Happy last of three Tour de France rest days! We really earned this one. Just reading about the weather in Europe has a certain depleting effect on the body, but on the road it’s been just as draining. And awesome! But draining. Just tossing out a few things here...
- The Tour is catching a major break with the off-day as scheduled, as it’s anticipated to be the hottest day of the entire wave of misery engulfing western Europe right now. Just looking at Carcassonne temps, it was 97 degrees fahrenheit Sunday and dropping to 93, though in Pau not far away it’s supposed to be 105 Monday... but then some weather comes in and drops the high on Tuesday to a survivable 85. And the race goes from Carcassonne to Foix, putting the peloton into the low 90s. Thursday the temperatures are expected to spike again, but that is the day the peloton rides from Lourdes to Hautacam, where the high altitudes will keep the temperatures down in the 70s. Saturday’s crucial time trial will be raced in 80-degree temps, so no picnic there, though maybe they can start after the peak of the sun’s rays.
- What do you do in Carcassonne on a hot day off? Well, they are a pretty short drive to the beach in Narbonne, where water temperatures are in the low 70s. Do Tour de France riders go swimming in cool water? Or anywhere? Do they have to get in a leg-loosening ride beforehand? I’m no expert here but a day at the beach and maybe a serving or two of granita sounds about right. The psychological benefits alone should make up for whatever the blast of sugar and cooling does to these delicate race car engines. [And I am guessing such things are strictly forbidden. Holiday starts a week from tomorrow.]
- UPDATE: Bernard Hinault has an NFT. I repeat, BERNARD HINAULT HAS AN NFT!! Please everyone, begin implementing the retired Tour legends cryptocurrency debacle emergency procedures. I will begin boiling water and duplicating old VHS tapes. Jens, contact Chief Inspector Dreyfus at the Sûreté. UMWolverine, check on the servers. Everyone plug in your devices. It’s going to be a long night...
- Who is going to win? It’s a fascinating situation... two top guys, both missing their help, yadda yadda yadda... but mostly I wonder how INEOS are going to try to insert themselves. They have a long history of taking over the front of races in the mountains, like out of habit, and with both UAE and Jumbo probably willing to share the role, will INEOS jump in and act like they have the ability to control things? On Saturday, Tadej Pogacar popped by to see if INEOS would form an alliance with him to attack current leader Jonas Vingegaard, which is a bit hilarious, like INEOS won’t stop to think about how helping the defending two-time winner might not work out for Geraint Thomas? Anyway, this isn’t poker where three jacks beats an ace, but INEOS aren’t too likely to sit back passively and let the tempo be set by random domestiques.
- One question hanging over this rest day is, can the frenetic style of racing possibly keep up? The aggressive racing of this Tour, notably throughout the second week, is the talk of the race now, it seems. Long gone are the days of Team Sky tapping out a rhythm at the front and never once attacking. [Ducks...] Long gone are the days of hyper-specialization which means that climbers climb and sprinters sprint, and otherwise nothing much happens. Now we have cyclocross riders everywhere in the high mountains and on the flat sprints. We have sprinters making it over numerous climbs to battle it out for the dash to the line. We have classics riders doing mountain domestique work or sprinting up the final climb in search of a stage win — two of them head to head on Saturday. It’s just quite a show, and in soaring temperatures, we collectively wonder how much longer it can go on.
- I’m not mad that Bernard Hinault has an NFT collection. I am just disappointed. Would it have killed him to make at least one of them depicting Hinault yelling at a game boy attached to a gigolo?
- The Danish Domination took a hit today, as MCN went home with Covid, Jonas hit the ground (but got back up again), and Mads didn’t win the sprint. I spent my morning dog walk listening to Trentemøller and thinking about how remarkable a Tour this has been for Denmark, from the Grand Départ to the performance of their athletes, even for a country that has been putting out a disproportionate share of top riders lately. But just when we start getting a little misty — and maybe even a little ahead of ourselves — the Tour reminds us that it’s still a rather cruel way to make a living.
- Can you believe it’s week three of the Tour and we don’t have a single distinguishing performance (apart from combativity prizes) from a rider of French, Italian or Spanish nationality? It’s not unusual to be looking out for that first French success, and we were, what, 400 meters away from that today? It’s also not terribly odd for Italian racers to punt on the Tour, after going all in on the Giro d’Italia, and after not being in any sort of healthy place overall. And then Spain... still, these are the three countries who host Grand Tours, for a reason — they have the richest histories in the sport, including putting out the most riders (with the possible exception or interruption of Belgium). This is the continuation of a trend whereby Italy and Spain are just less and less relevant, and where French success has been in the hands of a few riders — notably Julian Alaphilippe, missing this time around — who have kept them afloat. Anyway, the silence from all three nations right now is truly deafening. Not one stage win, no day in a special jersey, Movistar haven’t led the team competition, nothing!
- What about a Bernard Hinault NFT collection depicting his greatest acts of violence at the Tour? Punching protesting farmers, pushing people off the Tour stage, threatening to kill reporters, things like that? I mean, if he’s going to put his name on this thing, it might as well be designed to succeed.
- Finally, welcome to the 2022 cycling transfer season! Officially nothing will happen until August 1, but the second Tour rest day is when rumors start flying so far and fast that they scarcely merit a tepid denial. Latest include maybe Cavendish to Alpecin-Deceuninck, their 2023 handle, and Michael Matthews to B&B Hotels. By the time I wake up Monday there will probably be a dozen more. Feel free to add in comments. Thanks!