Le Tour 2019
Tour de France 2019
The greatest race on earth, in any sport - the Tour de France, starts today, and for the remainder of the Tour I’ll be blogging about the Tour, the day’s stage, and how the riders will be feeling in general. As and when it becomes available I’ll be looking at some of the data and metrics of a stage and use this to help give you an insight into the race. But, what do I know about Le Tour? In 1990, as a young racing cyclist, I rode virtually the entire Tour route in front of the peloton. This gave me insight into how the racers might be feeling, more importantly though a few years ago I provided sports science support to several teams during the race, for several editions of the race.
It’s really the only way to describe the first road stage of any Tour - chaos. It’s chaotic, it’s an anxious time for the riders, Director Sportifs (DS), and support staff. For many teams, especially those without a general classement (GC) rider, winning a stage is hugely important. REALLY important. To win the first the stage in the biggest race in the world is what every DS wants their riders to do.
This means that everyone is fighting for position, pushing the speed on, and today, the winner of the first stage also takes the GC lead and wears the yellow jersey the next day. Winning today, will make a team - they’ll be in a better position for securing further sponsorship, and for the rider, well he’ll definitely have a contract for next year! Without doubt today’s stage is nerve wracking.
Imagine you race, or perhaps have a big challenge coming up. On the day you may well feel nervous and anxious, but the pressure is different at the Tour — because, this is their livelihood.
Additionally, for the GC riders like Fuglsang, Thomas, Bernal, Nibali, Bardet, Pinot, etc. they need to ride at or near the front. Being close to the front means you’re less likely to get caught in a crash. Sprinters and their teams need to be at the front, and of course, if you’re trying to get off the front then you’ll need to be near the front. This means that there are lots of riders fighting for position. On narrow roads, or those with lots of corners this is a really stressful time.
Today, we’ve seen Fuglsang go down with approximately 18km to go. As i write this the reports are sketchy as to his exact injuries but it looks like he’s cut his face, elbow and shoulder. He made it back to the peloton, but it just shows that one of the pre race favourites wasn’t immune to these crashes. It looks like he’s ok, but he’ll likely be a little worse the wear for tomorrow’s team time trial stage. Hopefully, he won’t be too badly affected.
Geraint Thomas, also went down with ~2.5 km to go so shouldn’t lose the time he’s crossed the line at (about 1:50 down on the day’s winner).
For Mike Teunissen, of Jumbo-Visma, this was a great win, he’s the lead out man for his team’s sprinter Dylan Groenewegen - but Groenewegen crashed about 1.5km from the finish. Teunissen played to his strengths and did a great late sprint to just pass Peter Sagan on the line. The long slightly uphill finish looked ideally suited to Sagan, so this was a surprise win for Teunissen. Behind, Caleb Ewan got boxed in a little and he’ll be looking to make amends at some point.
For the riders in the early break, and the later solo break, this will have been a marginally less anxious time. Out front and riding in a small group is much less chaotic — it’s easier to see where you’re going, easier to avoid other riders, and easier to assess what speed to carry into the turns.
Hopefully, everyone who crashed today will be fine and able to start tomorrow. No one wants to be eliminated at such an early point. Roll on the team time trial tomorrow. I hope you’ll join me tomorrow. See you then