Going for broke: why breaks have been so successful at this year's Tour

Crashes, fatigue and a growing trend for Classics-style aggressive racing has led to this Tour being one of the most watchable for years

Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bahrain Victorious directeur sportif Rolf Aldag is happy but a little bewildered. Speaking prior to the start of the Tour de France’s 10th stage in Albertville, he has seen his riders clinch two wins and a third place on the first big days in the hills and mountains, but he confesses that he’s been completely taken aback by how those performances have come about. 

“Seeing how we’ve raced here, I was like, ‘Guys, are you sure? It’s a long way to the line. Maybe you should wait a little longer,” he says, adding: “But there’s no hesitation. It’s all fall in or fall out.”

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Every Tour is expected to begin at ferocious intensity, the pace high, nerves jangling, the fear of crashes almost tangible. 

Yet, order and a sense of control tend to arrive quickly, imposed to a large extent by the sprint and general classification teams, but also by the knowledge that Grand Tours can’t be rushed, and especially the Tour, where the pressure, the level of competition and the rewards are higher than anywhere. Caution is the watchword. 

Or at least it was until this year, when almost every stage has been raced like a one-day Classic.

tour de france

(Image credit: Future)

This was to be expected during the opening two stages in Brittany, both uphill finishes that suited and were won by those persistent dynamiters of established strategy, Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel

Yet, that frenzy has been sustained. By the end of the Tour’s first week, it became apparent that no one team was able to impose enough control to suppress the peloton’s anarchic desires.

You can read the rest of this feature in the July 15 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine - the perfect companion to your Tour viewing. You can order single issues online of on the shelves of supermarkets and WHSmiths. You can also subscribe to Cycling Weekly magazine, get your issue delivered each week and get more out of your riding. 

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Peter Cossins has been writing about professional cycling since 1993, with his reporting appearing in numerous publications and websites including Cycling WeeklyCycle Sport and Procycling - which he edited from 2006 to 2009. Peter is the author of several books on cycling - The Monuments, his history of cycling's five greatest one-day Classic races, was published in 2014, followed in 2015 by Alpe d’Huez, an appraisal of cycling’s greatest climb. Yellow Jersey - his celebration of the iconic Tour de France winner's jersey won the 2020 Telegraph Sports Book Awards Cycling Book of the Year Award.