Best of the 2013 Tour de France
Ben: What’s your favourite Beatles album then?
Alan Partridge: Tough one. I think I’d have to say The Best of The Beatles.
Everyone likes a ‘best of’.
Best moment – Sir Jan Bakelants
The second yellow jersey of this year’s Tour tried to claim a knighthood for himself after his stage win. Personally, I think he deserves one. This was a cracking finish which put on display the fundamental truths of bike racing: it is tougher to cycle on your own than in a group, but at some point you have to be ahead of the group in order to win.
Watch it again. It’s cycling in its purist form. A lone rider steadily losing ground to the peloton struggles to reach the line before they swallow him up. It rarely works out this way, but when it does…
Best stage – Echelons!
At least that’s what I call it. Other people might refer to it as stage 13 from Tours to Saint-Amand-Mortrond, but they would be wrong. It was actually called “Echelons!”
It was the most boring terrain, but the most intriguing racing imaginable with an amorphous, constantly-shifting tactical landscape. Who’s forcing the pace now? Why are they doing that? How will that have an impact on other teams? Does it open up opportunities for anyone else? You could never quite get a firm handle on what was happening because by the time you had, everything had changed again.
Mark Cavendish used a typically wonderful analogy to describe how the race took shape. (He really is a fantastic interviewee.)
“Echelons are like falling through ice. You have five seconds to make it or it’s all over. I nearly missed the final break. I just managed to sprint on to join it.”
That was where he won the stage – making it into a small front group. The sprint to the finish was just a formality. The stage also breathed life into the general classification with Chris Froome losing over a minute to some of his rivals.
We had to wait until stage eight from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines for the first real yellow jersey action. Early skirmishes are often characterised by conservatism but that wasn’t the case here. It turned into a somewhat nuclear skirmish. Richie Porte had basically dropped everyone BEFORE Froome attacked. Once he’d gone, it was simply a case of measuring time gaps. Porte was the only rider to finish within a minute of him.