Stage one: Team Sky’s pimpled skinsuits
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The furore centred on the team’s skinsuits (which they had used at the Giro d’Italia and the Critérium du Dauphiné without attracting attention), specifically the tiny bumps on the sleeves to help with aerodynamics which FDJ claimed were against the rules, and led to sections of the French press to accuse Sky of “cheating”.
For their part Sky remained unruffled, with team boss Dave Brailsford describing the controversy as “quite funny”, having had the skinsuit approved by the UCI ahead of the race.
Stage four: Peter Sagan disqualified
For 207.2 of its 207.5 kilometres, stage four from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel was a forgettable day of racing, until probably the biggest moment of drama of the whole three weeks.
With 300m to go, Mark Cavendish went for a gap on the right-hand side of the road, but found only the right flank of Peter Sagan, going crashing to the ground, breaking his shoulder blade, and abandoning the Tour.
The race jury’s initial decision was to relegate Sagan to last on the stage and dock him 80 points in the race for the green jersey, but an hour later jury president Philippe Marien strode into the press room in the Vittel’s municipal sports centre to announce that the double world champion had been kicked off the race.
This was Tour melodrama of the highest standard, with Bora-Hansgrohe even appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to try and get their man back in the race. But it wasn’t to be, and the race continued without its biggest star.
Stage nine: Aru ignores the Tour’s “unwritten rules”
Stage nine from Nantua to Chambéry provided some of the best racing of this year’s Tour, but also a moment of controversy as Fabio Aru attacked at the exact moment Chris Froome put his arm up to signal that he’d got a puncture.
Despite almost having to duck to avoid Froome’s raised arm, Aru said that he hadn’t seen that Froome had suffered a mechanical, shooting up the road and being chased down by Richie Porte, who reprimanded the Italian for his actions.
Simon Yates branded the attack a “dirty move”, while Froome was more diplomatic and was forced to defend himself against accusations that he had deliberately swerved into Aru after chasing back on to the group.
Cue hours of discussion of cycling’s “unwritten rules” on whether it is right to attack the race leader when they suffer a mechanical, and if unwritten rules are unwritten rules, whether they are rules at all?
Stage 10: Bouhanni punch receives slap on wrist
Having already been branded an “idiot” and a “dick” by FDJ’s Jacopo Guarnieri (language for which he later apologised) after stage six into Troyes, Nacer Bouhanni plumbed new depths in terms on intra-peloton popularity with a fracas with Jack Bauer on stage 10.
After Sagan’s disqualification, and the precedent of Andriy Grivko being disqualified and banned for 45 days for punching Marcel Kittel (an incident not caught on camera) at the Dubai Tour, the jury would have been justified in kicking the French sprinter off the race.
Instead Bouhanni was fined 200 CHF and docked time in the general classification, a punishment that Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere described as “a joke”, saying that Bouhanni should have been fined €10,000.
Stage 12: Landa’s brief leadership challenge
The stage to Peyragudes was one of many slow-burners on this year’s Tour, but the final 300m saw Froome’s only moment of weakness as he lost the yellow jersey to Fabio Aru, while team-mate Mikel Landa sprinted to the finish to claim third on the stage.
For 48 hours questioned lingered over a possible leadership crisis in Team Sky as we wondered whether Froome’s powers might be waning and if Landa was in fact the strongest rider on the team and might provide the best challenge for the yellow jersey.
The following day and Landa was on the attack, going clear with Alberto Contador on the short stage to Foix to move himself up to fifth on GC, a result which could have been even better had Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski sat in on the chase behind.
In the end no such leadership challenge emerged, with Landa proving the model domestique through the Alps while still coming within a second of finishing on the podium.
Stage 12: Jury bottles it over Bardet
A few hours after Landa had sprinted to third in Peyragudes, the second controversy of the stage emerged when footage came to light of Romain Bardet taking a bottle from a roadside spectator within 10km of the finish.
Rigoberto Uran and George Bennett had both been docked 20 seconds for the same offence, but somehow Bardet escaped punishment despite taking a bottle at exactly the same point as Bennett.
Understandably Cannondale-Drapac weren’t too happy with this apparent oversight by the race jury, team boss Jonathan Vaughters launching an appeal with UCI.
From the video evidence it would have seemed that Bardet should also be docked 20 seconds (and with it his stage win), but the following morning the jury announced that because team cars had been unable to reach riders before the final climb, all time penalties for feeding within the final 10km would be wiped off.
Not only did this decision allow Bardet to keep his stage win, but ultimately meant that the Frenchman was able to stand on the podium in Paris just one second ahead of Mikel Landa.
Stage 15: Boos for Froome
The Tour de France has a history of hostile crowds, from Jacques Anquetil being heckled by fans of Raymond Poulidor to Eddy Merckx being punched in the kidneys by a spectator on the Puy de Dome.
Chris Froome has had his taste of this in previous years after having urine thrown over him, and was booed on a number of occasions, most audibly on stage 15 to Le Puy en Velay.
The home stage of Romain Bardet, this was probably to be expected, but still sparked debate over whether the yellow jersey deserved such a treatment from roadside fans.
For his part Bardet responded with grace, apologising to Froome for the behaviour of his home spectators.
Stage 20: A third of the race in breakaways, but not combative enough
Thomas De Gendt has always had a reputation as an attacking rider, but he out-did himself at this year’s Tour, spending 1,280km – or more than a third of the race – in breakaways.
With that effort you might have expected De Gendt to be given the award for the race’s most combative rider, but instead the super-combativity prize went to home favourite Warren Barguil.
Barguil had already enjoyed time on the podium thanks to two stage wins and his victory in the mountains classification, so you might have hoped that the jury would reward De Gendt’s ultimately futile attacks with some podium time in Paris.
The Belgian won the public vote, but Barguil took four of the seven jury votes to win the prize, meaning De Gendt went home empty handed.