Team Sunweb rode into Paris today, finishing a triumphant Tour de France that included four stage wins plus overall victories in both the mountains and points classifications. Led by French climbing sensation Warren Barguil, who won two stages in the mountains and earned the polka-dot mountains jersey, and Australian Michael Matthews, who sprinted to two stage wins and the green points jersey, the team wrapped up its most successful Tour de France ever.
“We can be extremely proud of what we’ve achieved together over the last three weeks,” said Team Sunweb CEO Iwan Spekenbrink. “It came down to everybody committed to the exact same goals, to having an intelligent plan on how to achieve those goals, then working together to achieve it.”
Though Barguil and Matthews took the individual honors, it was a full team effort by Team Sunweb. All nine riders finished the three-week grand tour, and each played a critical role. Beyond the massive workload each rider took on over three weeks, some had other additional accomplishments including Nikias Arndt finishing second after a gutsy breakaway on Stage 19, and then seventh in the final individual time trial in Marseilles.
Team Sunweb riders competed on various Giant bikes during the Tour, including the TCR Advanced SL road bike, the Trinity Advanced Pro TT bike, and a pre-production version of a new Propel aero road bike with disc brakes for certain flat stages and sprints. The bikes were outfitted with Giant parts including Contact SLR saddles, stems, handlebars and handlebar tape, plus the new Giant NeosTrack GPS computer. And they also wore Giant helmets including the Rev and Pursuit for road stages, and the Rivet TT for the time trials.
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
Barguil was first to strike for Team Sunweb. He did it on Stage 9, a grueling day that featured three hors categorie climbs and a dangerous descent to the finish in Chambery. It was the first big day in the mountains, Barguil’s time to shine. The 25-year-old Frenchman flew up the steep ascents, collecting important mountain points at the summits, and he came within centimeters of winning the stage, finishing a close second.
Though disappointed that he didn’t win the stage, Barguil had made clear his intention to be the best climber at this year’s Tour. He collected maximum points over two hors categorie climbs, the Grand Colombier and the Mont du Chat, and grabbed the polka-dot leader’s jersey in the mountains classification.
“Today was an amazing day for myself and the team,” Barguil said afterward. “The guys went full on for my chances and that gave me the confidence that I needed to climb at my best. On the Mont du Chat I did everything I could to make it to the top first, and I was really happy to be able to do that.”
Soon Barguil broke through to get the win he had narrowly missed. On Stage 13, a short, chaotic mountain stage in the Pyrenees, he gave French fans a reason to cheer with a dramatic win on Bastille Day. Barguil tore through the 101km stage from Saint-Girons to Foix on his TCR Advanced SL, the perfect choice with its efficient all-rounder capabilities for both climbing and descending, and captured his first-ever Tour de France stage victory in dramatic fashion.
“This is an incredible victory, it hasn't sunk in properly yet," Barguil said. "After I made it up the first climb I knew I wasn't going to give up. I've been so close to the win quite a few times now, so to have the winning feeling is incredible. Of course a victory on Bastille Day makes this even more special."
And he wasn’t done yet. On the final day of racing in the high Alps, the 179km Stage 18 from Briancon to Izoard, Barguil captured his second stage win and strengthened his hold on the polka-dot jersey with just three stages left before the finish in Paris. “I can’t believe it,” Barguil said. “This is a dream for me. It has been a dream three weeks.”
Wearing his Pursuit helmet, Barguil flew up the Col d’Izoard, passing all the riders ahead from an earlier breakaway, one by one. He caught the last rider, Colombian Darwin Atapuma, with just over a kilometer to go. Barguil turned up the pace a bit more, dropped Atapuma with 800 meters to go, and took the solo win atop the 2,360-meter summit, the highest finishing point of the 2017 Tour.
In addition to solidifying his hold on the polka-dot jersey, that victory also put Barguil into the top-10 in the general classification, which he would maintain all the way to Paris with a career best 10th on GC. Barguil’s aggressive racing style has made him a favorite among fans as well as Tour de France organizers, who chose the Frenchman for its Most Combative Rider award.
While Barguil was dominating the mountain stages, his teammate and Tour de France roommate Mathews was doing the same in the points competition. The Aussie was competitive from the start, but really came into his own on the final week. After a couple of near misses on stage wins, including a top-10 finish on Stage 2 while riding the pre-production Propel aero road bike with disc brakes, and a second-place finish on Stage 3, Matthews broke through for a win on Stage 14.
Matthews was set up by his teammates perfectly on the 181km stage from Blagnac to Rodez, and the 26-year-old delivered on the uphill sprint to the finish. Following his teammate Barguil’s Stage 13 win the previous day, that made it two straight for Team Sunweb.
“I’m super happy to get the win for the team today,” Matthews said after his Stage 14 victory. “We were all really focused even though there was a lot of pressure and expectations. The team have worked so hard for the whole Tour de France, so for us to take two in a row is incredible and we couldn’t ask for anything more.”
But Matthews did get more. Three days later he took his second stage win on a tough day of racing through the Rhône Valley. Once again Team Sunweb controlled the peloton, chasing down the breaks and putting Matthews in position at the end.
Matthews also gained crucial points that day on points leader Marcel Kittel. In a race that challenged teams and riders with two mountain climbs early, followed by stiff winds on rolling roads in the final 50km, Kittel was dropped from the lead group, spurring Team Sunweb to apply the pressure so that Matthews could earn points in the battle for the green jersey.
“When I heard that [Kittel] had been dropped by one minute over the top of the climb, we decided to start pulling,” Matthews said. “I took the intermediate and we got the final also. We got 50 points today.”
The effort would pay off the following day in the Alps. On Stage 17, a 183km day that featured four categorized climbs, including the iconic Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Galibier hors categorie ascents, Matthews again fought for points at every opportunity.
Wearing the aerodynamic Pursuit helmet, he won the lone intermediate sprint, adding another 20 points to close to within 9 points of the lead. By the end of the day, Matthews had assumed the points lead when Kittel was forced to abandon following a crash.
“After getting 50 points yesterday I knew that it was game on,” Matthews said. “I knew beforehand that I had to be active to get those 20 points today and was aware that even if I did get those points it was still going to be difficult. You never want to see a guy out of a race like Kittel did. It’s been such a good battle up to this point.”
The Aussie continued to battle the rest of the way, defending the green jersey all the way to Paris. Matthews summed up his own feelings, and those of the entire team, after the finish: “It’s been a rollercoaster with a lot of highs and lows,” he said. “The second week was when mine and Warren’s dreams started to come true. We more or less took it in turns with the wins and continued the momentum together, along with the rest of the team. To bring these beautiful jerseys to Paris is really something special and a moment I will remember forever.”