The 2016 edition of the Tour de France will be long remembered. It may not have had the punch and counter-punches of some recent Giros or Vueltas but there were surprises at every turn. Mark Cavendish rolled back the years to win the first stage and finally won the race-leaders yellow jersey before going on to claim another 3 stages.
Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet next held the Maillot Jaune but it was eventual winner Chris Froome who properly set the tone for this Tour de Surprise with a hair-raising descent stage win into Bagneres on Stage 08 Attacking over the top of the final climb, the Team Sky rider confounded the many critics of his team's generally conservative tactics with a display of borderline recklessness and a victory of real panache.
Froome followed up on what many thought had just been a 'moment of madness' a few days later with an opportunistic late surge out of the crosswind-affected peloton that saw yellow and green jerseys contest a full-bloodied sprint for the line. Clearly, Froome was riding to his own rules and racing hard.
As the race moved to the mountains we expected the tests to come but no-one could have predicted the scenes that Mont Ventoux brought. With the stage shortened due to high winds and the lower slopes jam-packed with spectators, a crash with a motorbike saw Froome running up the mountain in search of a replacement bike.
The expected challenges Quintana and Aru never came. Froome extended his lead little by little on every terrain and none had the measure of him. He won a second stage victory with a dominant performance on the uphill ITT and from there it was plain sailing. Even a crash on stage 20 that required him to do the final climb on a teamate's bike saw him extend his lead as all his main rivals suffered.
Froome's win is the first back-to-back TdF victory since 2005 - and even that doesn't appear in the record books anymore - but, more importantly, this is win that was not 'by the book'. It was forged by a rider whose confidence in his own ability and appetite is finally growing beyond that of his team. It was the win of a true Champion.
- Gallery quality Hahnemuhle giclée print
- Limited edition of 103, signed and numbered
Size A1 841x594mm, 23 3/8" x 33 1/8"