Before starting his hike in the Vercors, a runner from the Grande Boucle sent us a text Monday evening at 7 p.m.: “It’s weird, this Tour. [Les organisateurs] need help finding a demanding course. There, we will have twenty kilometers of flat and two kilometers of bump. ” He also gave us a prediction that he had read in the bowels of a chicken: “Jumbo will ride hard. They’re gonna blow up some guys. We will have Roglic against Pogacar on the last climb. ” It was almost that. The Jumbo-Visma, protecting the yellow jersey Primoz Roglic, let a group of breakaways go, giving them a very big royal quarter of an hour instead of the usual gap of four minutes, and it is the German Lennard Kamna, from the Bora-Hansgrohe team, who wins solo. In the “bump” of arrival, not very hunchbacked in reality, Primoz Roglic controls his young Slovenian compatriot Tadej Pogacar (Team UAE-Emirates), who wanted to take a few seconds back from him, in vain.
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This step will have counted for butter and the “hornets” of Jumbo-Visma had the intuition. They never go out of their way for dairy products or stages that smell like half-cooked rice, they need thick prime rib to see them lock the peloton, roll in fifth from start to finish and drop off, two hundred meters from the line, their squadron leader Roglic, the yellow jersey who sprints up the passes but does not attack. This Tuesday, the path between Tour-du-Pin and Villard-de-Lans (Isère) was a mountain stage without much effect. It is necessary. So, it was the mosquitoes-tigers of Bora-Hansgrohe who took over, as on Saturday in the direction of Lyon, when they frayed the peloton to help Peter Sagan to take the green jersey. Little secret of the Tour: hornets and mosquitoes are friends. When the first do not roll, the second cut the job.
Pogacar started his sprint in a curve and if he had looked up he could have seen himself dancing on a giant screen that was broadcasting the race. Proof that the road is not completely flat, he has his hands on the brake handles. The spectators bang on the barriers which make a faint stadium noise. On the finish line, four hundred meters further, the speakers are wisely excited over the speakers. A rocky bar rejects the echoing voice. The loggers have hung up their chainsaw. Sawdust smell. And cow powerfully.
The organizers sigh when they are told the words of the runners, of the kind made by text Monday evening. “Never happy”. Like the fans who pierce the course from all angles. It’s either too long or too short. Suddenly, there is a lack of mountain; suddenly there are so many collars that the wheels slip. The road is narrow and rough or avenue-sized and deemed too rolling. But runners have their reason. They calculate. It is their job. An “easy” stage is consumed at high speed. You can come out more skinned than on a stage with high relief. In the high mountains, the train of the peloton breaks, everyone takes the wagon that suits them to reach the finish. The slope calms the speed. Nothing is more treacherous for a cyclist than a so-called “middle mountain” stage.
The runners also adapt to the timeline. On Wednesday, the Tour must switch from Nordic skiing to a descent classified as a black slope. The road links Grenoble to Méribel, passing through the Col de la Madeleine (17 kilometers at 8.1% average slope) and the Col de la Loze (21.5 kilometers at 7.8%). The altitude will exceed 2,000 meters, complicating the absorption of oxygen. A 24% ramp will stretch two kilometers from the finish. The organizers baptized it “roof of the Tour” (culminating at 2,304 meters).
So cyclists keep some strength. Especially those who would like to conquer the polka dot jersey – the French Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R la Mondiale) and Pierre Rolland (B&B Hôtels-Vital Concept) are tied for the top of the climbers’ classification (36 points) – and who have not wanted to bicker so far, when the vertiginous Col de la Loze alone brought in a record envelope of forty points. These summits will make it possible to see what is better or worse for the viewer. And for the runner, whose interests often diverge, what is most greedy in energy, more brutal for the body, distressing for the head.
Pierre Carrey special correspondent on the Tour de France