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Tour de France

2020 Tour de France Route - Eat Sleep Cycle Girona

A Look at the 2020 Tour de France Route

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Riders might be hanging up their wheels for the off season right now but the pro cycling machine rumbles on with the reveal of the route for the 107th edition of the Tour de France having taken place on Tuesday.

2020 Tour de France Info

The first thing to note is that the 2020 Tour will start a week earlier than usual, on the 27th June, due to the Olympics, which start on the 24th July. The organisers of the race have striven to add novelty and excitement to the format in recent years, with the addition of the gridded start of stage 17 in 2018 and the inclusion of more punchy, short stages. For 2020, they’ve taken this ethos and run, or ridden, away with it.

Tour de France 2020 Route - Eat Sleep Cycle

2020 Tour de France Location

The tour takes place almost exclusively in the southern part of the country and is concentrated primarily in the Alps and the Pyrenees, hence the volume of climbing. The race is gruelling from the gun, with the second stage taking place in the southern Alps with two mountain passes that exceed 1,500m. Indeed, the first nine days of the race are possibly some of the hardest the race has ever seen in an opening week. The director of the race, Christian Prudhomme has said:

“It will be physically challenging throughout…Even the so-called flat stages will be very tough for the pure sprinters. There are traps everywhere along the route.”

TV-Ready Action

The difficulty of the course comes not from a multitude of classic mountain passes but from day-to-day relentless climbing which will no doubt make for relentlessly action-packed racing. Although the purists may bemoan the direction that the modern Tour de France is heading in and the sprinters may protest the lack of chances for them, it is a course which lends itself to TV-ready action and sport is, after all, designed for entertainment. Within the first nine days, the riders must traverse a series of tough stages throughout the Alps and onto the Massif Central and the Pyrenees. There are a few flatter stages, but the winds from the Atlantic may play a part in ensuring that they are still gruellingly tough. The race will of course finish in traditional style in Paris.

Time Trial - Tour de France 2020 - Eat Sleep Cycle

Only One Time Trial

Despite, or perhaps due to, the difficulty of this edition, everyone, including the riders but perhaps barring insomniacs will be pleased to learn that there is only one stage over 200 km long.

Also unusually, there is only one time trial, 36 km long and finishing at the summit (but before the gravel) of La Planche des Belles Filles (stage 20), a climb which has proven decisive in the past and the dynamic of an individual time trial could make things even more interesting, especially considering this is the only race against the clock included in the 2020 edition of the race.

Tour de France 2020 - Contenders - Eat Sleep Cycle

Tour de France 2020 Contenders

Of course, this far out from the race it’s virtually impossible to predict who may perform well at the Tour but there are the obvious contenders to consider.

  • Chris Froome: After missing out on the 2019 edition after suffering multiple fractures in a horrific crash at Criterium du Dauphine in June, Ineos rider Chris Froome will be looking for that elusive 5th Tour de France title. He has labeled the route ‘brutal’ but that is unlikely to deter him.
  • Egan Bernal: Frome will, however, be up against team-mate and reigning champion Egan Bernal for leadership of Ineos. The 2020 route looks more or less made for the Colombian and he will almost certainly be the one to watch.
  • Romain Bardet: has stated his intentions to contend the Tour having described the route as ‘beautiful’.
  • Thibaut Pinot: a compatriot of Romain, Thibaut will also be a sure-fire favourite.
  • Julian Alaphilippe: This is a course which will favour teams with multiple climbers such as Ineos, Jumbo Visma, AG2R La Mondiale, although there is also room for a tenacious individual such as France’s new prodigal son. Whatever the outcome, the 2020 Tour de France is guaranteed to be a dramatic affair.

Tour de France Cycle Tours

If you’d like to experience some of the famed cycling from the Tour de France route make sure you check out our Tour de France Cycle Tour and if you’ve any questions about it give us a call now on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online for more info.

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Tour de France Favourites 2019 - Who Will Win the Yellow Jersey - Eat Sleep Cycle

Tour de France Favourites: Who Will Win the Yellow Jersey in 2019?

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This year will mark the 106th edition of the Tour de France during which the race will celebrate two landmarks events: the 100th anniversary of the Maillot Jaune and the 50th anniversary of legedary Belgian Eddy Merckx’s first Tour victory, with the grand depart fittingly taking place on the 6th July in Brussels.

Tour de France 2019 Stages

The race comprises seven flat, sprinter’s stages, five medium ‘hilly’ stages and seven mountain stages including five mountain top finishes and several climbs which exceed 2,000m of elevation. There are fewer time trial kilometres in this year’s race in comparison to previous years, stage two in Brussels is a 27km team time trial and stage 13 in Pau will be a 27km individual time trial on Friday the 19th of July, the date which marks the 100th anniversary of the Yellow Jersey. The total distance of this year’s edition is 3,460km and the startlist will include 22 teams of eight riders therefore there will be 176 riders on the road.

