It’s late June, which means that if you are a pro cycling fan your brain will be awash with Tour de France speculation. A million-and-one questions need your attention, but you’ve got a job to hold down and a life to maintain. It’s a difficult time.
By way of a public service I have engaged the wisdom (?) of Twitter, crowdsourced the key Tour de France issues, and then answered them so you don’t have to.
1. The Feed Station
When there is a feed station in a stage do all the riders have to sit at one big table to eat or are they split into teams?
— Michael Bellamy (@michaelbellam10) June 23, 2018
In keeping with the French approach to long, lingering lunches, the entire race would be stopped each day on Anquetil’s orders. All one-hundred-and-eighty-odd riders would gather around a massive table where pheasant would be served, along with rough local wine, cheese, and a glug of Pastis to send them on their way.
It was a simpler time.
Then came the 1980’s and 90’s and habits changed. The communal lunch was phased out, pharmaceutical performance enhancement was phased in, and teams became suddenly very protective of the contents of their cool boxes.
The end of communal mid-race dining was upon us, to be replaced by the on-the-go feed bag familiar to us today; its murky contents scientifically designed to ensure the riders could ride further and faster than the day before.
Nowadays, the food in a rider’s musette is much the same as the food you or I might eat but really small. Teeny-tiny sandwiches, miniature cans of Coca-Cola, and a fun-size Mars or Snickers for those riders who are particular favorites of the team bosses.
On special occasions the riders might also be surprised by a paper hat and a couple of party poppers each, but generally speaking mid-ride nutrition is now, sadly, a serious business.
2. The PodiumEmbed from Getty Images
Ok, I’ll answer properly. How different does the podium look if you listen to your heart rather than your head? Also who’s your surprise package rider or team wise?
— Deighton Deighton (@MattyDeighton) June 23, 2018
If I listened to my heart instead of my head the podium would look very different – no cuddly toy lions, for starters.
Tour de France tat is for the like of us – the feckless fans. If we choose to buy a Tour de France key-ring, cuddly toy, or Panama hat, then that’s our problem. These are the finest athletes on the planet and they deserve to keep their self-respect.
Also, we should replace the podium girls.
This has been a hot topic lately. Many people agree that they’re outdated and demeaning, while others insist it’s all a bit of harmless fun. But if this is about fun, then let’s do it properly.
You know what’d be fun?
Bring back Bernard Hinault, pair him up with Greg LeMond, and have them kiss the victorious riders cheek to cheek for the cameras. And yes, I realise this image does rather contradict my point above about self-respect, but sometimes fun trumps respect.
Oh, and just on the off-chance, Matty, that your question was referring to which riders might stand on the podium and in which order:
Head: 1st Froome, 2nd Landa, 3rd Nibali
Heart: 1st Bardet, 2nd Porte, 3rd Thomas
3. The Cofidis QuestionEmbed from Getty Images
During which stage will you realise that Cofidis are in the race?
— James Shepherd (@JamesRannoch) June 24, 2018
You are referring, of course, to the annual participation of this French team who consistently secure nothing even close to a good result.
The smart money is on no-one, at any point, realising that Cofidis are in the race.
This is for the simple reason that Nacer Bouhanni probably won’t be selected so if he punches anyone, or argues with anyone, or knocks anyone off their bike, he will be doing it in his own time and therefore won’t make the news.
The alternative view is that after as few as two, or even three stages, those of us who watch the Tour year on year will feel a little prick of mental muscle memory and think: “Hang on…where are Cofidis? Hasn’t Bouhanni usually slapped someone by now?”
No-one will notice them for sporting reasons, of course, and that’s the way that Cofidis like it.
You may have noticed Italian team Androni Giocattoli in this year’s Giro d’Italia; not because they won anything, but because they had a rider in the breakaway, every day, without fail. It became their USP, and the sponsors were delighted.
Cofidis’s USP is that they fail miserably at every Tour de France. They deliver on this, dilligently, every year. They’d be mad to jeopardise all that media coverage by winning bike-races!
If you notice Cofidis during the Tour de France they are just not doing their jobs.
End of part 1.
If you have a TDF question that needs an answer head on over to my Twitter, or post it in the comments below (↓), and I will attempt to oblige.
Vive La Tour!
(Images: Gimondi eating: By Giorgio Lotti (Mondadori Publishers) ( ) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)