Tour de France unsung heroes: Lukas Pöstlberger – big beats, pizza in the grupetto

Lukas Pöstlberger is seeing a childhood dream come true by riding the Tour de France – and roadside pizzas make it all the better.

Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

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Throughout the Tour de France, VeloNews will be talking to some of the unsung heroes in the peloton – those riders that battle on each day without the recognition the major GC favorites or sprint stars receive.

There’s a simple equation to decide who is the DJ on Bora-Hansgrohe’s Tour de France bus.

The first rider to get a Bluetooth connection.

Once the connection is established, the whole musical world is your oyster, and Lukas Pöstlberger has eclectic tastes. However, when it comes to getting pumped for a race then some big sounds are necessary.

Also read: Tour de France unsung heroes: Nils Eekhoff a wise head on young shoulders

“My range is quite big. I like almost everything. To get into the mood for the races, I like a bit of house, dance, dubstep or hip-hop, and rock. A few fast beats and drums to get in the mood,” Pöstlberger told VeloNews.

The Bora-Hansgrohe bus has long been something of a party area in the team paddock. In normal times, before we knew what COVID-19 was, music could be heard blaring from a speaker system just outside the bus as huge crowds gathered – most of them to see Peter Sagan.

Despite there being far fewer people mingling around at the stage starts, the Bora-Hansgrohe bus is still party central and if you listen closely enough you just might hear it from a distance.

“We still keep the tradition and play it outside as well. There are always people around and even if the mechanics are outside preparing the bikes and they like music. In the city, you hear it from almost anywhere,” Pöstlberger said.

Riding as a teammate of Sagan often means a little more attention wherever you go, especially when you’re riding through the hoards of crowds that line the climbs in the Pyrénées and the Alps.

Well behind the cameras that shadow the GC favorites duking it out on the road is the gruppetto. Often a large group of riders grinding the way towards the finish line. Every cheer and, perhaps, push helps, and when you’re with Sagan there’s no shortage of support.

“There are not as many spectators but still there are, and even with those it helps a lot. When we went up the Tourmalet a few years ago it was impressive,” Pöstlberger told VeloNews. “In the grupetto, it was so loud, and everybody was shouting Peter’s name because we used to stick to him, and everyone was going crazy about him.

“You’re in this bubble and you get the emotions and the support. Then, you come to the bus and the ears are ringing because it was so loud for one and a half hours.”

These stages are about survival as the riders just want to make it through to fight another day and get a stage closer to Paris, but there can be some levity in it – especially in the final days of racing. Though, things are a little bit different these days with the pandemic still raging on.

“You have to eat all the time rice cakes and energy bars, in the past the strangest thing I saw was when we grabbed a slice of pizza or a baguette from the roadside, sometimes from the soigneurs or from the spectators. Of course, it was in the last mountain stage because you cannot risk getting sick early in the race,” Pöstlberger said.

Was there a nice beer to wash down that roadside pizza? Yes, just don’t tell anyone.

“I did, yes, but you cannot tell anybody because you will get told off by the DS or the management,” he said with a laugh.

Making it to Paris

Pöstlberger – who spent several days in yellow at the Critérium du Dauphiné last month – is riding his fourth Tour de France after making his debut back in 2018. Even as an experienced professional, the Tour de France is still a special date in the calendar.

“It is a childhood dream to go to the Tour,” Pöstlberger said. “When I was younger, the Tour was the only race that I watched because it was the only race that was available on television at this time. Going there and being there, it’s a long journey. I’m a bit disappointed that I only made it to the finish line once, in my first participation, but I will try to go to Paris this time.”

Pöstlberger has had to leave his last two Tours de France within days of reaching Paris. In 2019, he had to make a sudden departure due to a family matter while last year saw him abandon on stage 19 when he suffered a bad reaction after being stung in the mouth by a bee.

The doctors have checked him over and found no signs of an allergy, so he’s hoping that France’s flying insects will leave him alone this year.

“I have tried to improve my performance, so I don’t have to open my mouth for breathing,” he joked.

This year, as well as helping his teammates, he is determined to make it back to the Champs-Élysées and experience the feeling he did when he completed the loop of France in 2018.

“Crossing the finish line in Paris is a really cool moment,” he told VeloNews. “It’s a unique moment because there is so much pressure and tension for three weeks.

“I did my first Tour with a really good friend of mine Gregor Mühlberger, and for him, it was also the first Tour de France. Being there together with a really good friend was great. We got dropped because we were chasing the breakaway for Peter and then we did the last lap at our speed.

“It was just us two and all the fans and this was a goosebumps moment. Going around on the Champs Élysées with my teammate and crossing the line and knowing that we made it to Paris, that’s amazing. It’s hard to describe it.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.