Tour de France 2019 Stages - Eat Sleep Cycle

What Type of Rider Does this Year’s Tour de France Course Suit?

Of course the winner of a ‘general classification’ must be an all-rounder. With five mountain top finishes in the 2019 edition the winner of the Tour de France must have the ability to climb, well and consistently, from La Planche des Belles Filles at the end of the first week right up until the penultimate stage which includes a 36km climb in the form of Val Thorens.

They will also need technical skills as there are a number of tricky descents including some stage finishes on descents which, as proven by Chris Froome’s top tube descent to the win of stage 8 of the 2016 edition, can prove decisive. Finally, the ability to stay out of trouble on the messier, flatter, sprint stages will be essential although as we see year after year this is often a matter of luck!

The Contenders for the 2019 Tour de France

With the anticipation levels rising for this years Tour de France it’s time to have a look at some of the contenders who can challenge for the 100th yellow jersey. We have them broken down into 3 categories for you: those who made the podium in 2018, the usual suspects and our co-founder Brian Canty’s outside bet.

The 2018 Podium Finishers

Can last year’s top three make it onto the podium again in 2019? They are definitely in the mix and ones to watch!

  • Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos)
    What are the chances of the Welshman repeating last year’s feat? He may have pulled off the win in 2018 but prior to that Thomas had never finished higher than top 15 in a Grand Tour and the likelihood is that he will be sharing leadership of Team Ineos with four-time Tour de France winner and bookie’s favourite, Chris Froome.
  • Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)
    Second place to Thomas at last year’s Tour and winner of the 2017 Giro d’Italia Dumoulin has more than proven his capabilities across three weeks. The biggest threat to Team Ineos’ winning streak and arguably not yet at his grand tour peak at 28 years old the Dutchman will likely be looking to move up a step on the podium in 2019, but will fewer time trial kilometres (his strongest discipline) hurt his campaign?
  • Chris Froome (Team Ineos)
    Froome will be looking to add a fifth win to his palmares putting him alongside the likes of Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Mercx, and Jacques Anquetil. Although he was outshone by long standing friend and teammate Geraint Thomas’s win last year, lest we forget that Froome still came third in 2018. Team Ineos (formerly Sky) are still the ones to beat at the Tour and Froome will have the backing of a strong team line-up to support his bid to enter the history books.

Tour De France 2018 Podium Finishers - Eat Sleep Cycle

The Usual Suspects

  • Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates)
    Never one to shy away from animating a race Dan Martin has finished within the top-10 in the past three editions of the Tour de France. Martin has performed solidly in stage races so far this season, maybe it’s his year to move that little bit further up the top 10 and onto the podium.
  • Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo)
    Porte’s Grand Tour campaigns have almost all been characterised by crashes and bad luck. The Australian has had a relatively good season so far having moved from BMC (now CCC) to Trek-Segafredo, if luck is on his side could this be his year?
  • Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
    Since he burst onto the scene winning the best young rider jersey back in 2015 there has been enormous pressure for Quintana to back up his potential with a Tour de France win. Quintana placed 10th last year and has already claimed he will be Movistar’s leader for the race which suggests he is confident in his form going into the 2019 edition. The course certainly looks like it might suit the Colombian climber with plenty of mountain ascents and altitude which he will be accustomed to. A second place at Paris Nice and a fourth at Volta Catalunya suggests that he is in good form this season already.
  • Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)
    Bardet was going strong this season having achieved 5th overall at Paris-Nice before crashing out of Volta Catalunya but a decent classics campaign followed including 9th at Amstel Gold Race proving the AG2R rider is on target for a successful summer. Historically Bardet has been consistently up there at the Tour including podiums in 2016 and 2017 and no doubt the Frenchman will be looking to bring the Tour title home this year.
  • Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
    Undoubtedly buoyed by his twin brother’s exploits in the 2018 Giro d’Italia Adam Yates has stormed into the 2019 season with consistent GC top 10s and looks to exclusively be targeting stage races. With second places on GC in both Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta Catalunya, at which he won arguably the hardest stage, as well as a stage win and mountains jersey at Itzulia Basque Country under his belt already Yates is definitely a contender for the yellow jersey in 2019.

Brian’s Outside Bet

  • Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)

Okay, Fuglsang is a very outside bet for the overall but he’s definitely worth putting a few euro on for a podium finish. He’s enjoying the best year of his career so far with 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Liege, Fleche and Amstel Gold, respectively.

Coupled with that is his 3rd overall at Tirreno and 4th at Pais Vasco. One-week stage races are very different to three-week Grand Tours, but with some good luck and the same level of team support that Lopez got at the Giro, the Dane could be one to upset the establishment.

 

Of course, any or none of these riders may claim the 100th yellow jersey this July thanks to the unpredictability and drama of bike racing but isn’t that why we watch it?

