Tour Crazy – We take a look at the first week’s racing and what’s coming up next .
Highlights of the first week of the Tour de France 2019
One week down, two to go, and the race is taking its distinct shape.
So far the story is about Julian Alaphillipe emerging as a serious race leader, Peter Sagan once again owning the sprints, Tim Wellens shining in the KOM competition, and Giulio Ciccone earning the spotlight as best young rider, wearing the Yellow Jersey for a spell too.
The first week, as usual, included flat stages where the sprinters can perform, and they did not disappoint, with exciting sprints and narrow margins at the end of several stages.
Peter Sagan tried early for a stage win but was denied until Stage 5. Despite this he has stamped his authority on the competition for the Green Jersey once again. Being at the front end of the sprint finishes, and dominating the intermediate sprints, he is well clear of his rivals in the points race, and very likely on the way to a record seventh green jersey win.
The first week also included a few tough hill and mountain stages. These were too early in the race for the GC favorites to extend themselves. It would take too much energy to defend the Yellow Jersey for so much of the race, so the usual approach is to ride conservatively close to the front of the peloton, keeping a close eye on rivals, waiting until the later stages in the high mountains for opportunities to open bigger time gaps.
This creates an opportunity for new faces to gain a foothold while the big names play it safe.
Stage 6 included a notable climb, the Planche des Belles Filles, where Eddy Merckx won the first Tour de France stage victory of his career, 50 years ago – the first of a record 34 stage wins. Looks like Mark Cavendish, who is in second place with 30 stage wins, may not be able to catch up, after his team did not select him this year. With a record of both sprint and hilly stage wins, and the likelihood of competing in several more Tours de France, will Sagan be next in line to try for Merckx’s stage tally crown? He’s at 12 stage wins now, so he has a long way to go!
First serious mountain stage, Stage 6 played a big part in shaping the Tour de France 2019.
With a day of serious ascents and a punishing final climb, Stage 6 opened time gaps that may have put the podium out of reach for many who hoped to be there in Paris.
While riders like Geraint Thomas, Bernal Egan, and other GC rivals, were careful to stay in contention but waste as little energy as possible in these early climbing stages, two young French riders are leading the way and putting themselves in a strong position for the second half of the Tour.
Thibault Pinot has been consistently placed toward the front of climbing stages. Julian Alaphillipe, whose convincing win in the first hill stage put him in the Yellow Jersey, gave everything he had on Stage 6 but lost the lead to Giulio Ciccone. With a great ride on stage 8 he got it back, and to the delight of the French, wears the Yellow Jersey on Bastille Day. Along with Pinot, he added almost half a minute to his lead.
Now we will watch the younger riders in the leading positions to see if they can hang on to their advantage in the second week, or if the sharpening focus of pre-race favorites and their teams sweeps them out of the running.
Alaphillipe clearly gave it his all on Stage 6’s final climb, and was completely exhausted crossing the line. He was passed in the final meters by Thomas, who looked untroubled as he worked his way to a strategic 4th place in the stage and moved ahead of his main rivals. Is this a hint of what’s to come in the Pyrenees and beyond?
The Terry Tour de France collection features our own take on the coveted Jerseys of the Tour. Shop some of the highlights here.
Your mini-guide to the 2019 Tour de France