Blazin' Saddles: Tour de France 2018 rider ratings – Geraint Thomas to Monsieur Lanterne Rouge
As the dust settles on the 105th edition of the Tour de France it's time to rate the top 10 and main protagonists – starting with the Welsh winner Geraint Thomas and running right through to his impressive Sky team-mate Egan Bernal, surely a Tour winner in the making, and Lawson Craddock, the Lanterne Rouge.
Geraint Thomas A+
Save for a small skid during the final time trial, Wales' first Tour winner didn't put a foot wrong throughout the three weeks – winning two summit finishes in the Alps (including Britain's first ever victory on Alpe d'Huez) and never conceding any time to his principal rivals. Team Sky have a headache when it comes to renegotiating his contract now…
Tom Dumoulin A
The rangy Dutchman came extremely close to winning the Giro-Tour double but was caught just short in both. Showed that he can climb with the best but perhaps lacked a little bit of killer instinct – and luck – to put significant time between himself and his rivals when it mattered most. Give him a stronger team and more time trials and his possibilities are endless.
Chris Froome B+
The four-time defending champion was a shadow of his usual imperious self and never looked seriously in contention for a record-equalling fifth crown. Had it all to do from the outset following that opening day crash – but proved a solid team-mate for his friend Thomas and was gracious in defeat (so much so that the jeers turned to cheers on the Paris podium).
Primoz Roglic A
In his first Grand Tour targeting GC, the Slovenian narrowly missed out on the podium but did so after a string of promising performances in the mountains, including a virtual win in Mende and a downhill triumph in Laruns. Justified his team's support during opening week wobbles, dovetailing superbly with LottoNL-Jumbo team-mate Steven Kruijswijk on the steep stuff. A thrilling prospect.
Steven Kruijswijk A
His most rounded Grand Tour yet? The experienced Dutchman has always been consistent, but he proved the perfect foil for team-mate Roglic while never jeopardising his own results. Came agonisingly close to adding to the legend of Dutch Mountain in Stage 12 before limiting his losses admirably. Needs more of a killer instinct if he wants to end his long wait for a Grand Tour stage win.
Romain Bardet C
For the second year running the Frenchman regressed on GC and this time he didn't even have a stage win to show for his troubles. Terrible bad luck on the cobbles forced Bardet to dig so deep that he perhaps never recovered: his performances in the mountains afterwards were rather subdued for someone of his climbing reputation. Needs a stronger team and a better TT if he wants to challenge.
Mikel Landa C
The Spaniard left Astana because he wanted to be a leader; he then quit Sky over playing second fiddle to Froome. Given Thomas' victory, perhaps he should have stayed put? For at Movistar Landa found himself part of a blunt three-pronged attack that never got going and failed to cope with Sky's constant Watts. Rumour has it that Landa is already seeking a return to Astana. Wise.
Dan Martin B+
Early victory at Mur-de-Bretagne took the pressure off the Irish opportunist, who then crashed badly to severely dent his overall chances. But Martin never gave up, attacking whenever he could and often from far out. He came close to reeling in Nairo Quintana on the Col du Portet and was rewarded for his panache with the Super Combativity award. All in all, a Tour to savour.
Ilnur Zakarin B
Katusha-Alpecin were ridiculed for their pace-setting on the Tourmalet – but Zakarin kept his side of the bargain with a solid ride (some dodgy descending notwithstanding) to rise into the top 10. He then put in the TT of his life to move above Quintana on the standings to cap a solid, if unspectacular three weeks. Sense still lingers that Zakarin would be better suited to the Giro or Vuelta.
Nairo Quintana C-
If you'd told the Colombian that he'd finish 14 minutes behind Thomas on GC ahead of the race, he'd probably not have bothered turning up. Quintana paid his Movistar team back for their constant hard work by soloing to a win on the Col du Portet. But this papered over some quite serious cracks: after three podiums in his first three Tours, Quintana now struggles to break the top 10.
Other general classification riders
Alejandro Valverde B
Much was made of Movistar's attacking trident, but it was always clear that the Spanish veteran was going to be employed as a tactical match to be burned. Valverde frequently paved the way for his team leaders – that they couldn't seal the deal was no reflection on him. But his best days on the Tour are clearly behind him. Could that be the last time we see Valverde on French roads in July?
Richie Porte C
It must have hurt Porte to see a rider below him in the Sky pecking order win the top prize in cycling – especially when the Tasmanian entered the race for a second year running billed as co-favourite. Early wobbles meant Porte had it all to do before his Stage 9 crash. Age is against him, but he'll take heart from the success of Thomas – another rider previously synonymous with crashes and bad luck.