What the Pros Think of the 2019 Tour de France Route - Eat Sleep Cycle

What The Pros Think of The Tour de France Route

Want to know what some of the pro riders think of this year’s route? We got World Tour riders’ first reactions to the 2019 Tour de France route reveal back in October – make sure you check it out to see what they think!

Tour de France 2019 Pyrenees Cycling Tour - Eat Sleep Cycle

Experience The Tour de France 2019

Want to view the battle for the 100th yellow jersey up-close and ride some of the iconic Pyrenean Cols of the Tour de France? There are still limited places available on ourTour de France: Pyrenees tour! For more info give us a call on +34 972 649 131 or contact us online!

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What the Pros Think of the 2019 Tour de France Route - Eat Sleep Cycle

What the Pros Think of the 2019 Tour de France Route

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The 2019 Tour de France route was unveiled last week. It’s a brutal parcours with 30 categorised climbs and few days for the fast men. Here, in our latest blog, we gathered the reactions of those likely to do battle next July!

The 2019 Tour de France Route

With the Grand Depart in Brussels on the 6th July the 2019 route begins with a classics-style stage before moving on to a 28km TTT. The first summit finish comes on stage 6 with the partly unpaved La Planche des Belles Filles. The race then traverses the Pyrenees in the second week before (hopefully) reaching the GC crescendo in the high mountains of the Alps in the final stages.

2019 Tour de France Route – Opinion From The Pros

Now that the 2019 Tour de France route has been released we thought it would be interesting to get the opinions of pro cyclists around the world and see what they had to say about the route. As we receive more feedback from the pros we’ll update this post so make sure to check back regularly!

Tom Skujins – Team Trek Segafredo

Toms Skujins from Latvia, riding for team Trek Segafredo, KOM jersey wearer at the Tour for 5 days in 2018 and stage winner of Tour of California had the following to say about the 2019 Tour de France route.

Tom Skujins - Team Trek Segafredo - Tour de France 2019 Route Opinion

“It’s cool that the TTT is back but it´s not crazy long so the time gaps will not be huge, we could see a bit of a GC shake up but obviously until the mountains come the real GC guys will not be in the top 10. It should make for an interesting three weeks. The first week is kind of long as it´s 10 days until the first rest day which is a little bit surprising because it´s usually day 9, and then you get a rest but Saturday Sunday on day 8 and 9 are kinda interesting, especially day 8, it might be harder than people expect. The first real mountain day is day 6 and it´s a proper one, not just a flat run-in and straight uphill, it´s a proper mountain day. I think after the first 10 days we´ll get a feel for what´s going to happen, obviously afterwards there´s still a lot of hard stages, it´s not going to be over just yet, it´s always a race of attrition and as we saw this year in the Giro we lost 2-3 guys from the top 10 in the last 3 days, and they lost big!”

Amund Grondahl Johansen – Team Lotto NL Jumbo

Amund Grondal Johansen is a Norwegian rider in his 2nd year in the World Tour and is 24 years old. This is what he had to say about the 2019 route for the Tour de France.

Amund Grondahl Johansen - Team Lotto NL Jumbo - Tour de France 2019 Opinion

“I had a quick glance. It looks well balanced, with 7 flat stages to sprint for the win. Furthermore (Christophe) Prudhomme has said the route will include some shorter climbing to make more aggressive racing, which is a good move, I think. Explosive racing is better entertainment and creates more differences than the really hard & long climbing stages. However there´s still enough high summits with both the Galibier and Izeran in the Alps and Tourmalet summit finish in the Pyrenees. The first week will for sure be hectic and nervous on Belgian roads. As far as I can see it won´t be anything too crazy, even though we will pass the Muur van Geraardsbergen early on in a stage.The stages in the Vosges will be interesting, especially with a finish to La Planche des Belle Filles.”

George Bennett – Team Lotto NL Jumbo

George Bennett hails from New Zealand is a member of the Lotto NL Jumbo team. In 2018 he finished 8th on GC at the Giro d’Italia and he had this to say about the 2019 Tour de France route.

“For a guy like me 2019 is a pretty exciting route, I think they are making life as difficult for Team Sky as possible. It´s maybe one of the most physically demanding routes I´ve seen in a while with a heap of climbing at high altitude and not many time trialling kilometres. It should make for some aggressive racing.”

Dion Smith – Wanty Groupe Goubert

Dion Smith of Wanty Groupe Goubert was a Polka-dot jersey wear in the Tour de France 2018 and is excited about what the 2019 Tour de France route has in store.

Dion Smith - Team Wanty Groupe Gobert - Tour de France 2019 Route Opinion

“I think this Tour de France is very exciting. This route will be more favourable for the climbers, with more summit finishes, I don’t see any possibility for a team to dominate the Tour, because a lot of riders can show themselves in a wide range of stages. Will be a good watch!”

