The 2017 Tour de France, Illustrated

Photo: Captain Smith Design

For the past two years, artist Sam Smith has live-illustrated the Tour de France. He plans to include the images in two coffee-table books currently being funded on Kickstarter. This week, we got a sneak peek of highlights from the 2017 graphic story of the world’s most famous bike race.

Stage 1, The Crash: Valverde Slips in Opening Time Trial

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde lights up the big races with impressive all-around ability and a wealth of experience. On the slippery road of Düsseldorf in this opening stage, Valverde loses control after overcooking a corner, which had caused a lot of trouble for a lot of riders. He skids for more than 30 feet and smashes into the barriers. Unable to remount his bike, he abandons the race. Losing Valverde, one of Nairo Quintana’s most valuable domestiques, is a massive blow to the Colombian’s chances of winning.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 1, The Win: Thomas Wins Opening Time Trial

None of the favorites manage to topple Geraint Thomas from the top spot this day. Chris Froome’s domestique maintains the fastest time on this 14-kilometer course, grabbing yellow and the spotlight.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 2, The Sprint: Kittel Wins First Stage

Germany’s Marcel Kittel wins in a star-studded sprint finish that includes Peter Sagan, André Greipel, Arnaud Démare, and Mark Cavendish. Kittel goes on to dominate the sprints for the rest of the Tour. 

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 3, The Save: Sagan Unclips Pedal, Still Wins

Peter Sagan leads out the sprint in the final 300 meters, looking surprisingly comfortable as others thrash away on their machines. Then, still in the lead, with Dan Martin and Greg Van Avermaet hot on his tail, Sagan accidentally unclips his pedal, jeopardizing his chances of victory, yet he remains calm and gets his foot back into the pedal in time to win the stage.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 4, The Push: Sagan the Villain, Cav Out

During the sprint, Mark Cavendish tries to squeeze past Peter Sagan in the fight for a wheel, but Sagan holds his line. Cavendish runs out of room and is forced into the barrier, crashing violently in the process. Other riders pile up over him and go flying, flipping over their mangled machines. Sagan is DQed from the race for throwing an elbow.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 4, The French Victory: Démare Wins

Arnaud Démare, who led out the sprint when Cavendish hit the barrier, wins the stage. The French go wild at this first victory in this year’s Tour. French cycling is experiencing a resurgence, with Romain Bardet taking second on last year’s podium, Nacer Bouhanni winning bigger sprints, Thibaut Pinot doing well in the mountains, and now Démare in the speed game.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 5, The Favorites: Aru Wins, Froome Gets Yellow

Italian Fabio Aru was seen as a top ten contender before the race started. He shone in previous grand tours, and now, during his first Tour de France, he shines again on the first mountain stage. Aru catches the other contenders by surprise and launches a ferocious attack with less than two kilometers to go on a tough finish. The big names give chase, with Richie Porte and Chris Froome leading the pursuit, but they are unable to catch Aru. Froome, meanwhile, takes the overall GC lead—and the yellow jersey.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 6, The Heat: Hot Weather, Kittel Wins Number 2

It’s easy to forget what these cyclists put themselves through during a Tour. Spectators tend to forget that there is so much going on aside from sheer athletic exertion: battling illness, avoiding crashes, not letting press engagements tire you out. Today the unseen demon to be fought off is the crushing heat. Some riders get their hands on ice packs to slip under their jerseys to fight temperatures that rise to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Marcel Kittel takes his second Tour de France stage with a convincing win over his fellow sprinters. With 500 meters to go, he is about eight riders from the front, with one of his teammates leading out the sprint. Kittel is calm and waits until the last minute to attack from relatively far back.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 7, The Photo Finish: Is It a Draw? Kittel Celebrates

The day concludes in a sprint finish. Marcel Kittel and Edvald Boasson Hagen cross the line at exactly the same time. After much deliberation over the finish line photos, Kittel is declared the winner for his third Tour de France stage. According to officials, he crossed the line 0.0003 seconds before second place.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 8, The Underdog Triumphs: Calmejane Cramps

This is the first time a lot of viewers will have heard of Lilian Calmejane. He breaks away with around 17 kilometers to go as Robert Gesink gives chase. The more experienced rider, Gesink looks like he will catch the young Frenchman, but as time goes on, Calmejane looks stronger and stronger until, with 6/7 km to go and looking like he’s going to win the stage, he cramps. He stops pedaling to stretch his hamstrings as he stands on the pedals to climb a hill. The French viewers simultaneously think, “What are you doing?!” Calmejane puts it into a smaller gear and somehow manages to keep going. He goes on to win the hardest stage so far in the Tour de France.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 9, The Broken Collarbone: Thomas Crashes

During one of the speedy and challenging descents, something goes wrong and Chris Froome’s super-domestique, Geraint Thomas, hits the deck. He has gone down many times in big races, and the assumption is that he will grit his teeth and ride on. Unfortunately, Thomas has broken his collarbone and is unable to continue. This is a big blow for Team Sky.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 9, Froome Passed: Aru Attacks, Bardet Breaks, Urán Wins

Fabio Aru has already demonstrated impressive climbing form, winning Stage 5 with a blistering attack. With 32 kilometers to go and the top riders all in a group, Chris Froome has a mechanical and raises his arm to signal help. Aru, positioned behind Froome, sees the issue and attacks, ducking under Froome’s raised arm to get past. He gains some serious distance, and Froome displays a rare moment of panic as he feels his chances of winning the Tour being threatened. His body language screams frustration as Aru gets away. Luckily, Richie Porte (an ex-teammate of Froome’s) chases Nairo Quintana and Aru, who have gone up the road, and convinces them to wait.

