Cycling is an incredibly diverse sport, spanning all regions, terrains, and biomes. In the winter, cyclists jump on their fat bikes to cycle through the snowy bike trails, such as those at Methow Valley. When the summer arrives and also through the autumn, mountain biking becomes one of the go-to ways to ride around and explore some breathtaking scenery. Through practice and experimentation, many find that mountain biking can add another level of enjoyment to being in the great outdoors while also presenting a unique challenge to riders.
However, across the world of cycling, few can dispute the prestige and grandeur of the Tour de France and its place as one of the most testing events on the professional cycling calendar. Taking place in July each year, with the 106th edition stating on 6 July and finishing on 28 July, the world-enticing event tests the best cyclists across 21 day-long stages to determine the winner of the famous yellow jersey.
Last year’s emphatic triumph of the general classification by Geraint Thomas has ramped anticipation for the 2019 Tour de France up to a new level. While it may not be as adrenaline-pumping as free-riding the Okanogan, everyone’s trying to figure out who will become the ultimate road cycling champion this year. There’s an added incentive to the most recent winners, as they both ride for Team INEOS in its first year of competition, having taken over Team Sky.
Unmatched prestige in cycling
The Tour of France began in 1903, Cicerone explains, set up as a method of promoting sports newspaper L’Auto by Henri Desgrange and George Lefevre. Maurice Garin, sponsored by La Francaise, won the first race and helped to make it an incredibly popular event in the country. The 1904 edition was plagued with reports of racers cheating by taking the train to get an edge. So, instead of Maurice Garin claiming both of the first Tour de France general classifications, the second race victory went to Henri Cornet, who originally placed fifth.
Following back-to-back wins by Lucien Petit-Breton in 1907 and 1908, Odile Defraye of Belgium became the first non-Frenchman to win the race. Three years of Belgian dominance ran into World War I, with four more years of Belgian dominance following afterwards. In 1986, Greg LeMond became the first non-European to win the race, representing the USA and also claiming the 1989 and 1990 titles. Miguel Indurain of Spain then won next five Tour de France events, with the Banesto rider dominating cycling from 1991 to 1995.
In 2012, Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins won the general classification. During the next year, Chris Froome continued Wiggins’ success, winning in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. In 2018, The Guardian showed that Froome was once again the favourite and destined to claim a fifth win to join the elite, record-holding ranks of Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, and Eddy Merckx.
Against all the odds, fellow Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas managed to edge ahead of his team leader, Froome, to emphatically claim the yellow jersey in 2018. It was Thomas’ ninth Tour, over which time he has often been struck by injury, but he put in a near-flawless showing to claim his first general classification victory.
Interest at an all-time high in 2019
Following the incredible victory of Thomas last year, dethroning the ever-favourite for the first time in three years, people are rife with anticipation for the next Tour de France.
With the annual changes to the route in place, some see another possible upset being on the cards, and not just within the Team INEOS ranks. As of 12 May, Froome and Thomas are still the favourites with Betway at 13/8 and 13/5, respectively. However, Tom Dumoulin at 7/1, Primoz Roglic at 9/1, and even Nairo Quintana at 14/1 are being seen as potential usurpers to the team’s dominance under their new name and ownership.
Team INEOS will be riding on the much-lauded Pinarello bikes, which is expected to give them a decent edge on the roads according to Sigma Sports. The bikes should give Thomas and Froome the best possible chance of claiming Team INEOS’ first victory, but Thomas’ unexpected victory and Froome’s slowed showing in 2018 leaves the field far more open.
South America has never been able to celebrate a Tour de France victory, but outlets like Bicycling see this as being the year that Colombian rider Nairo Quintana races to victory at the Champs-Elysees. This year, Thomas has looked a little off, Froome is now 33-years-old and coming from a loss, and other leading names like Dumoulin and Roglic are putting a lot of their energy into Giro d’Italia. With the 2019 Italian race ending less than a month before the 2019 French race, there’s a chance that Quintana will sneak through if he races well.
On 6 July, we will once again see the greatest road cyclists in the world compete in one of the most prestigious and gruelling events in professional sports. The newly named Team INEOS will be looking to capture the headlines with another dominant event, but many feel that this is the perfect opportunity for them to be dethroned.