The Tour de France made it to Paris and the winner has been crowned - but how did fans find the 2020 edition?
As with most things this year, the Tour was unprecedented in many ways.
We saw the race delayed until late August, the number of fans restricted due to coronavirus and the youngest winner for more than 100 years in Tadej Pogačar.
But how does the race compare with the great Tours of history?
Dan Smith, 20, from London welcomed the return of bike racing after the coronavirus break: “It was great to watch some proper racing and some of the mountain stages, especially in the Pyrenees, were great viewing. The final time trial twisted the whole narrative of the three weeks like never before as well.
“It wasn’t quite as good as good as 2019. Last year was an incredible race with a slightly poor ending, whereas this year wasn't as exciting day to day but had a more thrilling conclusion.”
This year we saw Ineos Grenadiers lose their dominance as Egan Bernal wasn’t able to defend his 2019 victory, while Jumbo-Visma were more than willing to step into the space at the head of the peloton left vacant by the British WorldTour team.
Peter Wilson, 55, also from London, said: “Very much, some incredible racing and the new talent rising to the top means that cycle races will be seeing the new guard dominate in years to come. The time trial on Saturday was edge of the seat and Pogačar produced an incredible performance to overturn the deficit and step into the yellow jersey. Sam Bennett also was super. Fantastic tour and will live long in the memory.”
Lynn Van Every, 56, from Pocatello, Idaho, USA, said: “Great efforts by many. Always fabulous scenery in the French countryside. I enjoyed it, a somewhat different cast of characters and team makeup. Seemed like the field was more wide open, no one could have predicted the GC battle.
But despite a few memorable stages over the three weeks, the general classification looked sealed from stage nine as Primoź Roglič continually proved he was the strong rider.
That all changed on the final day of GC racing, the individual time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) put in one of the most staggering performances in the history of the Tour to overturn his 57-second deficit to Primož Roglič and win the Tour by almost a minute.
At 21-years-old, the Slovenian is the youngest winner since 1904.
Jernej Furlan, 32, from Slovenia said “our riders were very outstanding” and added that the 2020 race was “much more interesting” than the 2019 edition, but that the biggest disappointment was Roglič losing the Tour at the very end.
This year’s Tour also looked very different from previous versions, as the organisers tried to prevent any further spread of coronavirus through the race.
Riders wore masks at sign-on, there were fewer fans at the side of the road and interviews were carried out at a safe distance.
Matthew Acton-Varia, 27, from Stourbridge, UK said: “Whilst the racing has been somewhat unpredictable, safety concerns due to the pandemic, and lack of race sharpness causing a few crashes have taken a shine off the event.
“The sight of fans, in particular on climbs where there were no barriers, has left me surprised that none of the riders returned a positive test. In places where crowd control was difficult / impossible, like on the TT climb, left me concerned for the riders safety.”
Peter Wilson said: “I wish more fans took care to wear their masks on the mountains. France is suffering from a rapid escalation in coronavirus - all visitors and fans should follow precautions and respect that actions have consequences.”
The race wasn’t so successful for French fans and riders though, as Romain Bardet abandoned with a concussion and Thibaut Pinot fell out of contention early.
Tristan, 20, from Paris, France said: “Of course I did enjoy my home Tour! There was plenty of action (Julian Alaphilippe, Bora Hansgrohe and the fight for the green jersey, Pogačar and his incessant attacks) there so many great riders at this Tour it is unbelievable!
“I’m a little sad because Frenchmen Pinot and Bardet didn’t succeed like they deserve to. However Alaphilippe and Nans Peters won beautiful stages.”
On Pogačar’s time trial victory, Tristan said: “It is one of the most beautiful comebacks in all cycling, so this stage will remain as one of the most thrilling stages of all times.”
Christine Brill, 54, from North Warwickshire UK, said: “I was glued to each stage, it was fascinating to see Jumbo-Visma take the role that Sky/Ineos have done in the past, leading from the front and shutting down attacks.
“Watching Sam Bennett grow in confidence and finally taking the Stage 21 win was really heartwarming and the TT on stage 20 meant that my husband, father and son and I were literally glued to the TV - and they are not the fans of Grand Tours in this house, that's me!”
She added: “Apart from the obvious lack of crowds, especially in Paris, I think the racing was superb, the riders had obviously been working hard on their fitness levels during lockdown and it was almost like they had excess energy to burn!”
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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