Well, it’s time to say goodbye to the Tour de France 2016. Three weeks of the best bike racers in the world concluded with Greg Henderson and the Lotto Soudal lead out train succeeding on the world’s most famous finish line in delivering Andre Greipel to that elusive stage win.
What a finale! The final stage of the Tour de France had everything. Heartbreak for Etixx-Quick Step, elation for Lotto Soudal, and Greg Henderson was right in the middle of it. This time he played the role of one of the latter lead out riders, not the last man; but no less crucial to Greipel’s stage win. And for a while it nearly didn’t happen!
Greg Henderson was one of a number of riders to have problems during the stage. A mechanical problem saw Henderson brought to a stand still, but thankfully he was back up and riding quickly, back in the peloton in no time; and right where he needed to be in the final 2km of the Tour de France. The same could not be said for Lotto Soudal’s nemesis, Etixx-Quick Step, who had a day to forget.
Tony Martin was the first casualty for Etixx-Quick Step, succumbing to a knee injury and being forced to withdraw. Then disaster struck for Marcel Kittel. A bike change gone wrong fuelled an outburst of rage from the German sprint machine made it clear that today was not going well. Daniel Martin was the third rider to suffer for the team, with another mechanical problem to deal with.
In the end Etixx-Quick Step were completely ruled out of the sprint finish. But until the final 3km it was unclear as to who would be ruled in. Direct Energie had been the in form team up until that point, leading the way for the brunt of the stage. But they too fell into difficulty when Bryan Coquard suffered a mechanical at the worst possible time. IAM Cycling took over then, but Lotto Soudal were waiting in the wings.
Finally with 1.8km to go Lotto Soudal hit the front, restoring order out of chaos, and with Greg Henderson on the front as they passed the 1km to go mark they looked in control. Even with Katusha hitting the final corner first they looked very much unthreatened and On the line Andre Greipel showed himself to be cool under pressure.
Henderson can be justifiably proud of his work, having sent his German teammate to the Champs-Elysees win for the first time in his career; he was forced to abandon early last year and was unable to be there for Greipel as he notched up an impressive four stage wins.
George Bennett deserves a mention as having done enough to complete his first Tour de France. The Kiwi climber has lit up the race and we look forward to seeing him again taking on the world in Rio. George Bennett finished as the highest placed of the two Kiwis, in 53rd position.