Patrick Bevin – Team BMC

Also in agreement that next year´s route is on the extreme side is Kiwi all-rounder Paddy Bevin who will ride for the CCC team in 2019 after two years at BMC racing Team.

Paddy Bevin - BMC Racing - Tour de France 2019 Route

“The Tour route is interesting; I think the high altitude climbs will create a race that is either wide open, GC riders crack and breaks can´t be kept in check, or a race that becomes a bit of a death match. I´ll obviously be hoping for the former so breaks can get a little more slack to perhaps try and try for the stage.”

Tour de France 2019 – The Countdown Starts Now!

Now that the 2019 Tour de France route has been released the anticipation is building. As we get more feedback from other pro cyclists we’ll update this post so make sure to check back. If you’d like to sample the classic climbs of the Tour de France for yourself check out our Tour de France Pyrennes Cycle Tour – for more info give us a call on +34 972 649 131 or contact us online!

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Paddy Bevin Tour de France Diary; “Getting in the break is about skill, horsepower and luck”

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Tour de France Diary Stage 13, Bourg d´Oisans to Valence, 170k

We´re edging higher into the double digits for stages completed and thankfully, yesterday offered a little more respite than the three days previous.

There was more downhill than uphill, which is rare, but don´t think for a second we were out for a Sunday ´bunchy´!

Yes, we covered 170k in an eye-watering 3 hours and 45 minutes….at an average speed of 45kph, bringing my saddle time up to a tidy 55 hours for the race so far.

It was just about trying to keep my legs as fresh as possible in the hope I can get in a break soon.

The long, hot stages in the Alps have taken their toll and the peloton is definitely tired now, and some more tired than others.

Yesterday we managed to get Michal in the break and what a relief that was that the move went by the time we hit the base of the  cat three climb after 30k!

In fact, the break went very early when escape artist Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) finally cleared the field with my Kiwi countryman Thomas Scully (EF Education First-Drapac).

Michael and Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis, Solutions Credits) stormed across, the peloton gave them the green light and they were gone for much of the day.

The fact they were gone before the cat three climb meant there was no real race up it and we in the bunch were all spared a big effort!

Getting in a break is a complex mix of blind luck,  timing and skill.

A rider high on GC is unlikely to get away, as is a sprinter because nobody wants to go to the line with them.

Guys who have had their heads down in the race are given more slack, and Michael is one  of those. He skipped across at a perfect time, so his timing was right. 

In short, if you´re strong as a horse you don´t need as much luck. If you´re not so strong, you need to be in the right place at the right time and get the nod from the bunch.

Michael was the last man standing yesterday as the other three dropped off one by one. 

Groupama-FDJ-led were among those really driving it on and with 25k to go it was clear Michael was never going to stay out there as his lead was cut to 30 seconds.

He made one last effort to try and stay away by going really deep over a small climb but with a hungry pack containing Sagan, it needed a lot more than what Michael had left to survive.

Still, he ended the day as the most combative rider and that was very fitting, given his efforts.

Greg gave the sprint a decent crack and took fifth, which proves he is far more than a one-trick pony!

Today we´ve another hilly one with an uphill finish on the cards. We start in Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux and finish in Mende with a total of 188k and 4 categorised climbs to get through.

The stage is too hilly for a pure sprinter to win and could be one for the break so I´ll be trying to get in this!

The categorised climbs are Cote du Grand Chataignier (Cat. 4, with an average of 7.4% and a distance of 1km), Col de la Croix de Berthel (Cat.2 with an average of 5.3% and a distance of 9.1km), Col du Pont Sans Eau (Cat.3 with an average of 6.3% and a distance of 3.3km) and Cote de la Croix Neuve (Cat.2 with an average of 10.2% and 3 km long).

Let´s see how we go.

Paddy

Paddy Bevin Tour de France Diary: “It was one of the most memorable climbs I´ve ever done”

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Tour de France Diary: Stage 12, Bourg Sant Maurice Les Arcs – Alpe d´Huez, 175k

When I eventually hang up my racing wheels, yesterday is one of the days I´ll recall with very fond memories.

Growing up in Taupo, New Zealand, I remember watching the Tour de France in the black of night and counting down the days until the race would hit the high mountains.

Alpe d´Huez is one of the sport´s iconic climbs and I would smash up hills near where I lived thinking I was on it, banking into each of the 21 hairpin bends and soloing away to victory.

As soon as I saw the route for this year´s Tour last October I had it as a goal for 2018 – to make the Tour de France team for BMC and savour the atmosphere on Alpe d´Huez.

If you´re a professional bike rider, it´s the race you really want to do and Alpe d´Huez is up there as one of the truly standout places to be.

So starting into yesterday´s 12th stage, I knew it would be a fight to the finish because Team Sky had a clear battle plan to really crush the opposition.

