The Tour That Nearly Didn’t Happen
By Stan Portus – 22 September 2020
But oh boy, it did. From chaotic sprint finishes to sensational breakaways, and Pogačar claiming the Yellow Jersey (and the Polka Dots and White too), here’s a look back over the last three weeks of racing and the kit that helped make it all happen.
Before the Grand Départ, it looked like the 2020 edition of the Tour might not even happen – the first time the race would have been called off since World War II. From the rescheduling of the Tour in May to the discussions a few days before the racing kicked off as to whether it even should, everyone knew this would be a tour that would be remembered.
But over the three weeks of racing that followed it became apparent that the 103rd edition of the race would not just go down in history because of COVD-19 and threats of lockdown.
This year’s Tour saw the first team first and second on a mountain stage from a breakaway in 12 years with Ineos Grenadiers riders Michal Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz. It saw breakaways winning on transition stages. Peter Sagan lost out on his first maillot vert in nearly a decade, while Bora-Hansgrohe created a race within a race. Caleb Ewan claimed a stage victory from a sprint that resembled sprints of old, rather than the drilled trains that have dominated the Tour in recent years. And, of course, Tadej Pogačar became the Tour’s second ever youngest winner while also claiming the Young Riders and King of the Mountains classifications, and the first rider to win three jerseys since Eddy Merckx in 1969.
From a race that looked like it wouldn’t happen to a race that we’ll never forget, here’s a look back at some of the highlights and the kit, equipment and tech that helped make it all happen.
Alexander Kristoff stormed to victory on stage 1 after a skittish day of wet weather and nervous riders. It was the first Tour stage victory for UAE Team Emirates since Kristoff won on the Champs Elysées in 2018, but not the last of year's edition...
Caleb Ewan claimed stage 3 in a chaotic sprint. Ewan opted for HJC's aero helmet the Furion 2.0 in Lotto-Soudal's team colours, naturally.
NTT Pro Cycling rode the tour on ENVE wheels. Edvald Boasson Hagen had a strong day in the breakaway on stage 6. The expression on Max Walscheid's face descending on stage 8 is pretty illustrative of how hard the racing was this year.
Tadej Pogačar beat Roglic and Marc Hershi to the line to win stage 9, showing off his worringly good form in the process.
The late start to the Tour this year meant long shadows spread across the road as riders completed each day's stage in the low Autumn sun. It also brought dramatic vistas like this, evocative of the colder months ahead.
Bora-Hansgrohe's Lennard Kämna claimed his first Grand Tour victory on stage 16, riding away from the breakaway after hard day in the mountains.
Stage 18 saw the first team first and second on a mountain stage in 12 years. Ineos Grenadiers Michal Kwiatkowski and Richard Carapaz flew to the line having dispensed of the other riders in the breakaway. The two crossed the line with their arms around each other, and with Kwiatkowski claiming first – remarkably, after years in the service of others, his first stage win at the Tour.
After an unbelievable Time Trial finishing on La Planches des Belles Filles, which saw Pogačar's 1 minute deficit to Roglic become his 1 minute lead, the young Slovenian rode into Paris in yellow. Chapeau, is all we can say.