The Tour de France, as we know, generates an awful lot of hot air.
From fans, journalists, bloggers (!), team bosses, riders, former riders; the list goes on. The race, after all, lasts several hours a day for three weeks, and that’s an awful lot of time in which to speculate.
Down south, on the roads to Carcasonne today, the usual hot air was no doubt being generated and blown liberally in all directions. But they also have their own, actual, literal form of hot air in these parts: the Vent d’Autan.
It is essentially a sea breeze, blowing in off the Mediterranean and funnelled by the geography of the south west of France. In the summer it blows hot and humid. For the breakaway on stage fifteen today, the Vent d’Autan was one of the foes they had to battle.
David Millar, ITV commentator, former pro, and man with a nice line in pithy cycling patter summed up the breakaway thus: “If you’re in the break you’ll wish you were in the peloton, and if you’re in the peloton you’ll wish you were in the break. Unless you’re Thomas de Ghent*, who doesn’t know the difference.”
Today’s stage, based on the profile, couldn’t have been more obviously flagged as a day for the breakaway if they’d called it “Stage 5 – the Thomas de Ghent memorial race.”Embed from Getty Images
Up and down all day. Large(ish) climb peaking with thirty-odd K’s to go. Downhill much of the way to the finish in Carcasonne. The GC contenders were more than happy to let the break have their day, and whoever got over that final climb up the front was in with a shout.
Rafa Majka – a pure climber – was first to crest the summit, but the group that followed included Magnus Cort Neilsen; a Danish sprinter who can clearly climb. Once Majka was reeled back in Neilsen was the guy from a group of eight with a fast finish.
The eight worked together brilliantly: rotating with, against, and leaning into that hairdryer of a wind, until Bauke Mollema, Jon Izaguirre and Neilsen were left clear in a final group of three.
If you’ve been making a list of the next generation of winning pro cyclists twenty-five year old Magnus Cort Neilsen should probably be on it. Somewhere near Jasper Stuyven, I would’ve thought.
Though, I might add, if you’re making such a list and you’re not a TV commentator (and therefore in need of the aide memoir) you probably need to have a look at your life choices.
Get a hobby.
Make some friends.
And even if you were a TV commentator you wouldn’t have needed those notes today. There was little nuance involved or knowledge required. I would love to say that a suspenseful three-up cat and mouse ensued. But I’d be lying.Embed from Getty Images
What happened was that our friend Magnus sat on the front and waited for either Mollema or Izaguirre to launch their “sprint”. Once they did – I forget which of them, it scarcely matters – he launched his, and the race was over.
Essentially, the summit of the final climb – the Pic de Nore, thirty kilometres further back – was his finishing line.
At the conclusion TV’s Ned Boulting made the rather bold, if slightly inelegant claim that Neilsen was potentially a mini, though much taller, Peter Sagan.
I think I know what he meant.
(I’ll put it on my list, against Magnus Cort Neilsen, in the “comments” column.)
*De Ghent is the most Medieval of all the cyclists. Both in name, and riding style. He essentially batters away at the pedals with no thought for his reserves of energy and how quickly they might be depleting. He’s often in the break. He either dies or wins. He’s Medieval.
(Sunflowers via Maxpixel.net)