), who crashed near the end of Stage 8, the only exception. Sagan continued to consolidate his lead for the green jersey, with Skujins still in polka dots and Soren Kragh Andersen holding a dominant 7-minute lead among young riders.

Stages 10-12: The Alps Define the Tour

The first mountain stage of this year's Tour saw a strong breakaway build and hold a massive lead that Team Sky, leading the peloton, treated with minimal urgency. Julian Alaphilippe won impressively, but was overshadowed by race leader Greg Van Avermaet, who made it into the break, held on through four massive climbs, and finished fourth, winning combativity honors and expanding his GC lead by a minute and a half on a stage when he was expected to yield the yellow jersey to Geraint Thomas or Alejandro Valverde.

The expected GC contenders mostly finished in a group (+ 3:23), trailed by secondary contenders Rafal Majka, Bauke Mollema, and Ilnur Zakarin (+ 4:14), who worked as a group after getting dropped on the final climb. The big loser was last year's second-place finisher, Rigoberto Uran. Possibly limited by injuries from a crash on the cobbles, Uran finished 5:59 behind Alaphilippe and fell out of realistic competition for the podium, more than two minutes behind the other contenders and roughly four minutes behind Valverde and Chris Froome. The other potential loser was 2017 Tour de France hero Warren Barguil, whose charge up the Col de Romme faltered and who finished 11 minutes behind Alaphilippe, gaining latitude to pursue KOM points and stage wins, but falling out of GC contention.

A short stage with three brutal climbs, the next day started off boring and ended up incredibly dramatic. Sky allowed a 45-man break to gain a substantial lead, keeping the peloton mostly intact, until Movistar's Valverde attacked on the Col du Pré, while Damiano Caruso, Warren Barguil, and Mikel Nieve shook up the breakaway. Nieve rode away with 9 km to go, but after Valverde animated the heads of state, they finally reeled in most of the lead group, catching Nieve in the final kilometer. Geraint Thomas attacked on the final climb to win both the stage and the yellow jersey, with his teammate Froome and Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin in second and third, respectively. Rigo Uran, dropped for the second day in a row, abandoned the Tour before Stage 12.

Stage 12, featuring a finale atop Alpe d'Huez, was the best day of racing on this year's Tour, exciting from start to finish. A powerful 30-rider breakaway included 6th-place Steven Kruijswijk (+ 2:40), the white jersey (Pierre Latour), the polka dot jersey (Alaphilippe), and multiple second-tier GC contenders, including Valverde, Zakarin, Nieve, Barguil, Majka, Mollema, Tejay Van Garderen, and Pierre Rolland. They put immediate pressure on the peloton and on each other, creating race-within-a-race drama in both the lead group and the yellow jersey group, plus questions about whether Kruijswijk or Valverde (+ 4:28) might take yellow.

Kruijswijk rode away from the others with 72 km to go and expanded his lead over the peloton to more than six minutes before getting caught 3.5 km from the peak of Alpe d'Huez. In the final kilometer, the lead group of Dumoulin, Froome, Thomas, Romain Bardet, and Mikel Landa played chicken with each other before Thomas sprinted to victory, expanding his lead. The race was marred by a crash with 4 km to go. A spectator accidentally took out Vincenzo Nibali, who remounted and finished just :13 back, but withdrew from the tour that evening with a fractured vertebra. The crash likely cost him an iconic stage win, but it also ended the Tour of a very strong podium contender, fourth place at the time of his withdrawal.

Leaving the mountains behind, 10 riders held a massive lead over everyone else: Team Sky's Geraint Thomas (maillot jaune) and Chris Froome (+ 1:39), Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin (+ 1:50), LottoNL-Jumbo's Primoz Roglic (+ 2:46) and Steven Kruijswijk (+ 3:43), AG2R's Romain Bardet (+ 3:07), Movistar's Mikel Landa (+ 3:13) and Nairo Quintana (+ 4:13), UAE Team Emirates' Dan Martin (+ 5:11), and Astana's Jakob Fuglsang (+ 5:45). Everyone else was more than nine minutes behind Thomas.

The Alps revealed the General Classification contenders, but also shattered most of the top sprinters. Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel missed the time cut on Stage 11, while Dylan Groenewegen, Andre Greipel, and Fernando Gaviria all dropped out during Stage 12. Their abandons left Peter Sagan in control of another boring green jersey competition, with Arnaud Demare, Alexander Kristoff, and John Degenkolb the only other sprinters of any consequence remaining to contest flat stages. Alaphilippe led the competitive Mountains Classification, with 84 points to Barguil's 70 and Serge Pauwels' 63. Latour (+ 16:41) led the underwhelming white jersey competition, 1:58 ahead of Wanty captain Guillaume Martin and 4:41 in front of 21-year-old Egan Bernal.

