Much to France’s chagrin, the Tour de France has not had a French winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

This produced much negative media coverage concerning Britain’s dominant Team Sky and the winner, their leader, Chris Froome.

This is Froome’s second Tour victory. The first was in 2013. The British have now won the Tour de France three times since 2012, when Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first winner from the UK.

Target Froome

The French suspect Froome of doping. Yet, he won this year’s Tour by only 1’12” over Colombia’s Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who made no secret of his own desire to take first place on the podium in Paris.

Oliver Brown, writing for The Telegraph, explained:

Froome has found this race antithetical to any notion of comradeship. He has borne the brunt of outrageous attacks from spectators, endured the slurs arising from critical documentaries on French television, and waged public and unpleasant battles with his chief rivals – not least Vincenzo Nibali, who he accused of unsportsmanlike conduct for trying to exploit his mechanical failure on the descent from the Col du Croix. For 21 days, he has been a man besieged …

A climate of scepticism is perfectly legitimate in light of cycling’s benighted recent heritage, captured by a bizarre appearance mid-tour by the attention-seeking Lance Armstrong. But for Froome to be belittled and excoriated without a shred of hard medical expertise has the feel of a sordid injustice. He would be within his rights if he refused to celebrate too conspicuously on Sunday. He ought to derive greatest pride, though, from having emerged unscathed from one of the most gruelling emotional ordeals that an athlete should ever have to endure.

Froome’s Tour gave viewers a lesson in patience and doggedness. He was calm, quiet and determined on every stage. He refused to get unnerved by attacks from Quintana, Alejandro Valverde or Alberto Contador. His Sky teammates stayed cool, too, and were there for him every day. The climbs proved tough for some and, occasionally, Froome was on his own near the end, but he rode with aplomb, dedication and humility throughout.

In his victory speech, Froome alluded to the accusations he received this year. From The Sun:

In a victory speech laced with emotion, he said of the Yellow Jersey: “It is very special. I understand its history, good and bad, and I will always respect it, never dishonour it and I’ll always be proud to have won it.”

Team Sky ace Froome has been the victim of a vile campaign of doping slurs as well as physical and verbal abuse from sick fans.

But after swapping the urine and spit for champagne, he added: “Someone needs to speak up for the cyclists of 2015 and I’m happy to do that.

“Someone’s got to take a stand, it’s time.”

Froome won not only the Tour but the polka dot ‘king of the mountains’ jersey which puts him on a par with the legendary Belgian Tour winner Eddy Merckx who won both in 1970.

Yet, even some Britons disparage the UK’s latest sporting hero. The comments following one Telegraph article reveal that Froome isn’t British enough. Not only was he born and raised in Africa, he now lives in Monaco. As a British citizen, how dare he?

Soon, Froome will become a father for the first time. I wish him and his wife Michelle all the very best.

The African Tour

Chris Froome was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and spent his formative years in South Africa. It was in Africa that he developed his love of cycling. His English parents emigrated from Gloucestershire to become arable farmers in Kenya. He was reading economics at the University of South Africa when, two years into his degree, he left to join the South African cycling team of Konica Minolta.

However, he was not the only reason the 2015 Tour was an African one.

A new wildcard African team entered this year’s Tour: MTN-Qhubeka. Whilst the Tour has had African teams and riders before now, the Tour de France site tells us:

Rooted in South Africa since its creation in 1997 by Douglas Ryder, a professional cyclist until 2002 and still the manager of a team sponsored since 2007 by the telecoms operator present throughout the African continent, Qhubeka (a word that means “advance” in the Xhosa language) is a foundation that provides bicycles as a means of transport to underprivileged populations. It is a team with a strong identity and humanitarian calling that is set to write a fine page in the grand international history of the Tour de France. In its ranks, it boasts Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot, the best climber on this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné, and his countryman Merhawi Kudus, who completed the Vuelta at the age of 20 years. The toughest runners on the planet come from this part of the world. Now it is cycling’s turn to be enhanced by these exceptional athletes.

And it wasn’t long before MTN-Qhubeka became a household word. On Stage 6, the aforementioned Daniel Teklehaimanot became the first black African to wear the Polka Dot jersey. All eyes were on him and his teammates thereafter.

Teklehaimanot’s teammate, Steve Cummings, fittingly won Stage 14 on July 18 — Nelson Mandela Day.

Cummings was born and raised in Merseyside and was also on Team Sky before joining MTN-Qhubeka for the 2015 season.

We look forward to seeing more of MTN-Qhubeka next year, especially Teklehaimanot, a brilliant climber and marvellous to watch!

Hope for France

Spain’s Movistar won the team prize this year.

In 2014, it was France’s AG2R-La Mondiale. My hopes were high because their indefatiguable Jean-Christophe Peraud came in second place and Romain Bardet sixth.

This year, Bardet came in ninth place and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) came in tenth.

At least Bardet won the Super-Combative — Most Aggressive — rider prize. And he won Stage 18, his first Tour stage victory, a daunting Alpine challenge from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne:

He built it from a long lasting breakaway and escaped near the top of col du Glandon and rode away solo in the downhill. He stayed away for 40 kilometres with an advantage of 40 seconds over his chasers. This is the second stage win for France and AG2R-La Mondiale at this year’s Tour de France.

It was amazing to watch and one can only admire a young man who told interviewers he bought several books before the Tour de France just so he could distract himself from cycling during his limited free time.

Things looked much brighter for France last year. It will be an uphill struggle — no pun intended.

France Télévisions and ITV4 do it again

France Télévisions did a superb job of filming and broadcasting the Tour de France. Anyone who wouldn’t want to visit France after seeing the beautiful countryside and monuments is, frankly, a bit off.

No other network can film cycling the way France2 and France 3 can. Nothing ever looked flat or one-dimensional as cycling races can in other countries. There must be something in the way French cameramen are trained. Everything is cinematic, eminently watchable.

Tour fans in the UK are grateful that ITV4 have the broadcast rights to free-to-view live coverage of every stage. It appears this will continue to 2019, thankfully.

July was indeed a beautiful month, enhanced by ITV4’s broadcasts, including commentary from Tour veterans Jens Voigt and David Millar!

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