The 2015 Tour de France will be remembered as a hard-fought edition of the race that felt like an entire season of racing packed into three weeks.
Baking hot sun, torrential rain, time trials, cobbles, hills and mountains all left their mark on the 2015 Tour – as did the opening week’s crashes, which saw two leaders prematurely forced out of the race while in the yellow jersey.
As ever, the varied French scenery – this year augmented with a Grand Depart in the Netherlands and a stage in Belgium – meant that the race has a backdrop like no other sporting event. A constantly changing arena in which the toughest and most prestigious cycling event is played out.
Here we present a selection of images from Yuzuru Sunada, a renowned cycling photographer with over two decades of experience capturing the sport.
July 3. Welshman Geraint Thomas turns the tables on the press, snapping a photo of them during the pre-race Sky press conference in Utrecht.
July 4, stage one. Edvald Boasson Hagen was part of MTN Qhubeka’s inaugural line-up of riders, here taking part in the opening individual time trial.
July 5, stage two. What the Dutch scenery lacked in hills it made up for in wind, which cut the race to pieces. Here, Armindo Fonseca leads the escape group.
July 6, stage three. Fabian Cancellara struggles to finish the stage, even with assistance from Markel Irizar, after crashing heavily. The Swiss rider fractured two vertebrae and was forced to withdraw.
July 6, stage three. The Orica-GreenEdge team suffered more than most during the crash on stage three in Belgium. Daryl Impey fractured his collarbone and was out of the race.
July 6, stage three. Race director Christian Prudhomme called a halt to the stage after a mass crash.
July 7, stage four. World champion Michal Kwiatkowski looks disappointed after taking on the Tour’s cobbled stage to Cambrai. He would later withdraw from the race with illness.
July 8, stage five. Slick roads and first-week nerves saw a number of crashes take place in the opening stages.
July 8, Stage five. Wind causes the peloton to split into echelons
July 9, stage six. Race leader Tony Martin becomes the second yellow jersey to crash out of the race, sustaining a broken collarbone.
July 10, stage seven. British sprinter Mark Cavendish was elated after taking the stage victory, hugging Etixx team-mates Michal Kwiatkowski and Julien Vermote. It would be Cav’s only stage win of the race after he suffered with illness in the final week.
July 11, stage eight. Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot of Tour debutants MTN-Qhubeka became a real star, with a large fan club ensuring he was cheered from the roadside.
July 14, stage 10. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali effectively lost the chance to win the race on the way to La Pierre-Saint-Martin. Chris Froome won the stage, and Nibali lost four minutes and 25 seconds.
July 14, stage 10: Father and son. 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche (left) chats to son Nicolas, who was be a key part of Sky’s winning team.
July 14, stage 10. King of the mountains Daniel Teklehaimanot or Eritrea talks to best young rider Nairo Quintana of Colombia.
July 15, stage 11. Sky’s Ian Stannard carries his own bags in the Pyrenees – though not during the race.
July 15, stage 11. Peter Sagan (left, we think) walks off the stage after collecting the green jersey. He would claim his fourth consecutive green jersey in Paris, but this year did not get a stage win, finishing second on five occasions.
July 15, stage 11. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Specialized bikes are lined up ready for action
July 16, stage 12. The rain returned on stage 12 to Plateau de Beille. Here the group of overall contenders mark each other. Up ahead, Joaquim Rodriguez won the stage – his second of the race.
July 16, stage 12. Rain-soaked finish line in Plateau de Beille as Jakob Fuglsang comes in.
July 17, stage 13. You can’t have a photographic round-up of the Tour without some sunflowers.
July 17, stage 13. Robert Gesink appears at the door of the LottoNL-Jumbo bus. He would have a good race, placing sixth overall.
July 18, stage 14. Having won the Giro d’Italia in May, Alberto Contador was attempting the Giro-Tour double. However, he was off his best form in the mountains and eventually finished fifth overall.
July 18, stage 14. Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana engage in a sprint to the line in Mende.
July 19, stage 15. A rare photograph showing the number of photographers and team cars that follow the race.
July 20, stage 16. Peter Sagan enjoys a joke with Joaquim Rodriguez (left).
July 22, stage 17. Stunning scenery as the peloton navigates the Col d’Allos.
July 22, stage 17. Simon Geschke celebrates an emotional stage victory in Pra Loup. The German took a solo victory and broke down in tears during a post-stage interview.
July 23, stage 18. The escape group ascends the Col du Glandon. Romain Bardet would go solo from the escape to claim the stage win.
July 24, stage 19. Defending Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali went on the attack to win stage 19, clawing back some time on his rivals. However, a badly-timed puncture the following day saw his hopes of salvaging a podium place dashed.
July 24, stage 19. Stef Clement finds some greenery at the side of the road on the Col du Mollard.
July 25, stage 20. Lars Bak descends the Col de la Croix de Fer to the admiration of a small group of roadside fans.
July 25, stage 20. The penultimate stage of the Tour finished atop Alpe d’Huez, and fans from the Netherlands took up their usual residence on ‘Dutch corner’.
July 25, stage 20. As Chris Froome crossed the line on Alpe d’Huez he all but won the 2015 Tour de France, with only the following day’s flat stage into Paris to tackle.
July 26, stage 21. In addition to winning the yellow jersey, Chris Froome also won the King of the Mountains classification – the first Briton to do so since Robert Millar in 1984. This may also have been the first time that skiers have been spotted on the Champs Élysées.
Video: best of the 2015 Tour de France