Words by Ian Boswell
What does winning a stage or wearing a jersey mean for those riders that have flown under the radar or who are young in their career? The opening ten stages have changed the course of a few riders lives, primarily. Teunissen, Ciccone, and Teuns have all had strong starts to their young careers but their performances here will undoubtedly offer them more respect from riders in the peloton and greater responsibility and belief from their teams going forward.
To win a stage at the Tour de France you need to have a bit of luck, and if you are good enough, you make your own luck. I think that sums up the first week of this year’s Tour pretty well. The riders we have all come to know well have been at the fore and won their stages: Sagan, Alaphilippe, Groenewegen, De Gendt, and Van Aert. The more interesting side of this year’s Tour has been the riders who are already world class riders, and who have come up with that little bit of luck needed to announce themselves to the wider world. Most notably has been Mike Teunissen, winning stage one and taking the yellow jersey, and then following it up by being part of the Team Time Trial win on stage two. Stage one seems like a distant memory now for both riders and viewers, yet the riders who did capitalize and win a stage or wear a leaders jersey will never forget the success they have achieved.
The Tour de France is a bike race and at the same time,
it’s so much more.
Following the Tour from 3,600 miles away, I cannot feel the stress that resonates from within the peloton — stress I remember well. From what I have heard from riders in the peloton, the overwhelming consensus (for a reason that is not so tangible) is that the stress of the peloton is not so high as last year. Of course, it’s easy for me to agree, having completed only one Tour and also not even being in France to feel the excitement…
The aspect of the Tour that always captures my attention, as well as the attention of the world, is the fight for yellow, and the drama of the fluctuation within the overall standing. We viewers got a glimpse at the riders’ condition during stage six on La Planche des Belles Filles. Geraint Thomas was the best of contenders, which bodes well, as he has had a rocky start to the season and had limited opportunities to really show himself and build his Tour confidence. Thibaut Pinot has also shown well, a rider who has had both triumphs and defeats thus far in the Tour, and who has been racing with all the passion of a Frenchman carrying the weight of a nation in their largest annual event. After losing time on stage 10 I suspect he will be aggressive in the Alps and make a bid to finish on the podium in Paris.
The Tour de France is a bike race, and at the same time, it’s so much more. It is not only a month-long saga of suffering for those on the bike, but it is arguably the country’s most clever marketing technique. Up until last July, I had never experienced the Tour from the front — rather than from the back — the camera. Rather than being able to view the stage from the vantage point of the helicopter that shadowed me, I could see its shadow.
Often times, I would take a moment post-stage after uploading my ELEMNT BOLT to mark points on a map to which I hoped to return later in life. (Among these points of interest last year were the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and the village of Espelette.) The racing in the Tour is hard enough and the focus is such that there are few days to really look around and admire the landscape. There were stages when we rolled alongside rivers and lakes to cheering fans enjoying their July as they have long done: by watching the Tour with a cold drink in hand while soaking up the French countryside. I remember looking down on a river below at folks kayaking along, thinking,
“That looks nice, I wish I was down there.”
It’s the contrast of the fans sitting back and embracing their summer holidays to watch intense and sometimes painful racing that makes the Tour such a beautifully ironic part of France in the month of July. It’s so much more than just sporting event; the Tour de France is a French tradition that could only thrive the way it does because of the inherent paradox. Who is really doing the Tour de France? So while watching this next week, do a little extra research into a town, climb or village that the riders pass. Get creative and make a local dish and embrace the Tour de France in a new way. Tonight I’ll season my steak with a little bit of Espelette pepper.
After ten difficult stages, riders will finally have a chance tomorrow to take a rest day and hopefully enjoy a bit of that French flavor. It won’t be long, though, until the riders hit the Pyrenees, and we will get our first glimpse at who could win the 2019 Tour de France.
My pick: my good friend, Geraint Thomas.
Ian will be writing Inside the Tour from the Outside throughout this year’s race. Expect to see new content each rest day and a recap the day following the final stage in Paris. Ian will be shedding light on the race with the race, his own perspective of the effort it takes to race the Tour and will share some of his stories from the road both past and present.
Join us and Ian for the Peacham Fall Fondo. Held in the historic town of Peacham, Vermont, and home to Ian and his wife Gretchen the route displays some of the most picturesque landscape in the northeast. Registration is filling up quickly so make your plans today.