I think Paul Sherwen should ask Bernal to marry him. Bernal rode well on Alpe d'Huez, but Sherwen was unprofessionally effusive in his gushing over Bernal.

Stages 13-15: A Brief Respite

Following three brutal days in the Alps — featuring four Category-1 mountains and six Beyond-Category climbs — Peter Sagan won a sprint in Stage 13, and Astana's Omar Fraile won from the 32-rider breakaway in Stage 14. Primoz Roglic led the main field 18 minutes later, followed by the three strongest riders left in the Tour: Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, and Geraint Thomas.

I understand why Team Sky allows breakaways to go 20 minutes up the road, and to some extent I understand why teams like Movistar and Astana didn't consistently put their highly-placed number two and threes riders into the breaks, but I just don't think it's good for the sport to have uncontested breakaways. Part of the drama in cycling is wondering whether the break can stay away. I feel like race organizers should incentivize the contenders to contest every stage, and there are lots of ways to do that. They could offer large time bonuses for winning mountain stages, double mountain points on finishing climbs, increase the cash prize for Most Aggressive Rider ... I almost always feel a little cheated when the break gets a free pass.

It happened again in Stage 15, which came right before a rest day and had a late Category-1 climb. There's no excuse for the GC contenders to bypass an opportunity like that! The breakaway took a long time to form — partly because teams knew that the stage winner would come from that group, so everyone wanted to be in it — but eventually contained 29 riders, most of them very strong. Attacks narrowed the break to three riders, and Magnus Cort Nielsen won a sprint over Ion Izagirre and Bauke Mollema. The main field came in together 13:11 later, with Dan Martin the only rider who made an attempt to shake things up.

A reckless crash from a chase group at the end of Stage 15 took out five riders and led to the withdrawal of Serge Pauwels, who had been third in the Mountains competition, but the Tour headed into the rest day and the Pyrenees with no significant changes in any of the classifications..

Stages 16-18: The Pyrenees Animate the Tour

Another day, another stage the breakaway won by 9 minutes. With a few quickly aborted exceptions, none of the top teams or riders made any attempt to challenge the main field, instead saving their energy for the following day's queen stage. The race was also interrupted by farmers protesting on the race course, and some idiot who tried to pepper-spray the protesters but ended up gassing more than a dozen cyclists. The stage was temporarily neutralized to clear the road and treat the affected riders.

Fortunately, we got an exciting breakaway that featured climb points, repeated attacks, and a couple of noteworthy crashes. Quick-Step's Philippe Gilbert, leading the stage by over a minute with about 50 km to go, was involved in one of the scariest crashes I've ever seen. Remarkably, he recovered to finish the stage, but later withdrew from the race with a broken knee. Robert Gesink led a number of attacks, and Adam Yates crested the final climb with a 20-second lead, but Yates crashed on the descent and finished third, :15 behind Gilbert's teammate Julian Alaphilippe, who won his second stage and built a 49-point lead in the King of the Mountains competition.

Stage 17 had the craziest profile I've ever seen: only 65 km, with two Cat-1 climbs and an HC finish. The whole day was ascent or descent, beginning immediately with the Col de Peyresourde and a seeded grid start. The latter had no impact, as the beginning of the stage resembled the beginning of every stage, with a breakaway ahead of the peloton, the latter moving slowly enough that Luke Rowe led the group over the first climb. Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana attacked on the next climb, however — forcing a response from the other leaders, dramatically reducing the size of the yellow jersey group, and eventually passing the breakaway, with Astana's Tanel Kangert the last rider caught. Quintana and Martin stayed away, gaining :57 and :23 respectively, and Primoz Roglic also led several attacks. Geraint Thomas sprinted away from Tom Dumoulin and Roglic at the finale, while Chris Froome lost a little time, with Romain Bardet and Jakob Fuglsang losing several minutes each.

A mostly flat Stage 18 was calm, apart from an ugly crash that injured Quintana. He didn't lose any time, but took his injuries back into the mountains the following day. With Sagan also injured, from a crash in Stage 17, Arnaud Demare won the sprint finish, besting Christophe Laporte and Alexander Kristoff.

