Stage 21 was extraordinary – culminating in a wonderful sprint finish, with all the best points riders pushing to the limit to take the win. There was one rider who showed his class, the man in Green, Sam Bennett, who positively roared over the finish line – in fact, he kept on roaring, such was his joy! It was a special win for a special rider on this most special of Tours – We knew that this would be an historic Tour de France because of the pandemic, but 2020’s Tour de France will go down in history for its remarkable course, it’s remarkable conclusion – and for its major prizes being won by two phenomenal young riders – for me, the best reasons to remember this race. Vive Le Tour!
The race truly begins on Stage 21, when the riders reach the Champs-Élysées, the beautiful avenue that runs up to the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous roads in the world. It is the race for the sprinters, but to see that long peloton disappearing into the distance is incredible. Usually packed with fans at the roadside, it was eerily quiet this year, no Norwegian corner and people dotted around, as they should be. However, those there were treated to the fly past by the Patrouille de France, streaming the colours of the nation behind them as the race began in earnest below. Still magic, still the Champs-Élysées!
Here is the third image from Stage 21 – a little picture which shows Rigoberto Uran, throwing his arms into the air as he and his team-mates, passed by the glass Pyramids before crossing the courtyard of the Louvre. He threw his arms into the air, as though greeting a much-loved and much-missed friend.
I can only imagine how the riders feel on that last day – exhilaration? exhaustion? I hope a massive sense of achievement – they’ve made it!
Here is Tadej Pogačar throwing his bike to the line to win the stage and the whole race itself! There were only two men on the day’s podium, Sam Bennett as the final holder of the Green Jersey and three appearances by this super-talented young man. He is the stage winner, the King of the Mountains, the best Young rider – and the champion of the Tour de France – Wow!
This view is a split screen view of the two men battling for the stage and the Tour de France itself..two friends and compatriots, but both having completely different experiences on this day. Roglic just was not himself – he looked wrong on the bike, pale in the face and even his helmet was askew – so different from the sophisticated talent we have seen day after day on this Tour – Pogacar meanwhile was smooth, strong and very fast – zooming up the notorious climb with great skill and style.
The final reflection is Primož Roglič, in Yellow, waiting to start the last round before Paris – Primož Roglič is the current holder of the Red Jersey for La Vuelta a Espana and now poised to add the Tour de France to his career highs – just this one supreme effort to complete the work put in so far…
Here is Tadej Pogačar ready to start the last round before Paris – he is wearing the White Jersey as best young rider – at 21, one of the youngest – and he has been outstanding throughout this Tour, alongside his friend and compatriot,Primož Roglič. At this point in the race, he would have to do something incredible to take Yellow and the top spot in Paris…
Another much-loved rider, Tasmanian star, Richie Porte, who, like Pinot, has more than his fair share of extreme events on this race over the years. This year, Richie has been fantastic yet again, and finally in position for a place on the podium, if all goes well on this run. I wonder though, in these moments of reflection before starting out, if his thoughts turned to his precious new baby, who was born while her daddy was riding this great race….No better motivation or inspiration.
The next few images, I have called ‘Start line reflections’, initially because I am fascinated by the reflections in the helmet screens that riders wear. The thought then dawned on me that the wait for the rider before setting off may also be a time of reflection? I expect mostly they are thinking about the job in hand, but are there a few seconds when their thoughts turn elsewhere? I wonder…
The first image is the great French hero Thibaut Pinot waiting for the countdown. I wonder if he could hear the fans chanting his name, ‘Pinot! Pinot!’? He is such a popular rider, and along with so many great French stars, bears the weight of the whole country desperate for a win. Any fan of the England football team knows exactly how the French fans feel – it would be fantastic for a win soon – it’s a long time coming!
Stage 20 was the only time-trial of this year’s race, but with a fantastic course finishing on La Planche des Belles Filles – one of the most iconic settings, which has become a firm favourite with fans since the Tour first visited in 2012.
The first image shows Rémi Cavagna (DQS) making the climb past a huge numbers of fans – most of whom were wearing masks, but some taking them off or were without all together in order to cheer on their heroes.
I really enjoy making pictures of the four Jerseys and usually the best time to do this is before the start or during the rollout. Stage 19 had some great views of the four of them waiting and chatting before the day’s work began.
So here they are, the four best riders in each class at this point of the race, from left to right, Richard Carapaz, (Ineos Grenadiers), King of the Mountains, Primož Roglič, (Jumbo Visma), Yellow Jersey, Tadej Pogačar, (UAE), Best Young Rider, Sam Bennett, Deceuninck–Quick-Step, Best Sprinter. I think they are all fantastic, but I am biased!
