Andre Greipel won the 21st and final stage of the Tour de France after a tussle amongst the sprinters on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday, but it was noticeable that overall winner Chris Froome crossed the finishing line alongside his fellow Team Sky members as if to demonstrate that his victory owed much to an organised team effort than his single individual performance.
Team Sky were a well-drilled unit for much of the 2015 Tour de France and their riders were visible at the forefront of the main peleton for much of the three week race, injecting pace when it was necessary and then slowing proceedings to allow recovery time for their leader. Yet the importance of a strong back-up team for the yellow jersey leader was very much in evidence during a dramatic day’s racing on Saturday when the riders finished at the fabled ski station of L’Alpe d’Huez after negotiating 21 hairpin bends from the town of Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of the climb.
It was a day when second placed rider Nairo Quintana needed to attack so as to reverse his 2:38 deficit to Froome in the general classification. The Colombian’s Movistar team-mate Alejandro Valverde attacked on the penultimate climb of the Col de la Croix de Fer with Quintana joining him a kilometre later. However, Valverde was unable to sustain the attack with the Colombian forced to wait for his team-mate while at the same time Team Sky led by Richie Porte, with Froome just behind, were gradually closing the gap.
By the time the petelton had arrived at Boug d’Oisans, the peleton had regrouped with the Team Sky riders at the forefront slowing the pace. A breakaway set of riders had formed further up the road and Sky were hoping to prevent Quintana from claiming any bonus time for being amongst the first three riders at the finish.
As the cyclists encountered the first set of hairpin bends, Valverde attacked once again with Quintana eventually following the Spaniard. However, it was Team Sky members Porte and Wout Poels who attempted to nullify this injection of pace with Froome clearly struggling. Quintana gradually rode clear of the Sky riders but his efforts to create a sizeable time gap appeared to hampered by team-mates Valverde and Winner Anacona being unable to set a suitable tempo for the Colombian to follow. He seemed more comfortable riding at his own strong pace in chasing ultimate stage victor Thibaut Pinot.
Meanwhile, Porte and Poels guided their team leader Froome up the unforgiving slopes with the result that he finished only 1:20 adrift of Quintana on the day to comfortably retain his yellow jersey. Team Sky have trained for such moments during much of the early part of this year and their efforts in helping Froome during the 2015 Tour de France, and in particular the stage to L’Alpe d’Huez, should not be ignored, a fact which Froome was only too willing to acknowledge on the Champs-Elysees.