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It’s Monday after the Tour de France, and boy does the body feel the effort of the last three weeks. Last night has left a mark on it too. During the year we have so many races that quite often after the finish, or sometimes even before everyone has finished, all the staff and riders are running around, packing, cleaning up, and getting ready to head home. Most times you are sleeping in your own bed at home after the finish of the last day. That’s why making it to Paris, making it to the end of the Tour is even more special. No one is panic packing, no one is rushing to go home, the families fly in and we have a lovely meal as a team. As we finish the last day quite late, the dinner is not that early either, so catching this 10 a.m. flight was a task in itself, thus stage 22. However I am so happy to be going home to my wife and my daughter that I would have taken a 5 a.m. flight too.
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I know I am not the only one hurting today. This was the fastest edition of the Tour de France ever. During the last week you could really see how tired everyone was. The attacks for the break weren’t as violent anymore. The day after the rest day the first move was the break and it was a move of almost 30 guys. That doesn’t really happen on a day where everyone expects for the break to be fighting for the stage win. During this day I felt my energy returning. Clearly the rest day had worked well for my body. Unfortunately the next two days weren’t really ones for the break, so I couldn’t really show off my form, but I did find myself sometimes climbing better than some guys in the top 10 on GC and making very small climber groups on some big mountains. It’s definitely nice to finish the Tour with a good feeling, but I really wish I had this feeling during week two instead.
As expected, Pogačar didn’t really let off the gas and gave Jonas Vingegaard a run for his money. If on stage 17 UAE put on a masterclass, then Jumbo wasn’t to be outdone and paid back on stage 18 with Wout riding Tadej off his wheel and leading Vingegaard out for the stage win and thus cementing his GC lead. Sure, Pogačar had crashed on the last downhill into the final climb (as did yours truly, and to be honest it was quite a bad downhill with gravel and many bumps and I’m not sure it was necessary for it to be included for a race like the TDF), but I don’t think he would have stopped the Jumbo mission on that day.
You’d think that after such hard racing for almost three weeks, on stage 19, a sprint day on paper, we would relax and let the sprinters have their fun. Remember though, this is the Tour de France: Every day brings something. There was just enough of a chance of crosswinds to make the whole peloton nervous, and even though the break contained less than six riders, the peloton never gave them more than a minute. The main group even split a few times and heading into the finish less than 30 guys actually made it into the front split.
No matter how good or bad the Tour has gone everyone is standing on the start of stage 21 with a smile on their face. Doesn’t matter if you’re in yellow or the lantern rouge, it is a day of celebration. Everyone thinks that it’s an easy day to get through, but even though we have raced for three weeks straight, it’s still a hard day just to even follow the wheels. Especially if you have mentally checked out and think it’ll be easy. That’s the first mistake you can do. Second is not having good bottle cages and losing your bottles on the first lap on the Champs.
Every year we go into the final stage still with a plan and hope to get a result. My first year we lead out Degenkolb for a 2nd place finish and I was as happy as if we’d won. Probably because it was my first Tour de France, but also the atmosphere there really is made for emotions to run high. This year yet again we went all in for the leadout and it turned out great, until Mads got pushed into the barriers and was out. Not sure how Jasper still managed to finish 4th, but huge kudos to him. Of course we had to take a picture with the Arc de Triomphe in the background before rolling back to the team bus. Like every year, I took my time going back to the bus. Just a slow roll, soaking in the people, looking at others grabbing pictures, seeing the tired, yet happy faces. It’s a vibe.
That’s it for me. Hope you enjoyed the three weeks of racing and if you’re still hungry for more, remember the Tour de France Femmes has just started and will entertain you for another full week. That will get you closer to the spectacle of racing up stupid-steep climbs that is the Vuelta.