The pace from the drop of the flag was relentless and the 160k that preceded the climb was horrible, absolutely horrible.

I have to take my hat off to Kruijwijk for his long shot solo break because that was one hell of an effort. When I heard he was 6 minutes clear of the peloton I just thought, wow, that guy deserves to win!

The hardest part of the climb is the bottom but the crowds really pull you along. They´re in on top of you, shouting and screaming and urging you for more effort.

I was neatly tucked into a knot of around 40 riders and we were literally being sucked along. You hear your name being called on occasion, you get beer thrown over you, the noise is constant, there´s smoke and flares and Dutch guys in orange clothes going bonkers.

We hit corner 10 and it was like Ireland had invaded France there was such a crew there! One man in the race to support but what an atmosphere they created!

It was one of the most memorable climbs I´ve ever done in my life and afterwards you´re just so wiped out but you think, I could do that again some day! Hopefully I´ll have many more days on it in the Tour.

Maybe I´ll be a bit further up as well! We were all safely inside the time limit, which was some consolation. After that, it´s all about getting home really. There´s not much more you can do.

The pace is still pretty solid going up and though you find it hard to get your heart rate very high up after 12 days of hard racing, my power numbers told me I was still pushing harder than maybe I´d like.

That´s the same for us all though, and even though we were almost half an hour down on Geraint, we still had to fight for all our worth yesterday.

The atmosphere in these bunches can get a little terse too from time to time, and yesterday I´d describe it as glum!

But then again, if you go out and ride 5,200 metres and get a beer flung in your face, maybe you´re entitled to be a little cranky too!

Today, thankfully, has more downhill than uphill, which is to be celebrated.

It will probably end in a sprint unless the breakaway hold out.  We´re starting in beautiful Bourg d’Oisans and before we reach Valence after 168k we have 2 categorised climbs.

With so many sprinters gone from the race now; Cav, Kittel, Gaviria, Groenewegen and Greipel it means that there are even less teams to actually want to pull back a break for the sprint.

But once Sagan is there, you know Bora-Hansgrohe will pull for him.

Hopefully today I can get a chance to recover and maybe even sniff out a break!

Wish me luck.

Paddy

Paddy Bevin Tour de France Diary: “The number of Kiwi flags and silver ferns give me shivers”

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Tour de France Diary Stage 11, Albertville to La Rosiere, 108k

Deep in the Alps. Deep in suffer mode. At times, yesterday was like being submerged in water with our nostrils above the surface.

It was a pretty tough stage as we knew it would be after Tuesday´s er, stalemate?

I knew what to expect because we rode this exact stage last month on stage 6 of the Dauphine but the Tour is like the bigger, badder, uglier brother to the Dauphine. 

The Tour is the show. The Dauphine is the rehearsal. As Sean Kelly says on Eurosport, the Tour is the “100% race”! 

You don´t leave anything behind because you can´t. It was a short stage, relatively, but give me a 250k snore-fest over a 100k boxing match, uphill, any day!

Sadly for us yesterday, we lost the jersey. Greg gave all he could but when Team Sky decide to let rip, they take no prisoners and his eight-day reign as race leader is over.

He´s not disappointed to be unseated, mind. It was a run that had to come to an end at some point and he defended it very well on the first mountain stage on Tuesday. So we can all be proud of his, and our own, efforts.

Few riders can live with Sky when they ride like that.

I rolled home in the group with Greg around 22 minutes down and he´s now 27th overall. So our attention now goes to chasing stage wins, as Damiano demonstrated yesterday.

It was great to see him wriggle away and show his talent in an effort to win the stage, and I´m sure we´re going to see more of that in the next 10 days.

Riding up these Alpine climbs is an exhilarating experience. Forget the lactic acid and burning in the legs, the crowds are just unbelievable and they help numb that pain. 

A huge shout out to the Kiwi supporters who´ve come further than anyone on this planet to cheer us on.

There are only four of us in the race; myself, Dion Smith, Tom Scully and Jack Bauer but the amount of silver ferns and Kiwi flags the last few days have been inspiring!

Thank you guys! 

When that adrenaline courses through you on a stage it´s a magical feeling and you can go that little bit deeper to stay with the group. But boy is it a different story when it wears off and you sink into the seat on the team bus after a stage.

Now, onto day 12 today and that jaw-dropping Alpine behemoth towering above us; Alpe d´Huez!

It´s a new one for me because we didn´t do it last year. My earliest memory of it was watching it as a 13-year old kid growing up near Lake Taupo on New Zealand´s North Island.

The Tour would be on at crazy times of the day for me but  I´d be up watching it after midnight as we´re 10 hours ahead down there. The worst part was having to go to bed straight after it and wait until morning to ride my bike, thinking I was in the Tour ripping around the lake. 

