5 things we learned from Tour de France


Chris Froome secured his third Tour de France victory on Sunday in Paris at the end of three weeks which delivered plenty of success for British riders.

Here are five things we learned during 21 days and 3,535 kilometres of racing.

1. Froome is a cut above everyone else

Chris Froome.

With three wins out of the last four Tours - the exception being when he crashed out in 2014 - Froome has established himself as the dominant force in the race.

He was expected to face a fierce challenge from Nairo Quintana here, while the likes of Alberto Contador, Richie Porte and Fabio Aru seemed capable of putting up a fight.

But once Froome took yellow on stage eight, there was rarely a moment he looked in danger - and when he did it was down to crashes on Mont Ventoux and on the approach to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc rather than the actions of others.

The strength of Team Sky was critical, with Froome particularly indebted to the performance of Dutchman Wout Poels. "Froome's team-mates are stronger than his rivals," said the great Eddy Merckx. "You see the riders behind him and I don't know who can beat him next year."

2. Mark Cavendish has still got 'it'

Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish arrived at his 10th Tour with more questions than answers.

His preparations were largely spent on the track ahead of the Rio Olympics, he was riding for a new team - Dimension Data - and he seemed to have been eclipsed by a new breed of sprinter, having won only three stages in his previous three Tours - a long way from his days of complete dominance.

But Cavendish smashed expectations in the opening week, wearing the yellow jersey for the first time in his career after winning at Utah Beach, then going on to add victories on stages four, six and 14 to move to 30 in his career before withdrawing on the second rest day to focus on Rio.

He won by using his head as much as his legs. Without a full sprint train, he was often free-styling in the final lengths but his years of experience - recharged by a return to the track - were put to good use as he outwitted his rivals.

3. Adam Yates can be Britain's next Grand Tour winner

Adam Yates.

If Froome was not stood on the top step, Britain's best success story in this Tour might have been the emergence of Yates.

Riding just his second Tour at the age of 23, Yates missed out on a podium place by just 21 seconds and became the first Brit to wear the best young rider's white jersey into Paris.

The Orica-BikeExchange rider arrived in France insisting he was only shooting for stage wins, and the team's squad selection suggested that was genuinely the case. As it worked out, it proved an effective way of diverting pressure as Yates hung with the general classification contenders for three weeks, surely learning a huge amount in the process.

He still needs to improve his time trialling to be a genuine threat over three weeks, but the potential is clear to see.

4. The Tour retains a special place in France's heart

Christian Prudhomme.

The Bastille Day terrorist attack in Nice cast a pall over the Tour which lasted several days - and led to some discussions about whether the time trial on the day after should take place at all.

But the race did continue and in doing so it showed how important it remains to the French people.

"On the route there were hundreds of thousands, millions of people with smiles on their faces," said tour director Christian Prudhomme said.

"We have smiles on our faces during the Tour and this is not only for the champions. I think they wanted to say we want to live how we want to live."

5. France's wait for a winner goes on

Romain Bardet.

Froome may have effectively sealed victory on Saturday night, but the front page of Sunday's L'Equipe newspaper showed Romain Bardet's face.

The 25-year-old AG2R La Mondiale rider's late attack and victory on stage 19 to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc vaulted him up to second place overall as others suffered in difficult conditions, but it was the sense of relief that was most obvious in the wake of his win - the only one by a Frenchman in the entire Tour.

Bardet is one of a handful of riders - Warren Barguil and Thibaut Pinot the others - who continue to give France hope of a first home winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985, but none are quite ready to mount a sustained challenge yet.