Vincenzo Nibali B+
His Tour-winning days may be over, but you sense that the experience of Nibali, who traditionally comes good in the third week, could well have given Thomas a run for his money in the Pyrenees. Granted, the Sicilian was still more than two minutes down when he crashed in Stage 12. But he was sorely missed and may now quickly become something of a Tour anachronism.
Rigoberto Uran B
The Colombian had successfully negotiated the opening week without any mishaps and lay just 42 seconds down on Thomas when he crashed on the cobbles. The fall scuppered his performances in the Alps and he withdrew before Alpe d'Huez. While it would be unfair to say his runner-up performance last year was a fluke, it's hard to see Uran coming close to matching that in the future.
Adam Yates C
Given Simon's incredible performances in the Giro, we were perhaps inclined to believe that his brother would light up the Tour. He had a dedicated team behind him with no sprint distractions, but the only replication Yates could do was of his twin's collapse in the high mountains. Just one difference: he had no stage wins for his troubles. Came close but for agonising crash in Stage 16.
Fernando Gaviria A
The Colombian's maiden Tour couldn't have got off to a better start with a stage win and the yellow jersey. Doubling up three days later, an intriguing green jersey dual with Peter Sagan seemed imminent. But then their contrasting abilities in the mountains shone through, with Gaviria throwing in the towel on Alpe d'Huez day. A promising debut nonetheless, but still room for improvement.
Peter Sagan A+
A sixth classification jersey in seven years with authority and numbing dominance earns Sky scorn but Sagan widespread praise – go figure. That aside, the Slovakian showman's record-equalling sixth green jersey came with a record tally of points following three stage wins and a severe battle in the Pyrenees following his crash. A peerless entertainer and panache-fuelled performer.
Andre Greipel C-
For a second year running, the German veteran failed to win a stage on the Tour and never looked like he would do so despite two top fives in the opening four days. Battled to beat the cut in the Alps before calling it quits en route to Alpe d'Huez just days before Lotto-Soudal announced he was leaving the team. Unsavoury Twitter spat with Arnaud Demare capped a disappointing Tour.
Dylan Groenewegen B+
The Dutch youngster started the Tour a bit off the pace but came good with back-to-back wins at Chartres and Amiens. Given the quality of his train and the speed of his kick, there was enough to suggest that Groenewegen would have gone on to complete his hat-trick had he not hit the deck so forcibly on the stage to Roubaix. Encouraging for the years ahead.
Mark Cavendish D-
The second place all-time leading Tour stage winner never looked close to edging closer to Eddy Merckx's record, his best finish being eighth place at Amiens a few days before he missed the time cut on the first Alpine summit finish. A Tour too far for Cavendish? Perhaps. The 33-year-old clearly isn't the rider he was before last year's crash and it would be a surprise to see him take a 31st win.
Alexander Kristoff B
After five top-five finishes without a win, the Norwegian ended a four-year stage drought with victory on the iconic Champs-Elysees. Seemingly overweight and undercooked, Kristoff never threatened the big guns while they were still there. But you can only beat who's in front of you, and the battling European champion deserves praise for turning things round when it mattered most.
Arnaud Demare B
Given the constant hard work of his Groupama-FDJ team, it would have been a minor disaster had the Frenchman left the Tour empty-handed. Demare suffered something rotten in the Pyrenees to avoid the time cut on successive days before finally repaying his loyal team-mates with a win in Pau. Still no match for the pure sprinters, Demare deserves praise for, ahem, hanging on.
John Degenkolb B+
Never was there a more popular winner than Degenkolb in Roubaix after the German drew a line under two-and-a-half years of recovery following that horrific training crash which threatened to derail his career. The cobbled stage to Roubaix was better than any recent edition of the Hell of the North, and animator Degenkolb was a worthy and emotional winner.
Sonny Colbrelli C
Twice runner-up to Sagan, the Italian had a promising opening week before fizzling out. Colbrelli remains arguably the best sprinter yet to win a Grand Tour stage – and by this showing, he will need to either improve his positioning or hope for a big break or stroke of luck to change that.
Marcel Kittel D
The only thing the German did win during the Tour (before missing the cut to La Rosiere) was his head-to-head record against old foe Cavendish – not that that says much. Third in the opening stage and fifth in Stage 4, Kittel had opportunities but he's a pale imitation of his former self. Things clearly aren't right at Katusha and those five wins from 2017 have never looked further away.
Michael Matthews C
The Australian's race was curtailed through illness so early on that we'll never know what may have been. The omens were ominous: Matthews could only muster seventh in the opening stage before being caught out by crashes either side of the TTT then mysteriously pulling out ahead of Stage 5. Without a sprint win this season, last year's green jersey seems something of a poisoned chalice.