I remember Lance Armstrong absolutely blitzing Ivan Basso back then, passing him on the road like he was standing still. The crowds blew me away and I remember thinking ´I want to be there some time´. 

They estimated the crowds at 750,000 people back then. 

But before Alpe d´Huez today we have to get over the Col de Madeleine (Cat. HC, avg. gradient of 6.2% and a distance of 25.3km), Lacets de Montvernier (Cat. 2, avg gradient of 8.2% and a distance of 3.4km), Col de la Croix de Fer (Cat HC, avg gradient of 5.2% and a distance of 29 km ) and then Alpe d’Huez (Cat.HC, avg. gradient 8.1% and a distance of 13.8km).

Don´t expect me to be passing any GC guys on the road like Lance did, however!

Thanks for reading.

Paddy

Paddy Bevin Tour Diary: “Greg skipped across on the last ticket out of town”

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Tour de France Diary Stage 10; Annecy – Le Grand Bornand, 158k

We´re almost at the halfway point in the race and all things considered, we´re doing pretty well.

Greg is in the yellow jersey and what an awesome ride yesterday to not only hold it on terrain many felt he´d flounder on, but he actually extended his lead over everyone too!

Now, that didn´t happen by chance as we had a plan for him going into the stage that involved getting in the break – if it was big enough.

What exactly does that mean? Well, breaks are funny coalitions at times. A successful break is one that involves riders who are all committed to riding – hard. 

A successful break involves a ´coalition of the willing´ where everyone spills their guts out and is usually only thinking about the stage win.

Yesterday we saw 20 guys skip off the front until one more got the last ticket out of town to make it 21…Greg Van Avermaet. 

It was beautiful to watch him arrow out of the pack, straight across to the break like a train, onto the front to help pull out a decent gap and when the others in the move saw they had a V8 engine in Greg onboard, they responded.

Greg is a fighter and won´t give up yellow easily. He´s courageous and smart and strong as hell. He´s not built like a climber, but he can go deep and haul himself over some big ones.

He had no intention of riding for the stage yesterday, only the time gap to the GC guys interested him, so the other guys in the break had the time of their lives thinking stage win – until they exploded, one after another. 

He was out there in the break for over 100 kilometres yesterday and in the end he ´only´ managed to take a minute out of the GC group, but every second counts in this Tour and every day we´re in the jersey is a good day.

My own day was about tagging guys we didn´t want in the break. By that I mean jumping on the wheels of guys I knew wouldn´t work in the break – if Greg got in there. 

We needed a willing coalition to give Greg a shot at getting up the road and staying up there. 

And if guys aren´t prepared to work in the break it´s pointless having Greg there because that unwillingness or sheer laziness of some riders to work is like a virus that spreads and the break is quickly brought to heel.

So once Greg and co got away, my day was about survival. I´m definitely feeling tired after the first week, though I´m not too bad because I came into the Tour in really good shape.

It´s just a slow, grinding fatigue. Your legs hurt when you plant them on the floor in the morning after getting out of bed, stairs hurt, they´re stiff and a little stale. Any cyclist knows that feeling.

But the rest day did me good.

Staying on top of your nutrition is another overlooked aspect of this job.

I´m burning around 4,200 calories a day on the bike, not to mention the energy required for normal metabolism, recovery, and during sleep. So in total, that´s north of 7,500 calories a day!

Wine, believe it or not, is sometimes part of the diet and yes, we actually have a fully-stocked fridge in the team bus!

When we win, it´s important to celebrate as it helps drive up team morale and a small toast is enjoyed! But most of the time it stays in the fridge and besides, I haven’t the energy to open a bottle after a stage!

Maybe I´ll find it if we get over today and tomorrow in the yellow jersey!

Today´s stage is another mountain stage in the French Alps, starting a few hours from now in Albertville and ending at the ski station of La Rosière.

The stage is only 108k but with 4 categorised climbs packed in there – so yes, it´s one for the skinny guys.

I know the stage very well as it is the same course as this year´s stage 6 of the Dauphine.

The 4 categorised climbs will be Montee de Bisanne (HC),  Col du Pre (Cat. HC), Cormet de Roselend (cat.2) and La Rosiere (cat.1).  

I´m predicting a showdown between the big GC guys with Dan Martin, Yates, Thomas and Froome all likely to be there.

Say a prayer!

Paddy

Paddy Bevin Tour de France diary: “Hopefully I can recoup a bit of energy after a week defending yellow”

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Tour de France diary; Rest day. July 16th, 2018

Boy was I in need of that day off yesterday!

Like I said in yesterday´s blog, my day would consist of very, very, very little, so if it´s excitement you´re after in this post, you can stop reading now!

90 minutes of easy pedalling is what I did, followed by complete rest at the team hotel.

By easy, I mean VERY easy, just me and the guys and a few of the staff (who were badly in need of some saddle time after a stressful opening week!).

