Rolling out of Bergerac again on Saturday the individual time trial would sort out the minor podium places as Pinot, Peraud, and Bardet looked to ensure the French were there, and Valverde and Van Garderen tried to gain time back to prevent that dream. Tony Martin went out early and surprised literally no one by putting in a ride worthy of his world champion’s stripes and leading the stage. There wouldn’t be another rider all day who would touch him and so he set the time for the GC contenders to measure themselves against.
Valverde looked to be losing time to Van Garderen, but still retained his buffer even with the American’s 6th place finish on the stage. The race seemed to be between the French pair of Pinot and Peraud, with Peraud’s luck looking to not hold as he had to change bikes due to a puncture, as did the other AG2R rider, Bardet.
That problem dropped Bardet to 6th place overall behind Van Garderen, and, with seconds between them on the road the French duo of Pinot and Peraud pushed on, while Valverde dropped out of contention, with tired legs pushing him back to 4th overall. Peraud powered home and sat to wait the three minutes for Pinot to come home, and when he did he had lost the few seconds he needed and finished as the 3rd placed overall rider, giving Peraud the second place he was hoping for, and France two men to stand on the podium for the first time in 17 years in Paris.
Behind them Nibali underlined his dominance by finishing fourth on the stage, therefore extending his lead in a race that he has bossed. So the podium places were sorted and all that remained was the sprint on the Champs Elysees to provide a finale for the race. From a British point of view it has been the least successful Tour in recent time, with no wins for Sky and only one finisher in the shape of Geraint Thomas who rolled in 22nd, actually a place ahead of his de facto team leader, around a minute ahead of Porte.
The most famous road in France is the domain of the real sprinters, so that meant the likes of Kristoff, Greipel, Renshaw, possibly Sagan and most likely KIttel to win a consecutive year’s race after he beat Cavendish in 2013. Kittel was off the back of the pack early on and so it might have built into a bit of an upset. There would be attacks, just because there have to be, and the first was from Chavanel, to make it an even more French race. The next attack was Jens Voigt, who rides his last Tour this year, and he was chased by Horner and Thomas for a second. A crash took out most of the AG2R team, including Peraud, who had to then get back on terms for his podium place. He was helped by work at the front by Nibali and Chavanel to slow the pace and save an embarrassment.
Next up was Richie Porte to have a dig and remind people that he was there while Tony Martin had to change a bike and chase back to the pack. Porte gained about 12 seconds but was pulled back hard for the traditional bunch sprint. The only person who didn’t think this was Simon Clarke who went on a bit of an attack on the last lap, but Lotto Belisol were driving the peloton back helped by Giant Shimano who struggled to keep control at 1km to go. Kristoff opened the sprint but was overhauled by Kittel on the line to give the German the win ahead of Kristoff and Greipel. Weirdly Eisel was also in the mix, but it went as the script suggested.
So another Tour wrapped up with French riders on the podium in the form of a rider towards the end of his career in second, and a definite name for the future in the shape of Thibault Pinot. It was a very interesting race, enlivened by the battle for the podium behind a dominant Nibali. Bring on the Vuelta where many of the favourites who crashed out of this race should return.