From Liege to Paris in 21 stages and 23 days, over 3496.9 kilometres, a British winner declared for the first time, we've finally arrived at the finish to yet another Tour de France.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Summarising such an event is of course impossible. A sporting carnival like the Tour is so full of stories, infinite details and intricacies, that can never be properly told in so few words.

I won't even try to describe the magnitude of Wiggins' feat. It can really only be properly explained by the man himself, and I strongly recommend you listen to the full press conference to get some idea of both the man, and the emotion behind taking yellow in Paris.

To get a fuller picture still, perhaps read the Inner Ring's piece on the road that took him into cycling, and for a thorough analysis of last three weeks, perhaps Anthony Tan's "Simply the Best" is worth a peruse.

Or Brendan Gallagher's article in The Telegraph, the man in the media who perhaps knows Wiggins best, having collaborated previously with the former Olympic champion twice before on his autobiographies, is also worth looking over.

There's no doubt a million other sources of brilliance out there, but I'll let that rest for now. Here are my own thoughts on the Tour of 2012, kept to the confines of a few simple sub-headers.

The winners
Peter Sagan, Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellara
Between them they took more than half the stage wins on offer at the 2012 Tour, but for obvious reasons, they also stand above in their own leagues. While Wiggins first British victory may well overshadow the others, Peter Sagan's maillot vert winning performance was nothing short of outstanding, and Andre Greipel marked himself as back to his imperious best.

It was particularly warming to see Greipel break through, the German taking what was a long-time coming three stage haul, after several years of lacklustre Tour results.

Fabian Cancellara was, as always a worthy wearer of the yellow jersey for the opening week, conducting himself with aplomb and dignity, in spite of the the soap opera that has plagued his RadioShack-Nissan team.

But a special place must be kept for Mark Cavendish, who, not only uncharacteristically rode tempo on several Tour climbs for Team Sky team-mate Brad Wiggins, but also picked up his 21st, 22nd, and 23rd stage wins, with the odds stacked against him. For mine his Stage 18 win was one of the best sprints I've seen, and his fourth straight win on the Champs only further confirms the Manxman, and Olympic road race favourite, in the Pantheon of Tour greats. Chapeau!

The panache
Thomas Voeckler, Luis Leon Sanchez
For the French, Voeckler's double stage success and King of the Mountain title, make the 2012 Tour a memorable one. But it was the style of Voeckler, that of the barrodeur, that will have added a few more fans to the at times divisive Frenchman across the globe. His ability to back up, day in, day out, was impressive, and the maillot blanc a pois rouge, a fitting reward.

Sanchez meanwhile saved an otherwise anonymous Tour from Rabobank, that suffered severly from the losses of Robert Gesink and later, Mark Renshaw. It was a shame that his Stage 14 victory was slightly marred by 'TackGate', because it was my eyes, one of his best.

The confirmations
Pierre Rolland, Tejay van Garderen, Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali
All four had long been talked about in the lead in to the Tour, but just how they would go remained a question mark. They answered unequivocally. Rolland backed up his white jersey win last year, with 8th overall, and a solo stage win on La Toussuire, a further note in his growing palmares. Van Garderen bettered his team leader in Cadel Evans with fifth overall, and seemed to be improving the longer the race went on.

Nibali's form was doubted at the Dauphine, but he came out all guns blazing at the Tour. He was the race's main animator in the second and third weeks, and importantly, for his own confidence, proved he can broach the podium at the Tour. He'll be back for more.

Froome's inclusion here is only because, well, he did still need to prove something. But, his ability to win a Grand Tour, or several is now completely without doubt. At 27, he is the ace that can continue the Sky hegemony. The question now is not if, but when.

The revelation
Thibaut Pinot, Peter Sagan
When Pinot took out Stage 10, I thought I'd remember the stage more for Marc Madiot's passionate theatrics, than for the youngster. I thought Pinot, albeit briefly, as the rider, that the French would harp on about for about a month as the next Hinault, or Fignon, only for him to fade into anonymity. I was wrong. Pinot is a future star. Plaudits to him. Expecting big things.

Peter Sagan is a freak. What can't this kid do?

The under-performers
Alejandro Valverde, Denis Menchov, Levi Leipheimer, Philippe Gilbert, Cadel Evans
Gilbert could have been included in confirmations, if only for 'confirming' the fact his 2012 year has been horrible, with the Tour being no exception. The Belgian has been lost at BMC, and I can't imagine Andy Rihs is at all happy with how his highest paid rider has performed this year. Valverde's Tour was saved by Stage 17, but it was still underwhelming. Evans and Leipheimer rode much of the Tour affected by illness or injury, but for both 2012 will not be one they look back on fondly.

Evans, next year 36, could well come back in a year's time stronger, but for a defending champion 7th, by his own standards I'm sure will be a disappointment - the goal was to win the Tour.

The victims

Robert Gesink, Ryder Hesjedal, Wout Poels
For me, the race was denied a critical part of this year's contest with the abandons of Ryder Hesjedal and Robert Gesink. Hesjedal was by all accounts carrying some top form, having recovered well after the Giro d'Italia. Gesink meanwhile gave us a glimpse of his best at the Tour of California. Both abandons, consequences of the Stage 6 crash in Metz, were disappointing, both for fans of the race, and the riders.

Speaking of that pile-up, Wout Poels, was so badly injured that it remains unclear more than two weeks after the incident whether he'll keep one of his kidneys. This was no 'soft landing'.

The old men
Chris Horner, Jens Voigt, George Hincapie, Stuart O'Grady
Horner, 40, Voigt, 40, Hinapie, 39, O'Grady, 38. Hincapie, now outright, has participated in the most Tours de France, of any rider, with O'Grady not far behind. "Big George" is giving up the ghost this year, but I think I speak for many when I say I hope the other three will be back. Stalwarts of the peloton.

Standard drug related scandals
Di Gregorio, Schleck, and Armstrong
To keep it short. Di Gregorio is a muppet. The Schleck case is odd, but he could well also be a muppet. Armstrong is Armstrong. Once again the Tour can't stop talking about him. More on the latter two, still to transpire.

The teams
Sky and Lotto-Belisol
RadioShack Nissan may have won the team's class, but for me Lotto and Sky were the best teams. Adam Hansen said Lotto's owners were extremely happy with this year's Tour, which they described as the best the team had ever had; fourth overall with a Belgian in van den Broeck and three stage wins with Andre Greipel. "Best ever" may be harsh on history with the 2006 Davitamon-Lotto team taking three stages and green with Robbie McEwen as well as fourth overall with Cadel Evans, but whatever!

And Sky, well, they bossed the race. First and second on GC, six stage wins, and all while one man in Sivtsov, out of the race. A truly dominant performance, from a truly international team. Three Brits, an Austrian, two Aussies, a Norwegian, and a German. A five year dream, pulled off in three. Methodical, ruthless, and ultimately successful.

Now bring on 2013!