It was as much a physical break as a mental one and that involved having as little stress, noise and distractions as possible.

Racing the Tour is the ultimate test of your cycling ability and it tests you in every way but when I´m wound up, I like to take a step back and look at this life I´m living and say, it ain´t so bad.

Rest days give me that headspace and I tried not to think too much about the week ahead.

Of course, when you´re in the Tour bubble it´s hard to escape and I know a punishing day lies ahead today.

I´ve raced in the Alps before: last year´s Tour and the Dauphine just a few weeks ago.

They´re unforgiving and we know it´s likely Greg will lose the jersey today, so we´re prepared for that.

But saying that, having a GC rider brings a certain responsibility and it means no matter how easy or hard a day it is, you still have to be switched on.

Feeding, watering and keeping Greg out of the wind will be the goal. 

Maybe a post-cycling career as a horticulturist is calling?

Today´s stage will be the first real mountain day  of this year´s race and we´re going to see the first big GC battle.

We roll out of Annecy and if you´ve not been, you really should check it out. What an awesome spot with a beautiful lake and a wonderfully vibrant atmosphere. I can´t help but notice the mountains soaring skyward from every direction!

Today´s stage to Le Grand Bornard is 158.5k and with a total of 5 categorised climbs, and real climbs for the first time in this year´s race.

I´ve raced in the Alps last year at the Tour and the Dauphine a few weeks ago so I know what to expect.

They´re brutal, no doubt, and if you have a bad day you´re going to lose time.

The first and the smallest categorised climb will be a cat 4 (Col de Bluffy) with an average of 5.6% and a distance of 1.5km, so that will be fine if I can go deep for a few minutes.

The second one is a different story, though. It´s the cat 1 Col de la Croix Fry with an average of 7% and a distance of 11.3k followed by the biggest of the stage, cat HC (Plateau des Glières climb)  with an average of 11.2% and a distance of 6k.

By that stage the race will be broken into pieces – though there are still two more climbs to go; the cat. 1 (Col de Romme) with an average of 8.9% and a distance of 8.8k and the fifth cat.1 ( Col de la Colombière) with an average of 8.5% and a distance of 7.5k.

Expect to see a major GC showdown here this afternoon. 

Oh, and if that wasn´t hard enough, we´re going to ride a gravel road for the first time since 1991!

Time to get kitted up!

Paddy

Paddy Bevin Tour diary: “Whoever wins this Tour will have deserved it after yesterday”

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Tour de France Diary: Stage 9 Arras – Roubaix, 156k

Reflecting on yesterday´s epic battle in Northern France I´m reminded of the scene from the film Gladiator when Russell Crowe addresses the crowd after dispatching a challenger in a fight and yells, “are you not entertained, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” to the assembled gallery

It was crazy stuff out there on the road to Roubaix and one of the stages we´ll talk about for a long time to come.

We had a popular winner in Degenkolb, a brutal fight for yellow, a day that went horribly wrong for us so early when Richie crashed out but was salvaged by Greg holding the jersey for another day.

Richie crashing out was truly gutting for him, the team and our legion of followers who are at the team bus every single morning to wish us well.

There´s Aussie flags and Kiwi flags and familiar faces and accents and it gives me shivers down my spine when I come out from behind the curtain to warm up before the stage.

Yesterday started out like every other on Tour and though we knew chaos would ensue, we had no idea how bad it would be.

Richie has ridden a textbook race so far and hit home runs every day in finishing in the front, staying alert, picking his way up the GC standings, and then wallop, it´s all over.

Crashes are a part of cycling and they´re horrible to see and hear and feel. You sense them coming, you hear them happening and you sure as hell feel them if you´re on the floor.

For Richie, it´s particularly galling because the same happened him last year on the same day. Lightning striking twice? Check. Broken pelvis last year, broken clavicle this year. What a crazy sport, eh?

Though I´ve ridden Paris-Roubaix a couple of times, those cobbled sectors never get any smoother. You have to try and pick the best line through them, with everyone else scrapping for the same piece of road.

Some guys ride up the gutters on the left and right, some hammer over the middle of them, most have no choice where they go. You just follow the wheel in front and hope he knows what he´s doing.

Handling is compromised greatly, but it´s strangely exhilarating. You´re nervous on the approach to the cobbled sectors, bricking it as you ride over them, and anticipating the next sector after you´ve come out of one.

There were groups all over the road yesterday and it was hard to know who was where. All I knew was Richie was on the way to hospital, Greg was in the front and Tejay wasn´t. 

Though I had no personal ambitions of winning yesterday, my chances of a good finishing place went out the window when I gave up a wheel mid-race as we had some punctures and crashes.

Aside from that I enjoyed the cobbles. It made for an incredibly difficult day but we´ve all known the course for months and on the balance of everything, everyone adjusted accordingly.