Heading into the final day of climbing, Thomas held an imposing lead in the General Classification, with Dumoulin (+ 1:59), Froome (+ 2:31), and Roglic (+ 2:47) the only riders within realistic striking distance. Sagan clinched the green jersey as long as he survived to Paris, while Alaphilippe maintained a massive 140-73 lead over Barguil in the climbs classification, and Latour had a comfortable edge over Guillaume Martin (+ 6:27) and Egan Bernal (+ 8:31) among young riders.

Stages 19-21: Conclusion

I wrote earlier that Stage 12, featuring Alpe d'Huez, was the best of this year's Tour, and it probably was, but Stage 19 was thrilling. A talented breakaway including 13th-place Bob Jungels and King of the Mountains Julian Alaphilippe was joined on the ascent of the Col du Tourmalet by a powerful chase of Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet, Ilnur Zakarin, and Rafal Majka. Zakarin's Team Katusha drove the peloton to position the chase group, and Landa's teammate Andrey Amador was instrumental in leading the chasers up the road.

An 11-man breakaway featuring two riders within 5:15 of the race lead apparently did nothing to ruffle Team Sky, even as Chris Froome slipped to a virtual fifth place, but LottoNL-Jumbo felt the pressure and put Robert Gesink at the front of the peloton to narrow the gap. On the final ascent, Landa, Bardet, Zakarin, and Majka rode away, while Lotto's Steven Kruijswijk and Primoz Roglic attacked the yellow jersey group. The leaders were finally caught near the top of the climb, though Majka stayed away to summit first. Roglic attacked on the descent and won the stage by :19, with Geraint Thomas and Bardet out-sprinting the others for the second- and third-place time bonuses.

Quintana, perhaps hurting from the previous day's crash, lost seven minutes and dropped from 5th to 9th. Jakob Fuglsang lost time as well, and Zakarin replaced him in the top 10 of the GC.

The individual time trial in Stage 20 was unusually dramatic. Michael Hepburn completed the course in 42:15, a lead which held up for nearly two hours, but many of the top contenders were even faster, and Hepburn finished 10th. World champion time trialist Tom Dumoulin beat Froome by :01, but Froome moved up to third in the General Classification after Roglic, normally an excellent time trialist, finished eighth and lost 1:12. Geraint Thomas, who won an individual time trial in last year's Tour, finished third on the day and easily retained the yellow jersey, but there were other shake-ups in the top 10. At last year's Tour, Landa beat Bardet by 1:12 and nearly stole his position on the podium. This year, Bardet finished 1:15 ahead of Landa and moved up to 6th place. Quintana, always poor in TTs, finished more than four minutes behind Dumoulin, losing his 9th place overall to Zakarin.

On the last day, Yves Lampaert's late breakaway in the final kilometer got caught, and Alexander Kristoff won the final sprint over John Degenkolb, Arnaud Demare, and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

General Classification

1. Geraint Thomas (GBR), Team Sky, 83:17:13
2. Tom Dumoulin (NED), Team Sunweb, 83:19:04 (+ 1:51)
3. Chris Froome (GBR), Team Sky, 83:19:37 (+ 2:24)
4. Primož Roglič (SVN), LottoNL-Jumbo, 83:20:35 (+ 3:22)
5. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), LottoNL-Jumbo, 83:23:21 (+ 6:08)
6. Romain Bardet (FRA), AG2R La Mondiale, 83:24:10 (+ 6:57)
7. Mikel Landa (ESP), Movistar Team, 83:24:50 (+ 7:37)
8. Daniel Martin (IRL), UAE Team Emirates, 83:26:18 (+ 9:05)
9. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS), Team Katusha-Alpecin, 83:29:50 (+ 12:37)
10. Nairo Quintana (COL), Movistar Team, 83:31:31 (+ 14:18)

This was an interesting Tour partly because of what it seems to promise for the future. Is the Froome Era finished, or was he simply tired from winning the Giro d'Italia? Will Dumoulin and Roglic continue to improve? And perhaps most intriguing, will more teams attempt to use the multiple-leaders model that was so successful for Sky, LottoNL-Jumbo, and Movistar? Sky had a backup when Froome faltered, while other top teams used their secondary riders to pressure the peloton while protecting the leader.

