St. Cloud, MN – For those that know me well, they recognize that I have two passions when it comes to sporting events. College hockey takes precedence to the point that some of my casual acquaintances mistakenly think I have no other interests. Surprisingly, once the college hockey season ends it’s a relief to get on to other things. During the month of July, I’m preoccupied with the Tour de France, the most viewed sporting event in the world. Although exact numbers of this are hard to nail down, it’s estimated there are 12-15 million attendees at this three-week and 21 stage event. It’s broadcast to 190 countries and NBC Sports devotes daily coverage to the event. I’ve been privileged to attend two stages of the Tour and I’ll do so again in the future. Unquestionably, it’s the most scenic event in all of sports. It’s hard to describe the excitement of being on the Champs Elysees for the final stage.
It was a historic year for Columbia in the 2019 Tour de France. Despite cycling being the national sport of this country and having an excellent tradition of strong riders in the history of the Tour, they finally found a winner in Egan Bernal, the youngest rider in this years race at age 22. Bernal, representing team INEOS, the most funded team in the Tour, persevered over the 21 stages finishing 1 minute and 11 seconds ahead of teammate, Geraint Thomas and 153 other riders. This year’s route, the highest in race history with five summit finishes, including three above 2,000 meters and only 54 kilometers, or about 33 miles, of time trialing gave Bernal, an excellent climber a great opportunity in this years race. However, he held his own in the individual time trial which was equally important. “Colombia always had great climbers,” Bernal said. “We won the Giro, the Vuelta, but it never happened before on the Tour. For many years, we had great cyclists. We never managed to win. It did not work out on the Tour de France. Now we have it.”
For the French, the host nation, they had legitimate hopes for a winner with Julian Alaphilippe, a native of Saint-Amand-Montrond in the Loir Region who won two stages including the individual time time and held the “Yellow” jersey as the general classification leader for 14 days. But alas, Alaphilippe faltered in stage 19 in the Apls dashing their hopes for a Tour de France general classification win since Bernard Hinault was the “Maillot Jaune” in 1985. “It was a dream to wear it” said Alaphilippe. “I carried this dream longer than I had hoped and I beat myself up every day to keep a hold of it. From the moment I took hold of the yellow jersey I dreamed but I never thought I could win the Tour.”
Bernal, who captured the lead in the race shortened Stage 19 (due to weather and poor road conditions) and did not relinquish it in Stage 20 (also shortened due to the weather forecast) supported by his well-funded Team INEOS teammates to enter the final tradition-laden Stage 21 with the “Yellow” jersey a certainty.
Stage 21, the prestigious final stage of the 2019 Tour de France back-dropped by the setting sun along the Champs Elysees was won by Caleb Ewan, the Australian speedster who impacted the 2019 Tour with three sprint stage wins in his very first Tour.
General Classification Time Winner (Yellow) | Egan Bernal
Sprint Points Winner (Green ) | Peter Sagan
Best Climber (Polka Dot ) Roman Bardet
Best Young Rider (White) | Egan Bernal
Best Team | Movistar
Super Combative | Julian Alaphilippe
Top American Finisher (62nd, +2H 12M) | Benjamin King