'It looks like I'm on my son's bike': Nils Politt on his Tour de France bike change nightmare

The Bora-Hansgrohe rider tried three times to get the right bike on stage 19 and failed

Nils Politt on a Shimano neutral service bike on stage 19 of the 2023 Tour de FRance
(Image credit: Eurosport/GCN)

Third time lucky, so the cliché goes. You might have suffered misfortune twice, but have another go, and everything should be fine, right? Nils Politt tried to make this work on stage 19 of the Tour de France as he was forced to change bike after his chain snapped on his regular steed, but ended up taking part in a farce.

Politt was in the break on Friday, just a minute ahead of the peloton, and so needed to stay up the road to keep the dream of a stage win alive. His Bora-Hansgrohe car, however, was behind the main bunch, thanks to the escape's slender advantage. It was not an ideal situation.

There was, however, a Shimano neutral service car just behind, with its variety of spare bikes available on the roof. So, a spare bike might have been simple. Yet each one that was introduced presented its own problem. 

The first bike had Look pedals; Politt uses Shimano. That was discarded. The second had Speedplay pedals; Politt uses Shimano. The third was about a 54cm frame; Nils Politt is 1.92m tall. It was not a successful situation.

In the end, after three goes at getting the right bike, all of which failed, Politt was forced to wait up for his team car, and so his day out front ended like that. 

"I fought super hard to get into that break," the German explained to Cycling Weekly on Saturday morning. "I really wanted to be in there. It was our tactic, I was the best card of the team yesterday. I was racing quite a lot to be there in front and unfortunately my chain broke. I knew that I didn't have a team car behind, so I had to use a Shimano neutral one. 

"I got the wrong pedal system straight away, then another wrong pedal system, and then a bike which was way too small for me. It was game over already and it was a little bit frustrating for sure. I think everybody saw it, and it is what it is though, that's the sport."

Pushed as to what was going through his mind as bike after bike failed him and the break rode away, he admitted it was "super s***".

"I wanted to be as quick as possible back in the front there. As soon as you realise that it wouldn't happen anymore, you are frustrated. That's it, it's super s***."

By the time he was trying to ride the third bike: "I was quite sure that the break had gone straight away there." Heartbreaking.

At least Politt was able to become a meme, just like Jonas Vinegaard and Jumbo-Visma did last year during their bike changing fiasco on the cobbles at the Tour. I'm sure his phone lit up on Friday evening.

"A lot of guys were laughing about the picture when I was on the really small bike," was all the German would admit. "It looks like I'm on my son's bike. It was a good story."

Shimano, for its part, issued an apology, which was nice of them. The whole incident seemed fairly unavoidable, however, given the size of Politt and the slim advantage the break had.

“At Shimano, we apologize to Nils Politt of BORA-Hansgrohe for the incident that happened today," a spokesperson said. "Our Neutral Service mechanics are all professionally trained, with many years of experience. Often times in such high-pressure situations, miscalculations can happen. We again accept the mistake and apologize.”

See more

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.