After 21 grueling stages, a total of 3,664 kilometers (2,276 miles), 164 cyclists made it to Paris and completed cycling’s biggest event. The 101st running of the Tour de France provided the unexpected with several cyclists finding rare opportunities to shine while some of the top favorites suffered. Those that didn’t make it to the finish will surely wish they could turn back the clock and do it all over again, but sadly that’s not how life works.
Time pushes forward, leaving us to ponder how this edition of the Tour de France will be remembered years from now in the grand scheme of cycling. From the triumphs to the controversies, here is my list of 7 memorable moments that won’t soon be forgotten from the 2014 La Grande Boucle.
Going in chronological order as they happened.
Stage 1: Crashing Cavendish
The grand departure in Great Britain was supposed to be some sort of family reunion for sprinter Mark Cavendish. He had a golden chance to win his first career yellow jersey by winning the opening stage in Harrogate, his mother’s hometown. What could have been an award winning storybook ending turned into a full blown nightmare a few hundred meters from the finish line.
Yet, there was hardly any love lost for Cavendish as race replays showed him leaning his head against Australian sprinter Simon Gerrans before he took his tumble. That’s instant karma if you ask me.
Stage 4: Kittel Hat-Trick
The young German sprinter Marcel Kittel jumped at his opportunity with Cavendish out of the race to springboard to victories on Stages 1, 3, and 4. Thus, proving his 4 stage wins from a year ago weren’t a fluke and that his hair still gets more attention than he does (just kidding… maybe). Following stage 3 and the travel transition from Great Britain to France, it almost felt like the media covered the story of his hair supplies getting confiscated by the airport more than his dominating stage wins.
Then again can you blame the reporters? I’m even starting to wonder how early he must have got up each day to get his hair like that only for it to be covered up by a helmet.
Stage 8 & Beyond: The French Revelation
This was the most successful Tour for the native French cyclists in a long, long time. It started with the breakaway win on Stage 8 by Blel Kadri and finished with 2 Frenchmen (Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot) on the podium in Paris for the first time since 1984. Along the way Tony Gallopin from team Lotto Belisol was the only other Frenchman to win a stage and wear the yellow jersey for a day.
The list goes on: AG2R won the team competition, Bryan Coquard finished 2nd in the points classification, and to top it all off Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet finish 1-2 as the best riders under 25 years old. The future of French cycling has never been brighter.
Stage 10: Nibali Stands Alone
Defending champion Christopher Froome eliminated after stage 5 and his top challenger Alberto Contador stepped into the team car 5 days later, both of them foiled by multiple crashes. A Tour that was marketed as a competitive duel turned into a one-man show with Italian Vincenzo Nibali flourishing in their absences. By stage 10 it was a foregone conclusion that Nibali had the race pretty much won.
His name now etched in the history books as 1 of 6 cyclists who won all 3 grand tours during their career.
Stage 17: Majka and the Motorbike
Whether it was fair or foul for Rafal Majka to grab onto the motorbike or later in the stage when he used a motorbike’s slipstream to create an attack will always be debated. Regardless, it doesn’t matter because his 2nd stage win of the Tour won’t be taken away from him nor will the king of the mountain points he gained propelling him to the overall victory in that competition. The moral of the story: cyclists will do whatever it takes to win, sometimes even risking their own reputation in the process.
Stage 21: Kittel Wins the Final Battle, Sagan Wins the War
Kittel capped the Tour off by the winning his 2nd consecutive Champs-Elysees stage. While Peter Sagan took home the ultimate prize with his 3rd consecutive green jersey. This time without even winning a single stage; a true testament to Sagan’s unique skill set to be able to collect sprint points consistently.
All in all, the 2014 Tour de France summed up in one word would be: unpredictable.