With the 100th Tour de France ending in Paris late yesterday evening, the three jersey winners – overall champion Chris Froome of Team Sky, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, who won the youth and mountains classification, and points contest winner Peter Sagan, average age remarkably not quite 25 years – have been reflecting on the past three weeks.
Here’s our round-up of their reaction, while Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford also looks back on Froome’s victory, the second year in a row the British outfit has come away from the race with the yellow jersey.
Last night’s ceremonials following a hard-raced final stage were played out against the spectacular backdrop of a light show playing on the Arc de Triomphe, with tens of thousands of spectators on a balmy Parisian evening staying around to offer their applause.
With British fans outnumbering everyone but the French, the biggest cheers came for Team Sky’s Froome as he received the yellow jersey that confirms him as winner of the race.
On the podium, watched by his fiancée Michelle Cound, an emotional Froome’s first words were ones of regret that his mother had not lived to see this moment, before going on to thank those who had shared his journey with him.
This time last year, Froome had finished as runner-up to his team mate Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Sky’s announcement nearly a month before the Tour that a knee injury meant the 2012 champion could not be considered for selection for this year’s race was seen by many as a convenient way of ending speculation over whether Wiggins would ride for Froome or look to ride his own race, and last night Froome expressed his gratitude for the team’s faith in him.
Chris Froome of Team Sky, winner of the 2013 Tour de France.
I’d like to thank my team-mates who buried themselves day-in, day-out to keep this yellow jersey on my shoulders and the Team Sky management for believing in me and building this team around me.
Thank you to all the people who have taken the time to teach me over the years. Finally, I'd like to thank my close friends and family for being there for me every step of the way...
This is a beautiful country and it hosts the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. To win the 100th edition is an honour... this is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time.
That last point, of course, is a reference to suspicions held by some that Froome is not riding clean, with the issue of doping particularly in the spotlight at this year’s Tour, the first since seven-time winner Lance Armstrong was stripped of those titles he won between 1999 and 2005.
The three surviving men who share the record for most Tour wins, at five apiece, joined Froome on the podium, each receiving a new yellow jersey of their own – Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain; the only other man to have taken five victories, Jacques Anquetil, died in 1995.
At 28 years of age, it’s possible Froome may one day join them – he is certainly looking forward to challenging for the overall for several years ahead.
I am 28 now. Most cyclists come into their prime around their early 30s.
I would love to come back and keep contending for the Tour as long as I can and as long as I have the motivation.
His principal at Sky, Sir Dave Brailsford, certainly believes Froome can win it again, and that the best may be yet to come from him, telling the Team Sky website:
It is impossible to say how many Tours Chris will win, but he has all the physical and mental attributes to be able to be competitive in this race, if nothing drastic changes, for quite some time.
He is not at his best yet, for sure, he can still reach a better physical condition than he is now.
Last year, Wiggins provoked controversy when during a post stage press conference he described those who took to Twitter to suggest his performances were artificially enhanced as “c*nts.”
While Brailsford made no allusion to that, he did say he admired Froome’s approach to the same issue.
For somebody to be accused of being a cheat, as he has been, with venom at times, and the way he's dealt with that has been absolutely first class.
He hasn't snapped, he has been patient and tolerant, and he understands why certain people could be venomous towards him.
But he knows when you are doing it right, it is helpful to be able to deal with the situation, and that is a credit to him. He will be a lot more experienced and wiser for the experience and I think he has all the ingredients of a multiple champion.
Brailsford was widely derided when, at Team Sky’s launch in 2010, he outlined the goal of getting a British rider to win the Tour de France within five years; now in their fourth season, they’ve achieved it with two separate riders.
We came into this three years ago very naïve and we are accumulating knowledge all the time.
There are things we learnt last year that we have taken into this year, and there is a lot we have learnt from this year that we will take into next.
There are a whole variety of things, from how you ride, the element of risk that you can afford to take, how offensive and defensive you have to be, how to manage the media. They are all big challenges.
