History was made on the roads of Paris in the finale of the 2014 Tour de France. The 101st edition of the race showcased the dominance of a new champion as well as fascinating stories that have set the stage for the next century of competition.
Vincenzo Nibali of Astana showed spectacular form to win. His performances ranged from the subtle—staying upright and on pace if not fast on the cobbles—to the heroic—his stage victory on the Planche des Belles Filles. And on mountain roads, Nibali was one of the bigger surprises of the 2014 Tour. The Italian is a capable racer, but some doubted if he could perform so strongly on the steep grades of the Alps and Pyrenees.
Yet he almost never gave up ground. Instead, he increased his margin as the tour wore on, often without much support from his Astana teammates.
The overall victory ensures a place in the history books for Nibali. He is the sixth rider in history to claim all three Grand Tour titles. Alberto Contador is the only other rider on the list currently competing at the pinnacle of the sport.
There isn't a single doubt that the biggest celebrations for French fans were the podium finishes of Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot. On aggregate times, Nibali was on his own but AG2R's Péraud was able to keep up on a few of the mountain passes. That alone shows that he was more than just a benefactor of the withdrawals of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. A seventh place in the time trial makes Péraud a rider to watch in the future.
Pinot's third place is a remarkable result for the young French racer. The FDJ rider climbed into the top five just past the halfway mark of the Tour, and never dropped back down the order.
Tony Gallopin fed the French fan base, both taking the yellow jersey for a day and later winning a stage.
The success of French riders isn't only a matter of pride for the host nation. The results are important for maintaining support for the race, which benefits cycling as a whole.
Christian Meier ranked as the top Canadian. The Orica-GreenEDGE rider made his Tour debut this year and has worked as a domestique for the team. Meier's role has grown in the Australian team, and he was called up at the last minute to start after being named alternate.
— christianmeier (@christianmeier) July 27, 2014
Svein Tuft stormed to a 15th place in the lone time trial while wearing the maple leaf jersey reserved for the Canadian champion.
The most notable Canadian performance on the closing day happened during La Course, a women's race held on the streets of Paris. Leah Kirchmann continued her incredible summer by finishing third in a sprint. Kirchmann was riding in the Canadian champion's jersey after sweeping the women's titles—road race, time trial and criterium—last month.
— La Course by Le Tour (@LaCoursebyTDF) July 27, 2014
Kirchmann celebrated the Tour de France with teammates Annie Ewart and Denise Ramsden, as well as Tuft.
— Canada's Cycling Mag (@pedalmagazine) July 27, 2014
Though a full women's Tour is likely still a long way off, La Course is a welcome sign for those working to see greater opportunities and exposure for women's cycling. It may one day prove to be a watershed event in women's cycling history.
With a century of history behind it, the Tour de France has ushered in an era of young new riders, renewed French talent and the best women riders in the world. The 2014 edition served as a memorial to key battlegrounds of World War I, and saw a new rider join the rarefied ranks of Grand Tour triple crown recipients. In a sport marred by past doping scandals, the 2014 edition went off without a single failed test.
Entering its second century, the Tour de France has set the stage for the very best in professional cycling.