On the Road at the Tour de France: Off to the races

Martin Ayres
froome 300x225 On the Road at the Tour de France: Off to the races

(Getty Images)

Martin Ayres now handed over to his colleague Neil Thompson at Jaguar for Tour de France 2013. Neil has worked at Jaguar for a similar time as Martin, but feels less inclined to name a number! He also was the first embedded performance mechanic with the team in 2011, and here picks up the ‘On The Road’ Blog. Like Martin, he is a big pro cycling fan now after spending time with the team.

“It’s a lap of France”, mentioned Chris Froome recently. Examining that statement a little more explains a lot about the Tour de France. No other event can quite compete in terms of scale; I think it is fair to say. It’s pretty epic – so epic in fact, that you need an entire country as the racing circuit. It’s got a TV audience of 3.5 billion people, and a live audience that hovers somewhere around 12 million people. 2,000 journalists attend it, from over 188 countries. Just the scale of the thing is enough to blow you away, before you start thinking about the racing itself.

Sadly this year I won’t be one of the many thousands of lucky characters involved with the Tour circus. I’m going to be the watching from the sofa and (I’m sure) boring the family with old stories from 2012 Tour.

This year for the Tour I am extremely happy to be passing back the Team Sky baton to my oldest friend and colleague, Neil Thompson. Team Sky is in very safe hands too; Neil went on all three Grand Tours with the Team in 2011 before we decided to run a blog, and knows the ins and out of working with Team Sky so he’ll fit right back in.

I’ll also take the opportunity to say good luck to Froomey and the Team Sky boys! That’s it from me, folks – over to Neil.

Porto Vecchio, Corsica

Well here we are, as the old BBC introduction says! When Martin and I agreed to take on the role looking after Team Sky we knew it would be exhausting, but it was just too good to turn down and we’d be kicking ourselves if we didn’t. When I was on Tour in 2011 I knew already it was a special event, but being on the 100th edition, in the favourite’s team, is something else. I was pretty jealous seeing Martin take on the Tour and help the team ride to victory (who wouldn’t be), so it’s great that Team Sky are right up there again and gunning for another win.

I’ve never been to Corsica before, and it is stunning. The sea is as blue as blue can be and the sun keeping things ticking over nicely in the mid-twenties. I’ll make no excuses here – I am a sun worshipper and life in the heat is certainly where I’m happiest (the thought of Martin in the rainy Midlands did induce a chuckle or two).

You can also tell it’s a unique place. French, yes but also with a strong Italian influence and its own language too. It’s the only region of France that has never been visited by the Tour, and it’s making up for that now – the beaches look like they’ve been handpicked clean, they’re just so pristine! Then you’ve got mountains too, just a few miles from the beach, so it’s a heady mix and great cycling territory.

It was brilliant to arrive back with the team again too (as well as the nice uniform you get, of course – thanks Rapha!). Last year I spent a drive of several hours chatting away with Eddy Boasson Hagen as I gave him a transfer from the airport, and it was touching that he drifted over to say ‘hi and good to see me’.

Martin mentioned it in one of his posts, but it is striking how relaxed the riders are. I know they spend a lot of time teaching themselves to be calm under pressure in order to perform, but I also think they are pretty genuine, feet-on-the-ground people who realise what they are doing is an amazing thing and are happy about it. We also saw Richie Porte, the Tasmanian devil, bouncing around camp yesterday afternoon. He’s full of energy and life is our Richie, and I think if he wasn’t a pro cyclist he’d have to be doing some kind of ultra-marathon running to be able to wear himself out! He and Froomey being best mates must make this pretty special for the both of them. I’m going to try and keep to a word limit here so time to sign out – I’ll be back in touch on Tuesday I imagine, once we’re back in the mainland.

Lastly a plug for my twitter – follow me for all the most recent news from On The Road!

Follow Neil on Twitter : @Jaguar_TeamSky

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