Søren Kragh Andersen, took off with around 22km left, in the most remarkable descent. Again, it was another great tactical manoeuvre by his team Sunweb, and he sustained this breakaway at breathtaking speed, which was both alarming and exhilarating to watch. His move was rewarded with another stage win, as no one else could catch him. Incredible!
The course of Stage 19 passed through the loveliest countryside – and judging by the land art, a great dairy producer – These ladies were enjoying the sunshine until their interest was piqued by a sudden noise made by a strange, colourful creature with lots of legs – it whirred too. Some of the ladies felt that they’d seen one before, but couldn’t quite remember when…
The story of Stage 18 will be long remembered because of its finish, with the Ineos Grenadiers’ Stage win for Michal Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz. They crossed the line together and it was a lovely moment of great generosity.
The real story of Stage 18, came from Ineos Grenadiers, who suffered great disappointment and sadness over Egan Bernal. The reigning champion was in such a bad state, that the team decided to withdraw him from the race, fearing further injury should he continue. Michal Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz formed a phenomenal break that lasted to the finish. They set a fantastic pace, reminding us that this team remains a forceful presence in the race.
Another feature of the route today, was a section noted for its gravel roads, never easy for riders and their teams for fears of punctures or falls, but very dramatic for the viewers and photographers, with the potential of smokey looking images, full of atmosphere. This is my attempt, which shows the Yellow and Polka Dot jerseys passing through the gravel, no doubt with more than a mouthful of dust in their lungs afterwards…
There are many fans who not only come out to cheer on and witness the spectacle of the Tour, but also provide a bit of entertainment themselves. Here is a prime example, a huge Obelix, at the side of the road, in hid fetching blue and white trousers!
If there is one thing that this year’s Tour de France would teach a visitor from outer space about France, is that it is a country with the most remarkable collection of mountains! I am staggered every year by the landscape and especially the mountain stages, but this year, they have seemed even more breathtaking than ever. This scenery typical of the views throughout the day! Wow!
The stage was dominated most of the way by Bahrain McLaren and Jumbo Visma, but then the mighty climb at the end of a long day produced an astounding break at 2.8km from Astana’s Miquel Angel Lopez, who powered through to take the win… Oh Superman!
Another image highlighting teams in this year’s race. Two teams on show here and I was taken with their respective colours, hence the title of the picture! The team at the front, is Bahrain McLaren, who picked up the pace and set a target for Jumbo Visma just behind them.
Stage 17 the Queen stage this year, takes 168km between Grenoble and the newly-built cycling route to the summit of the Col de la Loze. This first image shows the peloton heading towards the mountains, which to my eye, looked like a frontier that was big and very blue. Simply stunning…
Stage 16 reached its climax with a phenomenal break by Lennard Kämna, who burst through, leaving Carapaz behind, to take a terrific win. Fantastic stage today and it’s the Queen stage next, how much better can this be?
The Ecuadorian rider Richard Carapaz made the next explosive break; he is a firecracker of a rider! He is the current champion of the Giro d’Italia and his class and strength on this climb burst through.
This break in Stage 16 shown here, began with Guillaume Martin of Team Cofidis, at 25.5km, along with his team-mate Nicolas Edet. Martin is riding high in the General Classification and his strength is no flash in the pan, but the bold move was short-lived being pulled back at 20km.
Stage 16 saw several attacks throughout, this one saw Quentin Pacher ride with determination on the ascent to the last climb of the day. He maintained a healthy gap on the peloton, until he was later reeled in.
Another team in the race is Education First, (born out of Garmin). They wear a fantastic pink and navy strip, which I love, as you can always spot them easily. This second image shows a nice moment between team-mates, Rigoberto Uran from Colombia and Hugh John Carthy from Lancashire in the UK, riding and chatting together.
Stage 16 saw the race resume after its second rest day and 100% all clear COVID-19 test results. It looks like the race will go to Paris, but first there is the matter of more mountain stages… no small matter. At this point the man in Polka Dots is Benoit Cosnefroy, but things may change.
This first scene shows a long train of riders heading for the mountains in the region of Chartreuse, the trees were appropriately, a most beautiful shade of yellow-green…
The climax to Stage 15 was the nearest you’ll see to a bunch sprint from climbers and was a remarkable finish to the day. The pace was set by Wout Van Aert, and drew a group dash, lead by Primož Roglič currently in Yellow and his great friend and compatriot, Tadej Pogačar. They flew to the line, amazing in itself, given the climb they had just made and this time Pogačar took the win, gasping – sensational!