Which teams hit their aims at the Tour de France 2015? Some saw everything fall into place whilst others were left frustrated and stuck in the peloton. The appeal of the Tour de France is so great that many teams make it the central aim for season and French squads in particular look for a slice of premier TV time. Watching Simon Geschke’s tears after his fantastic win it was clear how much Tour glory means to the pros.
Highs: Finally cracking Team Sky in the final week to give Nairo Quintana a flicker of hope and landing Alejandro Valverde on the podium beside him. The pair’s consistent high finishes helped Movistar to the team classification.
Lows: Never landing a stage win- with Quintana’s rampaging ascent of Alpe d’Huez the most frustrating near-miss.
Tour Rating: 7.5/10
Highs: Peter Sagan proving he is one-of-a-kind and overcoming the organizers efforts to skew the point’s competition away from him along with Rafal Majka’s stage win.
Lows: Alberto Contador’s, somewhat understandable, tired-looking fifth place and losing a battle for control with Sky and Movistar. Losing the much-loved Ivan Basso to a testicular cancer diagnosis was the saddest story of the race, with the Italian’s subsequent successful surgery and re-arrival in France bringing joy to all.
Tour Rating: 7/10
Highs: Chris Froome winning the most glistening Tour of the last ten years and everything going to plan for 19 of the 21 stages. Geraint Thomas stepped up superbly in his role of super-domestique, Richie Porte will part with Sky on good terms and Wout Poels was excellent when crisis threatened in the Alps.
Lows: The team was so Froome-focussed that claiming the yellow jersey makes it mission accomplished. Their leader was isolated on stage 19 but the team bounced back a day later with a struggling Froome paced up the slopes of Alpe d’Huez. Leopold Konig and Nicholas Roche may have underperformed; or at least it looked that way on TV.
Tour Rating: 9/10
Highs: Making a fair fist of the cobbles for the second year running and recovering from disarray in the Pyrenees to set up Vincenzo Nibali’s winning attack on the Col de la Croix der fer.
Lows: Alexander Vinokourov’s public dressing-down of their defending champion as he lost time early on in the mountains. He went as far as to suggest Jacob Fugslang was the new team leader, though nobody seemed to tell the Dane. The team seemed weaker than the selection who rode the Giro.
Tour Rating: 6/10
Highs: Making a memorable mark on cycling’s greatest race and never settling to make up the numbers; Boasson-Hagen had his best race in years, super Serge Pauwels finished 13th overall, a stage victory courtesy of Steve Cummings and impressive debuts by Merhawi Kudus and Daniel Teklehaimanot.
Lows: Louis Meintjes will be disappointed to abandon the race following Stage 17 whilst Serge Pauwels may never have a better chance to claim a Tour stage win.
Highs: After being a constant presence in last year’s race, Ag2r were always likely to return to reality in 2015 but their status as the strongest French team was never in doubt. An early stage win for Alexis Vuillermoz guaranteed a successful race and main man Romain Bardet rode himself into fantastic shape to claim another on Stage 18. Bardet again rides out of France looking like a future contender.
Lows: Bardet looked out of shape in the first week and wasn’t incredibly well supported. On paper, Jean-Christophe Peraud will be disappointed to fall from 2nd in 2014 to 61st this year but his yearning to continue after a horrific crash showcased his huge heart. Chapeau, Peraud.
Highs: Thibaut Pinot slowly turning around his race from frustrated obscurity to a huge win on Alpe d’Huez- arguably the greatest he will ever achieve.
Lows: Aside from the aforementioned Pinot, it’s difficult to recall a FDJ rider who imposed himself on this year’s race. Arnaud Demare at least tried to leave his mark but he lacks something around this level of opposition.
Highs: Kenneth Vanbilsen, Nicholas Edet and Luis Angel Mate attempting to ride away from the peloton on more than one occasion.
Lows: The crashing realisation that life after Nacer Bouhanni (who left the race on Stage 5) is far from enjoyable. They lack a breakaway rider who can go the distance.
Highs: Delivering on their expectation to attack, attack, attack. Former multiple stage winner Pierrick Fedrigo was out-shone by Pierre Luc Perichon, Florian Vachon, Frederic Brun and Armindo Fonesca. Debutante Perichon was a constant presence in the day’s breaks.
Lows: Eduardo Sepulveda being disqualified for being driven up the road when he required mechanical assistance. Largely Sepulveda’s error but a little responsibility should rest with the team for missing him on the side of the road.
Highs: Ruben Plaza stepping up and delivering for the team when winning Stage 16 and continuing in his pursuit for stages in the days that followed.
Lows: Rui Costa abandoning the Tour for the second year running since joining from Movistar. Sick last year, Costa struggled again with his conditioning and left the race on Stage 11. After excelling in their home tour in May, this Lampre team seemed noticeably weaker and Plaza saved their race.
