Teams split over Tour de France route: did it make for interesting racing, or are more summit finishes needed?

Three summit finishes isn't enough for some

This year’s Tour de France route was designed to stop Chris Froome and Team Sky from dominating – and the intention paid off, according to sports directors.

With the fewest amount of time trial kilometres in the race’s history, and just three summit finishes, Froome’s fourth title in La Grand Boucle was won by just 54 seconds from Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran.

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The general classification fight had remained tight throughout the three-week race, with Froome’s victory ultimately only assured after the 22.5km time trial in Marseille on Sunday.

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Despite the closeness of the race, there has been debate over whether this made the Tour exciting or not.

Frederik Willems, Lotto-Soudal’s sports director, said that the Tour’s organisers ASO have had their route vindicated by the race’s outcome.

“For me it has worked. The race wasn’t decided until a time trial in Marseille,” he said.

“Every year is a bit different. We can see that this year there was not a lot of time trials and the objective was to get everyone as close to each other in the GC and that has worked really well. It has been a Tour for sprinters and climbers.”

The small time gaps at the top of the general classification can partly be attributed to the reduction in big mountain days. Luke Roberts, Team Sunweb’s DS, praised the parcours for “making the race more interesting”.

He said: “It’s been an interesting parcours with such close time gaps and coming down to the final time trial with a few guys in reach of victory.

“With fewer hill-top finishes, riders need to be able to descend and that leaves the possibility of them being isolated after the final climb [on a stage]. It’s meant that team work and tactics and made it more interesting rather than a stage being decided just purely on a climb.”

Roberts’ team had an exceptional Tour, winning the polka dot mountain jersey with Warren Barguil and points classification with Michael Matthews.

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“The green jersey was tipped heavily in [Marcel] Kittel’s favour with the number of flat finishes and high-scoring 50 points finishes,” he said.

“The mountain jersey has been a reward for Warren for aggressive racing. We have seen podium finishers take the mountain jersey in the past due to the heavy number of hill-top finishes, but this year it’s been more suited to a rider who raced aggressive and picked up numerous points on the route rather than just a final climb.”

One manager who wasn’t best pleased with parcours was Alexander Vinokourov. The Astana team manager said that it “was a really exciting Tour and was so close on GC” but bemoaned that the course didn’t suit Fabio Aru.

“The Tour de France normally ends with more summit finishes and that would have been an advantage for Aru, [Romain] Bardet and Uran. As many uphill finishes as possible would be better in the future.”