Points Classification

1. Peter Sagan (SVK), Bora-Hansgrohe, 477
2. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), UAE Team Emirates, 246
3. Arnaud Démare (FRA), Groupama-FDJ, 203

This was a disappointing Tour for green jersey enthusiasts. Most of the best sprinters left the race by the end of Stage 12, including 2017's winner (Michael Matthews), runner-up (Andre Greipel), and winningest rider (Marcel Kittel), as well as all-time winningest sprinter Mark Cavendish, and a pair of riders who combined to win four of the first eight stages (Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen). Sagan rode brilliantly, but he won a party that no one showed up to.

This competition is boring every year, mostly because Sagan wraps it up halfway through. At the risk of being unfair to Sagan, it would be more interesting for fans if organizers reduced the number of hilly stages and uphill finishes, and eliminated the intermediate sprint points.

Mountains Classification

1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Quick-Step Floors, 170 points
2. Warren Barguil (FRA), Fortuneo-Samsic, 91
3. Rafał Majka (POL), Bora-Hansgrohe, 76

Second and third place went to former Kings of the Mountains, but Alaphilippe dominated this competition just as convincingly as Barguil did last year. Alaphilippe appears to be a brilliant young talent, but I'm hesitant to make bold proclamations after Barguil's disappointing result this year. Next year, I'd like to see Tour organizers do more to incentivize the top GC riders to pursue the polka dot jersey. Alaphilippe was genuinely excellent in the mountains, but Barguil and even Majka don't deserve to rank ahead of riders like Thomas, Dumoulin, and Roglic, who ranked 4th through 6th.

Young Rider Classification

1. Pierre Latour (FRA), AG2R La Mondiale, 83:39:26
2. Egan Bernal (COL), Team Sky, 83:45:05 (+ 5:39)
3. Guillaume Martin (FRA), Wanty-Groupe Gobert, 84:01:31 (+ 22:05)

Despite the disappointment of no young riders in the top 12, this was a promising race for the future of the sport. Latour won white despite working for teammate Romain Bardet, while Bernal did the same for Team Sky and looks like a future GC contender after his performance in the mountains. Martin had a bad day in the Pyrenees, but rode well with minimal support from his team. Announcer Paul Sherwen was very, very enthusiastic about Daniel Martinez, and Søren Kragh Andersen was impressive, wearing white throughout the first week and finishing 5th in the individual time trial.

Most Aggressive Rider

In a year with no clear standouts, the Super-Combativity Award was voted to Dan Martin. I was surprised by the selection, when I might have expected it to go to Julian Alaphilippe, Rafal Majka, or Alejandro Valverde. I can understand, though, why the judges prefer to reduce redundancy with the Mountains Classification, and Martin certainly animated the Tour with his attacks. If he's not one of your favorite riders, I don't know why you watch cycling.

That said, I thought Movistar and LottoNL-Jumbo did more to animate the race than Martin did. I'll never begrudge Martin a fitting honor, but on that basis I might have preferred to see Valverde, Landa, or Kruijswijk recognized.

Team Classification

1. Movistar Team, 250:24:53
2. Bahrain-Merida, 250:37:26 (+ 12:33)
3. Team Sky, 250:56:07 (+ 31:14)

Sky is always the strongest team, but this competition deservingly went to Movistar, which had three GC riders in the top 14 and which rode far more aggressively than Sky, using breakaways to facilitate time gains.

Most Successful Teams at the 2018 Tour de France

Subjectively, I've divided the 22 teams at the 104th edition of the Tour into three groups: Very Successful, Moderately Successful, and Not Successful. The top eight "very successful" teams combined to win all four leader jerseys, the team competition, the Most Aggressive Rider award, and 16 of the 21 stages.

Very Successful

1. Team Sky — Won the yellow jersey for the sixth time in seven years. They had two riders on the final podium, Geraint Thomas won two stages, Egan Bernal ranked 2nd among Young Riders, and they placed 3rd in the team competition. They have an incredibly strong team, with domestiques who could be team leaders on a different squad. I wish they would diversify their tactics, though. Sky's strategy makes for dull viewing: they deliberately minimize drama. That's smart in the short term, but I think it damages the sport. I love the war of attrition in mountain stages, and Sky avoids attrition, controlling the peloton but keeping the pace as slow as possible. Racing should be more art and less science.

2. LottoNL-Jumbo — Primoz Roglic's fall from the podium on Stage 20 was disappointing, but they won three stages, had two top-5 GC riders, and finished 4th in the Team Classification.