Other selected riders
Julian Alaphilippe A+
The new darling of the French public won the opening stage in both the Alps and Pyrenees en route to taking the polka dot jersey while making history by becoming the first rider to do so with four first place ascents of HC climbs. The Souvenir Jacques Goddet over the top of the Tourmalet was the cherry on the cake for the highly likable Alaphilippe.
Warren Barguil C
Well placed on GC after performing well on the cobbles, Barguil stuck to his word and conceded a chunk of time on the opening Alpine stage – facilitating his ability to attack at will in the mountains. This he did but with markedly less success than a year earlier: a constant figure in the breaks, he never cracked even the top 15 of a stage and was no real polka dot threat to Alaphilippe.
Pierre Latour A
Even when things became a lost cause, the 24-year-old Frenchman often buried himself for Ag2R-La Mondiale team-mate Bardet but still managed a career-high 13th place on GC plus the white jersey. His aggression saw him finish behind Martin at Mur-de-Bretagne and you wonder how things may have been for both Latour and Bardet had they not lost so many other team-mates so early.
Greg Van Avermaet A
Having ridden into yellow after BMC's TTT victory, the Belgian enjoyed a week-long stint in the fabled tunic and lifted spirits following Porte's withdrawal with second place at Roubaix and a star role in the first Alpine break a day later. A stage eluded Van Avermaet, but he honoured the maillot jaune and could well have been elected the Super-Combatif were it not for the marauding Martin.
Rafal Majka C+
While his GC threat faded fast in the Alps, the Pole came close to winning a stage in Carcassonne and Laruns, when he led proceedings over the final summit of each stage only to be swept up on long descents to the line. A distant third in the KOM standings, Majka did not show the climbing legs of old but his 19th place in Paris was his best in five Tours.
Omar Fraile B+
The Spaniard had a largely innocuous Tour save for his stage-winning salvo to Mende, which gave Astana their first of back-to-back wins and helped make up for the early loss of Luis Leon Sanchez. Still only 28, Fraile is proving himself to be a unique rider capable of shining when it matters: he now has stage wins at both the Giro and Tour, plus two KOM titles from the Vuelta. An asset.
Magnus Cort B+
Part B of Astana's winning weekend came from the Dane who played a blinder alongside compatriot Michael Valgren to outfox rival pairings from Bahrain Merida and Trek-Segafredo at Carcassonne. Even younger than Fraile, the 25-year-old also has two sprint wins from the Vuelta to his name – and has proved he can climb as well as kick on the flat. Versatile.
Lilian Calmejane C
It wasn't for want of trying, but the French youngster failed to hit the heights of his debut Tour last year. Top ten finishes at Le Grand Bornand, Mende and Carcassonne highlighted the 25-year-old's ability to sniff out the right break. But Calmejane's often over-eagerness – most apparent at home in Stage 15 when he soloed clear of the break 125km from the finish – underlined his naivety.
Sylvain Chavanel B
One of four Direct Energie riders (behind Jerome Cousin, Calmejane and Damien Gaudin) in the top-five for breakaway kilometres accrued, the 39-year-old was a frequent animator in his record 18th and final Tour. That he was unable to come close to a win was perhaps a sign of the times – but it was a nice touch to see Chavanel allowed to lead the peloton onto the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.
Egan Bernal A
The youngest rider on the Tour finished an admirable 15th place despite the colossal efforts he put in to help Sky team-mates Thomas and Froome. All this after almost breaking a thumb when riding into the back of a team car on the cobbles. A guaranteed white jersey for the future, Bernal also did enough to suggest that he – and not Quintana – may be the first Colombian to win the Tour.
Lawson Craddock A
The only rider in history to be the Lanterne Rouge from start to finish, Craddock battled on after breaking his scapula in the opening stage of the race. While fighting the pain barrier, the 26-year-old American raised close to $200,000 to help fund his local velodrome. He also provided the race with one of its most poignant moments after breaking down in tears of relief following his Stage 20 ITT.
And finally: How bad were the Blazin' Saddles predictions?
Here's how your blogger Felix Lowe had the top ten (with actual positions in brackets)
1. Richie Porte (DNF), 2. Nairo Quintana (10th), 3. Chris Froome (3rd), 4. Romain Bardet (6th), 5. Vincenzo Nibali (DNF), 6. Adam Yates (29th), 7. Rigoberto Uran (DNF), 8. Tom Dumoulin (2nd), 9. Dan Martin (8th), 10. Jakob Fuglsang (12th)
No Thomas, no Roglic, no Kruijswijk, no Landa and no Zakarin… back to the day job!