The Tour de France may seem all glamorous and every spectator may wish it was them completing a lap of the country, but La Grand Boucle does have its flaws and irritations.
While all riders enjoy riding the race, 21 stages through the French countryside and cities not only takes its toll on them physically, but there are logistic problems that compound the riders’ recovery. The interest in the start villages and a nervous peloton also add to the stress.
Thomas Degand, who is riding his maiden Tour for Wanty-Groupe Gobert, said that the race is an “incredible experience” but that it isn’t without its problems.
“Always, after the race, we are blocked, usually for an hour,” he said of the traffic. “On stage 15, our bus drove eight kilometres in one hour and 30 minutes.
“We arrived at our hotel at 9pm and then we have to get a massage and eat. Then, on Wednesday, we had to leave the hotel at 9am for the start.
“In a three week race, it is very important to have maximum recovery and with this situation is it difficult to do so. When we are in the bus for two hours, it is to our loss. It is a problem but it is a very beautiful race.”
Orica-Scott‘s Daryl Impey, who in 2013 became the first African to wear the yellow jersey, agreed with Demand, saying that “the travelling and the transfers are the worst part of the Tour. But there is no way around it – there’s no easy way to do a whole lap of France.”
Impey, though, said that hour before the race starts is the biggest annoyance. “Signing on, rushing to the start, fighting through a million people to sign on… it’s not stressful but it’s just a pain in the arse to go through everyone. I’m on autopilot now!”
For other riders, it is the actual racing that turns their smiles into frowns. Timo Roosen, riding his second successive Tour for LottoNL-Jumbo, bemoaned the pace of climbing in the mountains.
The 24-year-old said: “In the high mountains, you have to suffer for so long. Some climbs feel like they just don’t end.
“Everybody is riding full gas and I’m too heavy for this, I’m not a climber!
“The pace is higher in the mountains. The first climb yesterday [on stage 16], when it exploded, you can feel the pace get quicker. The level is so high and you push watts that would normally be quite good in any other race, but here everyone can do those numbers. You end up in the gruppetto with some powerful numbers.”
British sprinter Ben Swift (UAE-Team Emirates) said that crashes – of which are more common in the Tour – are the thing he hates the most. “The worst are the crashes,” he said.
“I think there’s more crashes in the Tour because the risks are higher and people are more willing to push to be at the front.
“The first day after you crash, you’re always more nervous and covering your brakes a little but more. You have more fatigue and you’re not pushing yourself through them gaps. A crash can play on you a little bit.”