3. Quick-Step Floors — Last year's team leaders, Marcel Kittel and Dan Martin, both rode for other squads, as did their champion pace-maker, Julien Vermote. But Julian Alaphilippe won two stages and the King of the Mountains, Fernando Gaviria won two stages and wore yellow for a day, and Bob Jungels ranked 11th in the General Classification. Their four stage wins were the most of any team.

4. Bora-Hansgrohe — They came to the Tour expecting to win the green jersey with Peter Sagan, and positioning Rafal Majka as a GC or mountains contender. Sagan won three stages and the green jersey, while Majka placed 3rd in the mountains and won a combativity award.

5. Movistar Team — Maybe this is a reach after they brought three leaders to the Tour and placed none of them in the top six of the GC. But they got a stage win from Quintana, combativity awards from Valverde and Landa, and 1st place in the team category. They also won a lot of fans in the last three weeks. While Sky tried to slow things down and keep everyone together, Movistar animated the race with frequent attacks from credible challengers.

6. Team Sunweb — Recovered nicely from the early loss of team leader Michael Matthews. Tom Dumoulin won a stage and ranked 2nd overall, while Soren Kragh Andersen spent a week in the white jersey.

7. UAE Team Emirates — Dan Martin won on the Mûr-de-Bretagne, and Alexander Kristoff won on the Champs-Élysées. Martin ranked 8th in the GC and was named Most Aggressive Rider, while Kristoff finished 2nd for the green jersey.

8. AG2R La Mondiale — Romain Bardet's 6th-place finish was a disappointment after back-to-back years on the podium, but that's a high bar to maintain; Bardet rode well. Pierre Latour won the Young Riders competition, wearing the white jersey for the final two weeks of the Tour.

Moderately Successful

9. Astana Pro Team — Team leader Jakob Fuglsang fell short of expectations, 19:46 off the race lead in 12th place. But he did draw some attention in the climbs, and Astana won back-to-back stages with Omar Fraile and Magnus Cort Nielsen. Tanel Kangert was named most combative rider of Stage 17, and he ranked 16th in the GC, making Astana one of only five teams with multiple riders in the top 20. They ranked 5th in the Team Classification.

10. Trek-Segafredo — Bauke Mollema tried everything. A three-time top-10 finisher, he ended up more than an hour off the race lead. A strong climber in the mountains, he ranked as high as 3rd in the KOM Classification, but finished outside the top 10. A stage winner last year, he placed 3rd on his best day. At least he got some camera time.

Toms Skujinš spent several days in polka dots, both Skujinš and Jasper Stuyven won most aggressive rider honors — Stuyven was a hero on Stage 14 — and John Degenkolb won Stage 9.

11. Groupama-FDJ — Asserted themselves in the final week of the Tour, leading the peloton on flat stages. All eight of their riders finished the Tour, and Arnaud Demare won Stage 18. Demare finished 3rd in the green jersey competition.

12. BMC Racing Team — They won the team time trial on Stage 3, and Greg Van Avermaet spent eight days in the yellow jersey. Both Michael Schär and Van Avermaet won combativity prizes. It was a successful Tour, but this team had higher expectations, and never really rebounded from Richie Porte's withdrawal.

13. Bahrain-Merida — I don't know where to rank them. Vincenzo Nibali crashed out due to fan interference, and without that incident, I believe he would have won at least one stage and finished on the final podium. I don't make excuses for riders who crash due to poor judgement, but Nibali crashed due to something unrelated to sport. Sonny Colbrelli, Domenico Pozzovivo, and the Izagirre brothers all had good moments, but nothing that would constitute a successful Tour. They got 2nd place in the team competition, and that carries a nice prize.

14. Direct Energie — The most active, aggressive, and visible team in breakaways, they won most aggressive rider in five of the 18 stages it was awarded, with 18-time Tour veteran Sylvain Chavanel, Jérôme Cousin, Damien Gaudin — the only rider to win twice this year — and Fabien Grellier. Lilian Calmejane and Rein Taaramäe also had moments in the spotlight. They made the most impact of any wild card team.

15. Team Katusha-Alpecin — Since I didn't mention it last year ... the team named should be pronounced Katyusha; the Cyrillic character ю is pronounced "you" (not "oo"). Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin both abandoned the Tour without winning a stage, but Ilnur Zakarin ranked 9th in the General Classification. Katusha lost half their team before Stage 13, but rode valiantly to support Zakarin, especially in Stage 19.