Highs: Simon Geschke’s brilliant solo stage win in Pra Loup, more signs of Warren Barguil’s potential and a reasonable effort at setting John Degenkolb up for the bunch sprints.
Lows: Degenkolb was unable break into the Greipel/Cavendish class of sprinting as was most noticeable when he couldn’t pass Greipel on Stage 15 despite launching from prime position (but then again, not many could). Barguil faded badly in the Alps and lost his top 10 spot.
Highs: Robert Gesink rounding into form from nowhere and defending his top 10 position all the way to Paris. The Dutchman finished no lower than 36th on any stage.
Lows: Wilco Kelderman will be disappointed with his Tour de France but can point to a nasty crash to explain his difficulties. As the team rallied around Gesink their chances of a stage win fell away.
Highs: Stomping their mark on the sprints and emerging as the best sprint outfit in this year’s race with undoubtedly the fastest sprinter in four-stage winner Andre Greipel. Thomas De Gendt would surely have been considered for the combativity award.
Lows: Tony Gallopin was sitting pretty in the GC until Stage 17 and met greater problems the following day as he rolled in with the Gruppetto.
Highs: Aggressive riding throughout the race with Jan Barta earning himself a place on future Grand Tour teams and the Bora Cooktop Extractor being my favourite cycling sponsor advert during the Eurosport breaks.
Lows: Lacking the strength to get a hopeful Sam Bennett anywhere near the front of the sprints, though Bennett himself was finding it tough.
Highs: Mathias Frank emerging from what looked to be a breakaway chasing team to land a huge 8th place overall. Jarlson Pantano had arguably the best race of his career, getting involved in breaks and finishing 19th.
Lows: Never going close to a stage win and star Sylvain Chavanel having a relatively quiet race.
Highs: A strong start, an impressive Team Time Trial win and a Greg Van Avermaet stage all contributed to a brilliant first half of the race.
Lows: Tejay Van Garderen’s sad retirement through illness when sitting third triggered a lifeless finish to BMC’s race. The American was fully backed by his team and will be back again in a year’s time.
Highs: Andrew Talansky ended well to finish 11th and the American was joined by Ryder Hesjedal in a number of final week breaks. Dan Martin also attempted to escape but never went better than when runner-up to Vuillermoz on the Mûr-de-bretagne.
Lows: If either of Talansky or Martin hold top 5 ambitions they will need to ride better, more consistently, in three week races. Ramunas Navardauskas couldn’t repeat last year’s heroics leaving their threat on the flat decidedly blunt.
Highs: Pierre Rolland reminded fans why he was once fancied as a French Grand Tour winner with a solid showing in the high mountains. He ended up 10th and was unlucky to be a marked man for much of the race leaving it until Stages 18, 19 and 20 to attack the pack. Bryan Coquard looked seriously fast at times but needs far greater support.
Lows: Thomas Voeckler is understandably a few years past his peak but Cyril Gautier, Angelo Tulik, Romain Sicard and Pedrig Quemeneur are not good enough to fill his shoes as Tour de France stage winners.
Highs: Joaquim Rodriguez first impressed when accelerating away for a win on the Mur de Huy but bettered that win with a dominant second on the Plateau de Beille.
Lows: Rodriguez faded in the final week and his two wins disguised the fact Katusha were an absent force for much of this year’s race. Alexander Kristoff was unlucky at times but generally looked a tired figure. He will be disappointed with his return from the sprints.
Trek Factory Racing
Highs: Bauke Mollema proved he is still a solid, improving GC prospect and a great fighter in the mountains. Bob Jungels looks one for the future and Fabian Cancellara showed he is still world class, taking the Yellow jersey for a day before his race-ending crash.
Lows: Spartacus’ crash marred the first week and Trek looked seriously short on stage-winners despite Jungels best efforts in the breaks.
Highs: Tony Martin’s brilliant stage win on the cobbles will be remembered far longer than his crash in Yellow two days later. Zdenek Stybar claimed the stage that day and Mark Cavendish pipped Greipel a day later in what was a superb opening week for Etixx.
Lows: One of the World Tour’s top teams remain extremely quiet in the mountains, especially when World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Rigoberto Uran are nowhere near their best. Cavendish’s win was a temporary high in a losing battle with his German rival.
Highs: Though Orica’s Tour never got started, they rode together through the tough times and had some fun in the mountains with Adam and Simon Yates, whilst the figure of Michael Matthews’s nursing two cracked ribs began to reappear at the front.
Lows: An off-the-pace six rider Team Time Trial was emblematic of their race. Their troubles began when leader Simon Gerrans crashed out on Stage 3 and both Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini joined him in the days that followed.