I´ve said already that cycling is never a smooth road, progress is never linear, so you just have to roll with it. Degenkolb won yesterday…how hard has he had to fight for that? Many said he would never be the same man again after he was knocked down during a training ride a few years ago. Chapeaux to him. 

It´s bike racing and you just have to accept that shit happens. We´re waking up this morning with Richie out of the race, our next most-likely contender Tejay over six minutes down and Greg facing the prospect of losing it tomorrow when we hit the Alps. 

Life goes on, we have had an amazing week so far and we move onto the next day, but I´ll say one final thing: whoever wins this Tour will have earned it after surviving yesterday.

So after picking ourselves up we had a bit of a transfer last night as we start phase two of the race this week. The Alps loom and the GC is going to be shaken up tomorrow.

The transfers have been okay but the days are long as we navigate the Tour circus, even when the kilometres to and from the stage are short.

That down time is spent sleeping or relaxing, or eating!

On that note, a shout out to our Italian chef Mirko Sut who has been cooking for us on this Tour. Napoleon said an army marches on its stomach and the man who has kept us fuelled so far deserves special praise for what he whips up every morning and evening.

8 starving riders and an army of support staff is a lot of mouths to feed but Marko always lifts our spirits when he serves us dinner at night.

Today, the first rest day of the race, will be all about recovering from the opening 9 stages and the plan for me is 1.5 hours on the bike to help keep my legs from going stiff, followed by 22.5 hours lying down – or off my feet at least.

We´re down to seven men in the race – and no GC man, so we´re going to see a change in my role after tomorrow´s Alpine stage.

Hopefully I can recoup a bit of energy after a week defending yellow and then see how the rest of the stages unfold…

Thanks for reading.

Paddy

Paddy Bevin Tour diary: “We were completely across the road and still riding at almost 400w.”

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Stage 7, Fougeres to Chartres, 231k

Sorry if we bored you yesterday! Let´s get that out there before we start, shall we?

It was the longest of the race at 231 kilometres and on a pan-flat course, it was always going to be a day for the sprinters.

After the madness of the opening six stages I think everybody was keen for an ´easier´day and an average speed of just 40 kilometres an hour would suggest that.

But that doesn´t paint the full picture for a guy who spent over half of it towards – or on, the front keeping sketch.

There are no ´rest days´ when you have to ride 231 kilometres and for me, it was more of the same of the babysitting role I´ve done for the opening week.

By babysitting I mean constantly checking on Richie and Greg who is our GC leader and man in yellow, respectively.

We like to think Greg is minding the jersey for Richie and will pass it over to him when we get into the Alps next week! But let´s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Back to yesterday and as easy as it may have looked on TV, it was another day on tour for me.

For the last 120k I had to be on point and ready to be right there for my team.

Whenever there is wind there is danger and stress as some teams, namely Ag2r La Mondiale on this occasion, tried to split the race in the crosswind.

They do that by basically riding hard when the wind is buffeting us from the side, forcing a sharp rise in the pace.

They ramp up the speed and you can almost imagine a bell sounding to warn the peloton of impending danger and the safest place to be is at the very front!

It just puts the whole bunch on edge and anyone at the back is thinking, ´f***, time to get out of dodge´.

As it happened, a few GC men missed a split but the wind died down, their teammates went back for them and paced them back up. But it´s stress we can do without and energy we need to save.

At one point we were completely across the road and still riding at almost 400w. That´s a lot of power just to stay in front.

I read last night how some guys used the stage to chat and mingle and shoot the breeze with each other. Not me, though. I don´t really get time to chat, though I catch up with the Kiwi guys when I can.

It´s funny how the four of us live in Girona: that´s me, Dion, Scully and Jack but we use a Tour stage to catch up!

Anyway, we all got through it again, so it was another successful day defending yellow.

That brings us on to today which starts in Dreux just west of Paris and heads north for the finish in Amiens, with 181 kilometres ahead of us this afternoon.

Arnaud Démare is from the area and he will be among the favourites to win the stage as it is more than likely going to end in a sprint.

Speaking of the sprint stages, how hectic are they? I can´t recall a time when there was such an amount of fast men in the bunch and I could probably rattle off the names of 15 guys who can justifiably fancy it today.

Greipel is among those and he´ll be hunting his first win of this year´s race having also won in Amiens three years ago.

There´s likely going to be echelons, but maybe nothing strong enough to rip the race apart and with a wicked cobbled stage awaiting us tomorrow I reckon teams are wanna keep their powder dry for that.

Having said that, there´s still a couple of climbs to negotiate today; one after 35 kilometres with an average gradient of 4.3% for 2 kilometres and the second after  71 kilometres with an average of 4.3% and a similar distance of 2.3km.

That latter climb is over 100 kilometres from the finish, so expect another helter-skelter finish because the sprinters might not get another shot at it for a while!

Thanks for reading.

Paddy

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