Not Successful

16. Wanty-Groupe Gobert — Pretty good race for a wild card team. Yoann Offredo was named most aggressive rider of Stage 1, Dion Smith wore polka dots for three days, and Guillaume Martin challenged for the lead of the young riders competition. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck — of whom I am an eternal fan for his 200 km one-man breakaway last year — got into a few breakaways.

17. Team Fortuneo-Samsic — Team leader Warren Barguil ranked 2nd in the Climbs Classification, but showed none of the magic he had last year. Kevin Ledanois led the climbs competition on the first day, and Laurent Pichon won a combativity prize, but not a memorable one. It was a pretty quiet Tour, but at least the wild card teams have an excuse.

18. Cofidis — All eight of their riders completed the Tour, but maybe they would have been better served riding more aggressively. They got into a few breakaways, and Christophe Laporte placed 2nd on Stage 18, but they didn't have an impactful three weeks.

19. Mitchelton-Scott — You couldn't ask for more likable athletes than the Yates twins, but Adam Yates ranked 29th in the GC and crashed on his best chance to win a stage. Mikel Nieve rode a little better, finishing 23rd and flirting with a top-10 GC position in the Alps. Luke Durbridge was named most aggressive rider of a stage without much aggression, Michael Hepburn rode a good TT, and Daryl Impey got on TV a few times.

They were one of three teams to wear yellow-and-black jerseys — LottoNL-Jumbo and Direct Energie had them first — and it made them hard to distinguish, especially from Lotto. The dark blue Orica-Scott jerseys they wore last year were easier to pick out.

20. EF Education First-Drapac powered by Cannondale — First of all, this team name is much too long. I'll call them EF Education First, or Education First-Drapac, and EF-Drapac actually has a nice ring to it — sounds like an MLS team — but this unwieldy monster of a name is unreasonable. Danny Martinez drew adoration from the U.S. announcing team, but 27th-place Pierre Rolland was their highest-placed rider. Lawson Craddock, who suffered a devastating crash in Stage 1, raised over $220,000 for the Alkek Velodrome by staying in the race all the way to Paris. The determination of riders like Craddock and his teammate Taylor Phinney, who broke multiple bones in his face from a crash in Stage 19, made an unfortunate contrast with team leader Rigoberto Urán, who dropped out of the race after he lost too much time to win a high position in the GC. I get that Urán wanted to save energy for the Vuelta a España, but we hear all the time how much the Tour means to these riders. Urán's teammates showed it, and he showed the opposite. They didn't have a good Tour, but Craddock salvaged some positive publicity.

21. Team Dimension Data — Brought a strong team to France, with nothing to show for it. Mark Cavendish flashed none of the old magic, and Mark Renshaw missed the time cut for the second year in a row. Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tom-Jelte Slagter were unable to make up for their absences, and Serge Pauwels, a polka dot jersey hopeful, abandoned the Tour with an injury caused by Damien Howson.

22. Lotto-Soudal — Only three of their eight riders made it to Paris, and they finished last in the team competition by a huge margin. Andre Greipel only challenged for one stage before exiting the race in the Alps. Thomas De Gendt made some noise in breakaways, and looked like an early contender for Most Aggressive Rider honors, but kept a lower profile in the final week.

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I found this year's Tour de France frustrating. I'm happy for Geraint Thomas, a long-time domestique who finally got a chance to shine, and I enjoyed watching Julian Alaphilippe reach his potential. Stage 12 and Stage 19 were dramatic and entertaining, and there were lots of smaller moments I appreciated along the way.

But cycling has to contend with boring competitions. The green jersey race dominated by Peter Sagan is a snooze. He's a talented cyclist and there's nothing wrong with his winning, but it would be more fun if he didn't hold an insurmountable lead for the final two weeks. Even more importantly, Sky's domination of the peloton is bad for the sport. They actively and deliberately work to reduce drama on every stage, to maintain the status quo. It's good strategy, but it's terrible entertainment. Without Lotto-Jumbo's unexpected success and Movistar's all-star team, the third week could have been a terrible bore. Sky has great riders, and I wish the team would modify its tactics to let those riders shine a little more, even if that means risking positions.

I really appreciate NBCSN's coverage of the Tour, but a few of the announcers got on my nerves this year, especially with a hero-worship approach to riders like Peter Sagan and Egan Bernal. Paul Sherwen in particular would benefit from reining in his enthusiasm and letting riders' accomplishments, rather than his regard for them, dictate the nature of his coverage.

There's a lot to look forward to in the sport's future, but there are looming problems that need to be addressed, as well. The Vuelta a España begins August 25.

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