It comes as a bit of a surprise that there is so much to write in this article but the first nine stages of this year’s Tour de France saw five stage wins, two race leaders and three jerseys held at the same time by British riders.
Tell that to the likes of this nation’s first Tour stage finisher Brian Robinson and he would say you were mad in a thick Yorkshire accent. But this is really happening and here is the proof:
Making a resurgence in his career the Manxman managed to take a slightly surprising victory on stage one considering a relative lack of results (by his standards) on flat out sprint finishes in recent years. This meant he also got to wear the first yellow jersey of the race and his career.
Having worn the points jersey in all three grand tours, the world champion’s rainbow jersey and the leader’s jersey in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, this win completed his set. All he needs is an Olympic medal next month in Rio and he will not have much left to win in a glittering career. He will be going for that on the track but with the form he is showing, anything is possible.
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) July 3, 2016
Cavendish convincingly beat the big sprint favourite Marcel Kittel on stage one, he edged out the other German powerhouse André Greipel on stage three in a photo finish.
Boxed in on stage four and dropped on a hilly stage five, Cavendish managed to fire himself into the green jersey once again on stage six’s final sprint stage before the race headed into the mountains.
He will face a battle to keep that against time cuts and Peter Sagan’s climbing ability, but it appears he is going to give it a shot.
These wins took him to 29 career Tour de France stage victories, moving one clear of Bernard Hinault and just five off the all time great Eddy Merckx.
The Mark Cavendish of old appears to be back, but what about the Cavendish of the future?
A string of top 10 sprint finishes were crowned with a third place behind Cavendish and Kittle on stage six’s bunch kick to Montauban.
Having two British riders on the podium of a Tour de France sprint stage is a feat which nobody seems to recall happening before and so this really is worth celebrating.
A hot prospect for the future having gained recognition for threading a needle through a sprinting bunch to take a win earlier in the season, McLay has now proven he is able to perform on the biggest of stages. Watch out for the Fortuneo – Vital Concept rider’s name over the rest of this race.
— CyclingHub.tv (@CyclingHubTV) July 7, 2016
Another rider who appears to have been reborn since joining Dimension Data, Cummings has won a stage in every World Tour race he has entered this year.
He got himself a superb stage victory in last year’s Tour, beating outright climbers up a final kick and descent to Mende, but it would have been hard to imagine it becoming a regular occurrence.
Nevertheless Steve Cummings battled over the hardest of terrain to break away from 2016 Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali on the category one Col d’Aspin to take one of the most remarkable wins of his career on stage seven.
On that course and against that opposition Cummings looked like a new man as he took the fourth stage win by a British rider.
Business as usual for Froome as he took the yellow jersey and a stage win on the first properly hard day in the mountains? Not quite.
This time Froome attacked over the crest of the Col de Peyresourde on stage eight and then descended in a sometimes hilarious fashion to ride away from the bunch of favourites, who all appeared to be looking at each other and declining to take up the chase.
It was their loss as Froome, who has never lost the yellow jersey once taking it on the Tour, rode away with a 13 second margin to take his sixth career victory on the race.
But it was the nature with which he did it which was the most interesting. He and Team Sky are often called boring for their tactical, pace-driven riding, but this was an attack layered with racing instinct, courage and talent.
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) July 10, 2016
We tipped Yates to be in a battle with Romain Bardet for the white jersey but up to the first rest of the day he looked comfortable in that and even came tantalisingly close to wearing yellow himself had it not been for Froome’s attack on stage eight.
The ORICA-BikeExchange rider has completely held his own in the mountains with the most impressive display coming on stage nine, which finished in the Andorran rain atop the hardest finish of the race so far.
Yates clung on to the very best in the world as they attacked one another and saw some of them sliding backwards past him, broken by the pace.
He even conjured a sprint to the line and led the big favourites for the race, Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana, over the line in a group two seconds clear of any other big names.
All this comes despite the flamme rouge one kilometre to go banner falling into the road right in front of him on stage seven, with the resulting crash leaving him requiring stitches on his chin. Watch the dramatic footage of that below.
— GoPro (@GoPro) July 9, 2016
And all of this means at the first rest day in Andorra, nine stages into the 2016 Tour de France, British riders hold all three yellow, green and white jerseys. It marks the continued rise of remarkable success for a nation that had never won the race before 2012.
Whether they can keep up this level of achievement over the next 12 stages remains to be seen but it will be worth watching to find out.