Often, in life, preparation is key.
If you have an exam, you revise. If it’s spaghetti Bolognese for dinner you don’t wear a white shirt. If you want to avoid an argument you don’t talk about Chris Froome in a room full of Frenchmen.
This stuff is common sense.
In bike racing, too, preparation is crucial.
In the olden days it used to involve dodgy substances hidden in the fridge and mid-race blood transfusions in grubby hotel rooms. But whatever form it takes, preparation is rarely glamorous.
These days, a key part of preparation is to recce climbs and other potentially important stretches of road. Sometimes on Google maps, but often, and more likely for the big budget teams, in person. It’s a very labour intensive way of securing a small advantage for your riders.
You could argue it disadvantages riders from lesser teams on smaller budgets, who can’t afford to send a lackey trotting around Europe looking closely at Tarmac for a living, but that argument is a blind alley.
I know that because I spent my annual blogging budget on a lackey to go and check it out for me. Dead end. Cul-de-sac.
Thankfully, today, the race organisers took pity on the poor relations of the peloton and allowed them to recce the major climb of the day during the actual race. With around fifteen kilometres to go they climbed the Mûr de Bretagne, taking notes and making observations as they went.
They then looped around, and back, and up the Mûr again. This time for real, and with a finishing line at the top. What an egalitarian solution to an issue of financial inequality. Vive La France!Embed from Getty Images
But look who won.
Dan Martin, with the financial backing of a selection of Emirates.
Not a sniff for the poor relations.
Perhaps they weren’t concentrating first time up the Mûr. Instead of doing their homework they were busy playing with their phones, or flicking each other’s ears, or whatever else cash-strapped pro cyclists do when they’re pressed into action in the service of a clunky school-based analogy.
The fact is that today was tailor made for Dan Martin. The stage was Ardennes-esque in it’s use of short sharp climbs and Martin went at the final kilometre like a bored hamster at a box-fresh toilet roll.
It was a savage finish.
All gaping mouth and flailing limbs.
At two hundred metres go Pierre Latour had Martin all but caught, but like a long-limbed cartoon boxer the Irishman stretched out a metaphorical arm and placed a metaphorical boxing glove on Latour’s metaphorical forehead to hold him at bay.
A second career Tour de France stage win for the Human Cyclist