Romain Bardet is a great descender (as well as a climber) and made time on his rivals during Stage 19 in the 2016 Tour by attacking on a downhill. He does the same thing today and makes a gap of around 20-plus seconds. Bardet sits 47 seconds behind Froome in the GC and knows winning the stage would give him time bonuses.

Aru, Froome, Jakob Fuglsang, Warren Barguil, and Rigoberto Urán all come into the finish at the same time, making for an extremely exciting sprint. Froome does very well and battles to get third, with the top two being Urán and Barguil. Urán takes the stage in yet another photo finish.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 10, The Attack: Offredo Attacks, Kittel Wins

During the first kilometer of the first day back after the rest day, Yoann Offredo breaks away from the peloton. He assumes he will have company, but nobody moves. He looks back at the peloton and gestures with his hand as if to say, “Come on! Why is nobody coming with me?!” It looks like it’s going to be a lonely day for Offredo. 

Then the peloton swoops down on the two-man breakaway with about seven kilometers to go. With the end nearing, a right turn strings out the riders. Marcel Kittel is about 12 riders back. With 400 meters to go, he picks up speed, and from the aerial shot, you can see him shoot out of the left side of the road. Kittel ends up winning easily.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 11, Swallowed by the Crowd: Kittel’s Fifth Victory

With 200 meters to go, Maciej Bodnar is swallowed by the merciless peloton. Despite other riders putting up a fight, Marcel Kittel roars to victory as everyone seemingly expected.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 12, Froome Loses the Yellow Jersey: GC Battle

Team Sky leads the race all day. In the finale, Mikel Landa drops off to release Chris Froome. Surprisingly, Froome gets overtaken by almost everyone. The final 500 meters go past painfully slowly, and the lead changes hands multiple times. Froome struggles in the background in the yellow jersey. This is the biggest drama of the race so far (perhaps excluding Peter Sagan’s ejection). Romain Bardet wins the stage as he battles the bike up the hill, and Fabio Aru gains 22 seconds on Froome, putting him in yellow.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 13, Bastille Day: Barguil Wins

Warren Barguil wins in emphatic fashion, staying away all day and beating Alberto Contador in the sprint finish by coming around the outside of the final corner.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 14, Froome Reclaims Yellow Jersey: Matthews Wins, Froome Takes 19 Seconds off Aru

Thomas De Gendt gets caught by the peloton, and the final uphill sprint finish perfectly suits Michael Matthews. Greg Van Avermaet contests the win, but Matthews holds him off comfortably with ample time to look around and celebrate.

In a manic uphill sprint finish, Chris Froome lurks purposefully 10 to 15 men from the front. Froome powers to the finish five seconds after Matthews, and Fabio Aru is still not there. The seconds tick past—Froome is only six seconds behind Aru in the GC—and Aru comes in 19 seconds behind Froome in the end, handing over his yellow jersey in the process.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 15, The Flying Dutchman: Mollema’s Late Win

​Bauke Mollema was a big factor in last year’s GC and has been quiet this year—until today. He attacks in the last 16 kilometers and somehow manages to stay away from the pack.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 16, Matthews Doubles Up: Stage Win Contested

Michael Matthews’ team has lead him all day, and the pressure is on for him to take maximum points by winning the stage. He is contested by John Degenkolb and Edvald Boasson-Hagen. Despite a win by at least half a wheel, Matthews has to await confirmation from the officials.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 17, The Beast: Contador Goes All In

The highly recognizable dancing figure of Alberto Contador brings back many memories of years past, when he launched long-range attacks that were untouchable. In the effort to bridge a six-minute gap, Contador drops Nairo Quintana and charges solo up the Croix de Fer into the front group through the Col du Télégraphe, but he is swallowed by the yellow shirts and finishes the stage in eighth.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 18, Neck and Neck: Froome vs. Bardet

​Chris Froome and Romain Bardet both put on searing attacks in the final five kilometers of the climb. Neither is successful, so they battle it out right until the line. Bardet grits his teeth and grimaces wildly while Froome jangles over his bike, shifting from side to side to get the maximum power through the pedals.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 19, Fast Group Blasts Ahead: Village Spectators Look On

The breakaway group is allowed to get ahead. As they tear through the towns in the southeast of France, it is clear that the stage winner will come from this group.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 19, The Breakaway King: De Gendt Breaks Again

Thomas De Gendt has spent more time in the breakaway than anyone else in this year’s Tour. Here he is yet again, the symbol of the breakaway.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 20, Can Froome Hold Out?: Time Trial Bardet and Froome

The gap between Chris Froome (first) and Romain Bardet is 23 seconds. Rigoberto Urán lurks 29 seconds behind the yellow jersey. The time trial is Froome’s specialty, and he rides off with a palpable confidence despite the overwhelming boos of the French home-crowd.

Froome is so dominant during the stage that in the closing shots it looks as though he might catch Bardet. French television focuses more on their native rider, but Froome still makes an appearance in the background as a menacing yellow figure hunting down his prey. Froome secures his yellow jersey for a third year running and his fourth overall win in La Grande Boucle.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 21, Celebration: Team Sky Victorious

Team Sky celebrate their fifth Tour de France win out of six years. This year’s team is unbelievably strong, with special mention to Michal Kwiatkowski, who came second in the final time trial by only one second (finishing ahead of Chris Froome), and Mikel Landa, who came in fourth in the final overall standings, losing out to Romain Bardet by only a second.

Photo: Captain Smith Design

Stage 21, The Final Podium: Froome Gets His Fourth Tour de France Win

Chris Froome gets his fourth Tour de France victory. Rigoberto Urán is visibly overjoyed and cannot stop smiling. This is the first time he has been on the podium in the Tour de France. Romain Bardet smarts slightly as he matched Froome in the mountains and Urán took his second place on the podium in the final time trial.