Team Sunweb would never have imagined a Tour de France as successful as this one – four stage wins and two classification jerseys – when the race departed three weeks ago, but the dream scenario is very much a reality for its French leader Warren Barguil.
Barguil conquered the famous Col d’Izoard to claim victory on stage 18’s summit finish and effectively secure his polka-dot mountains jersey.
“I just living my dream,” Barguil said. “It is just crazy, but I showed my real potential. And to win as the mountains leader, in the polka-dot jersey… It’s special. This entire Tour is special.”
It has been a spectacular Tour and a spectacular season for the German Sunweb team. It conquered the Giro d’Italia with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, and has achieved similar success already in this Tour.
Things appeared to be going in a different direction when Barguil, from France’s cycling heartland of Brittany, failed in a photo finish to Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale-Drapac) in stage nine.
But Barguil turned his Tour around in Foix with a mountains win that added to his polka-dot lead. New hire Michael Matthews followed with two stage victories and added points to his green jersey lead. And Barguil won again today on the famous Alpine pass, leaving him placed ninth in the overall classification.
“This team like a family. We are very close together. Everyone works for everyone, I work for Michael and Michael works for me,” Barguil said.
“The Tour is great adventure after what happened at the Giro. It’s great for the team. Between the Giro and the Tour, it has been exceptional.”
Such success comes after a nightmare 2016 season for Sunweb. A British driver ran head-on into the team while training in Spain. Barguil escaped lightly with only a fractured collarbone, but the others came away worse. American Chad Haga still shows the scars, with one on his neck marking just how close he came to death.
“I passed really bad moments that a lot of people don’t know about,” said Barguil. “But I believed a lot in myself, always.”
On Col d’Izoard, Barguil rode clear of the overall favourites group that included Chris Froome at 6.1 kilometres to climb. He left behind Darwin Atapuma (UAE Team Emirates) and held off the resurgence of Froome’s group.
“The last kilometre, I was thinking, ‘You need to believe now.’ At 500 metres to go, 300 metres to go, when I looked back, I had enough gap I thought, ‘Wow, I go for a win and I’ll take so much pleasure in the last 300 metres.’
“For me it was ‘all out’ – go to the limit, to the end. I wanted to go to the end. It was my last attack of the Tour.”
Success at the Tour may lead to greater things for the 25-year-old Frenchman. Next year, he could return to race again for the overall, and there is speculation whether he will re-sign for Sunweb or move elsewhere, with Astana said to showing interest.