July 30, 2015 by Irish Peloton
Top Five in the Tour de France
Much was made before this year’s Tour de France of the salivating showdown we had in prospect between the ‘Fab Four’ of Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana. The four are all Grand Tour winners and had never all competed in a race together until this past July. We weren’t really treated to a four-way showdown due to Contador and Nibali struggling in the opening couple of weeks and it looked like Froome had the race sewn up after the first summit finish until Quintana finally made a race of it in the final Alpine stages.
However, along with the gate-crashing Alejandro Valverde, all four riders did eventually finish the race in the top five overall. And because Valverde himself is a former Vuelta winner it meant that for the first time ever the top five riders in the Tour de France were all Grand Tour winners. It makes Froome’s victory seem all the more impressive given the quality he was faced with at the pointy end of the race. It also threw up a fair few other related stats and facts to do with the top five finishers in the Tour de France, if one was so geekily inclined to go digging for such things.
Former Grand Tour Winners
While this year is the first where all five riders in the top five of the Tour are Grand Tour winners, even having four Grand Tour winners within the top five is a rare occurence. It has only happened on three previous occasions:
1989: Greg LeMond, Laurent Fignon, Pedro Delgado and Marino Lejaretta
1969: Eddy Merckx, Roger Pingeon, Raymond Poulidor and Felice Gimondi
1952: Fausto Coppi, Bernardo Ruiz, Gino Bartali and Jean Robic
Conversely, it is a much more common occurrence for there to have been no Grand Tour winners in the top five at the Tour. This has happened 26 times in Tour history the most recent example of which was in 2007 largely due to the fact that Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich had retired, Ivan Basso was suspended and Alexandre Vinokourov got thrown off the race for blood doping. The only other time this has happened since 1960 was in 1996, explainable on that occasion largely due to Miguel Indurain’s capitulation and the lack of former Giro and Vuelta winners on the startline.
Former Grand Tour podium finishers
Obviously as they were all winners this year, all five were also Grand Tour podium finishers. This is the seventh time this has happened in Tour de France history:
2005: Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Francisco Mancebo and Alexandre Vinokourov
1979: Bernard Hinault, Joop Zoetemelk, Joaquim Agostinho, Hennie Kuiper and Jean-René Bernaudeau
1975: Bernard Thevenet, Eddy Merckx, Lucien van Impe, Joop Zoetemelk and Felice Gimondi
1973: Luis Ocana, Bernard Thevenet, José Manuel Fuente, Joop Zoetemelk and Lucien van Impe
1972: Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Raymond Poulidor, Lucien van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk
1952: Fausto Coppi, Stan Ockers, Bernardo Ruiz, Gino Bartali and Jean Robic
What is slightly more rare is a Tour de France top five where none of them have previously finished on the podium of a Grand Tour. Apart from the first Tour de France in 1903, this has happened on four occassions:
1956: Roger Walkowiak, Gilbert Bauvin, Jan Adriaensens, Federico Bahamontes and Nino Defilippis
1950: Ferdi Kubler, Stan Ockers, Louison Bobet, Raphael Geminiani and Jean Kirchen
1935: Romain Maes, Ambrogio Morelli, Felicien Vervaecke, Sylvere Maes and Jules Lowie
1904: Henri Cornet, Jean-Baptiste Dortignacq, Alois Catteau, Jean Dargassies and Julien Maitron
In 1956, Walkowiak was the rider who won the Tour thanks to a massive amount of time he gained through an innocuous looking breakaway, giving birth to the phrase ‘winning á la Walko’. For poor old Roger, a case could be made that he won the Tour with the least impressive top five in the history of the race. The most impressive previous Grand Tour result among them was a fourth place in the Vuelta for Bahamontes a couple of months previously.
Former Tour de France winners
This year saw three former Tour winners in the top five overall – Nibali, Froome and Contador. This has only happened twice before in Tour history. Unsurprisingly, they are two of the years already mentioned in the former Grand Tour wineer stat above – 1989 and 1952.
Riders who had never ridden the Tour de France before
In 2013, Nairo Quintana finished on the podium of the Tour having never taken part before. He was the first rider to do such a thing since Raimondas Rumsas in 2002. It is becoming more and more rare as years tick by for such a thing to occur as it appears that riders require a sort of apprenticeship period to work out how difficult it is to lift oneself into the top five of the Tour. Apart from the first edition, when nobody had ridden the race before, having four Tour newbies in the top five overall has only ever happened once.
1947 – Jean Robic, Eduoard Fachleitner, Pierre Brambilla, Aldo Roncini
Only previous runner-up René Vietto in fifth place saved the top five from having a clean sweep of Tour virgins. But this was perhaps as unsurprising as that first edition in 1903, becuase 1947 was the first time the Tour had been raced since the outbreak of the Second World War.
Never ridden a Grand Tour
It’s also becoming rarer for a rider to make their Grand Tour début in the Tour de France. Again an apprenticeship period seems prevalent where riders sample Grand Tour riding in one of the other races first before being introduced to the Tour. In the 1950s and 1960s the number of riders taking their Grand Tour bow at the Tour was typically in the 20s or 30s. This year, the number was nine. And the lowest ever was six in 2012.
The last rider to finish in the top five of the Tour de France while making his Grand Tour debut was the Dutch rider Peter Winnen in 1981.
Riders taking part in multiple Grand Tours in one year is normal these days. However it took a while to become the norm. It was only after the third of the Grand Tours, the Vuelta, was created in 1935 that riders had an option of three of these mighty races. And even then it was only in 1948 when cycling’s first season-long competition took place, the Challenge Desgranges-Colombo that riders would regularly tackle both the Giro and the Tour. The Vuelta was added to the list of races when the challenge morphed into the Super Prestige Pernod International. Consequently…
First rider to have ridden the Giro and finish in the top five of the Tour
Kurt Stopel in 1932
First rider to have won the Giro and finish in the top five of the Tour
Gino Bartali in 1938
First rider to have ridden the Vuelta and finish in the top five of the Tour
Leo Amberg in 1937
First rider to have won the Vuelta and finish in the top five of the Tour
Bernardo Ruiz in 1952