This year's Tour de France is celebrating its 100th edition and, fittingly, it's one of the best races in recent memory.
Last year's Tour was disappointing to say the least. Mark Cavendish had a rough time, neither Alberto Contador nor Andy Schleck were in attendance and, although a Brit won (Bradley Wiggins), the race was just about decided from the beginning.
Wiggins was great but his team mate Chris Froome was probably stronger. So the question wasn't which team was going to win but which Team Sky member.
Team Sky also had Mark Cavendish, the world's best sprinter who struggled without his lead-out train and right-hand man, Mark Renshaw. Team Sky's superteam made last year's Tour de France shockingly boring, with the only highlights being Wiggins becoming the first Brit to win and Peter Sagan's emergence.
But what a turnaround. Yes, it appears that Sky is still going to take home the yellow jersey with Chris Froome likely to prevail. However, it hasn't been all free and easy for Team Sky this year.
Schleck and Contador made their return, although Schleck's was very underwhelming, and brought some big names back into the competition. Mark Cavendish, for just about the first time ever, was beaten in a flat-out sprint by Marcel Kittel. Sagan has not failed to entertain, doing an in-race wheelie. All of these are great, but there have been two main reasons for this year's Tour being so entertaining.
The first is the absence of the of the opening time trial, or the Prologue. This wasn't a bad way to start the Tour but without it, the yellow jersey becomes open to those who take chances, not just good time trialists.
Daryl Impey captured a yellow jersey - Africa's first rider to wear it. Last year there were just two yellow jersey holders last year. This year there have been five and the reason is the absence of the time trial. Credit must go to the race directors because changing the tradition was a risk but it has since paid off.
The second is the emergence of a young Columbian rider for Movistar, Nairo Quintana. Tour de France rookie and the white jersey holder, Quintana is an extremely strong climber, who loves to attack.
Watching him attack again and again reminds one of Alberto Contador, before he was caught doping and made a dirty move to capture the yellow in 2010. Quintana makes going up a 10% slope for miles upon miles look mundane. Easy. Boring. He is expressionless. The most explosive rider in this Tour, he brings the constant attacking threat that makes a miracle never impossible.
This Tour has been great. It may not be one for the ages but it is more than deserving of the Tour's 100th edition. Really, the past cycling decade has been a period of great entertainment, with last year as a brief hiatus.
This Tour (although Froome looks invincible) also looks cleaner in terms of doping. Almost all the elite riders have had off days showing that they are not the artificial machines that dominated the Tour 10 years ago. So this Tour has maintained the sparkle without the scandal, and hopefully it stays that way.
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