One man who could pose the greatest threat to Froome’s ambitions of repeating this year’s victory is Movistar’s Nairo Quintana; the rivalry between the pair that has emerged this year could provide for some thrilling racing throughout the Tour.
The 23-year-old Colombian has impressed hugely throughout his debut Tour, which saw him move from a supporting role to Alejandro Valverde after the latter's GC hopes were dashed on Stage 13 when a mechanical problem and echelons forming saw him lose big time.
Quintana comes away with a stage win, the best young rider’s white jersey, and the polka dot jersey of mountains classification winner.
Nairo Quintana of Movistar, King of the Mountains and winner of the best young rider competition at the 2013 Tour de France.
I can't believe what has happened... I had dreamt of this for a very long time, but didn't believe it could come so early.
I'm just a 23-year-old boy, but time goes fast, and I could cry out of pure happiness.
We thought winning the stage was feasible, but I wasn't as convinced as my DS nor all the team.
They're impressive: they help me so much, especially on the psychological side, to cope with such big challenges. Just all of them: the carers, the technical side, all the riders... they all took me here and I wouldn't have achieved anything without them.
When [directeur sportif] José Luis Arrieta told me, 'You have to take leadership roles in the team', I stood up and said, ‘Of course.'
I was ready, there was no problem, but I told them they would have to forgive me should my legs fail, because the Tour is so fast and the stages, so long. They said I just had to do as much as I could... I should be calm and go as far as the legs would let me to.
What I achieved is the result of lots of work and the class God and my parents gave me. What I achieved is also a result of my team's work: only since a year ago, I thought about contesting the Tour overall - I had just turned pro and was contesting my first big races, showing myself to the world.
In Colombia they wanted me to conquer the polka-dot jersey, which was always essential to us Colombian riders… I want to take advantage from this moment to salute another Colombian who won this jersey in the Tour and is now at home, recovering after his accident in the 2011 Tour de Suisse: Mauricio Soler.
He told me he would take care of me from there, and this is dedicated to him; best wishes of full recovery, my friend, you're an inspiration for me to keep going.
Finally, Peter Sagan of Cannondale becomes the first man to retain the green jersey since Erik Zabel took it for the sixth and last time in 2001.
Last year, Sagan joined Mark Cavendish in winning 3 stages, although the latter’s ability to defend the jersey he had won in 2011 was constrained by the fact that his main duties during the race revolved around supporting Wiggins’ bid for the overall.
As in 2012, Sagan, winner of Stage 7 this time around, takes the jersey by virtue of his sheer consistency and better ability than the pure sprinters to deal with tough terrain, taking points at intermediate sprints and stage finishes where they are not around.
The emergence of Argos Shimano’s Marcel Kittel as the fastest man in this year’s race – he beat Cavendish 4-2 on stage wins – also helped, as did the crash towards the end of the opening stage which Cavendish narrowly missed, but which cost him the ability to challenge for the win, the stage going to Kittel.
That’s to take nothing away from Sagan’s achievement; while it’s often thought of as a sprinters’ jersey, with points weighted in favour of flatter stages, first and foremost it rewards the most consistent rider, and once again, that man is the 23-year-old Slovak, also one of the sport’s supreme showmen – remember that wheelie after he’d taken the intermediate sprint ahead of that double ascent of Alpe d’Huez?
Peter Sagan of Cannondale, winner of the points jersey for the second year running.
Yeah, I'm very satisfied. I think that last year it was maybe a little bit better because I had three victories but I started this Tour de France with the focus of winning the green jersey and I have done that now. And I have one stage victory.
I had a little bit of a bad crash on the first day and it made things complicated for the whole Tour but I'm very happy.
We will see what happens in the future, race-by-race and then maybe Kittel is the best of the sprinters now. He's younger, no? He's the future and now we will see what comes of sprinting.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.