On The Road at the Tour de France: It’s become war on the roads – and Team Sky are up for the fight
Martin Ayres hands 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.
Wow. Even if you had never seen a bike race before, nor even knew any of the principles of bike racing, the past two days would still have made great entertainment.
I mentioned that the mountains were peaking into view as I was tapping away on my blog on Friday, and by the time I had mailed it off they were well and truly on our horizon, both mentally and physically. For the riders it means the real start of the campaign to win the Yellow Jersey, and for the support staff it means many trips around the winding, beautiful mountain passes managing everything that goes into supporting the riders during the race.
The word ‘campaign’ here is apt. It’s one used often to describe military action, and the past few days has been nothing short of a war on the roads. Team Sky successfully pulled off the first skirmish on Saturday with what could only be described as spectacular athleticism and race strategy. Despite attacks from all angles (including the tiny, and very exciting climber Nairo Quintana from Columbia) the riders stuck to their plan. Froomey then launched a devastating attack that was termed the ‘f-bomb’ on the final climb to take the stage and secure the lead in the race by over three minutes.
I was lucky enough to be on the team bus watching the stage with some of the carers and management including Sir Dave Brailsford. It was a special experience to hear the insight into the race from ‘Dave B’ and his commentary on the team’s plan. The roar that went up from the bus when Froomey dropped his ‘bomb’ was deafening, and repeated again when he crossed the line. Reflecting on it now it’s something that I’ll certainly be telling the grandchildren one day. Where I was and in whose company I was in when Chris Froome took the Yellow Jersey, I’m not sure many will be able to beat that.
Yet the Tour (and the Movistar team) had more drama in store. Around the Tour camps on Saturday evening many claimed (in many different languages, as per usual in Pro Cycling) that the Tour was basically over, so dominant had Froomey been. Yet less than 12 hours later the drama on the road repeated and the race was blown apart once again, with Froomey showing his class and staying in Yellow. As per usual Dave B summed it up perfectly – there is a reason that this is the greatest race in the sport, and one of the greatest sporting challenges in existence. It’s hard. Really, really hard. And exciting. Really, really exciting.
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