Four different Tour de France bike riders, four different responses all amounting to the same conclusion.
“I am not aware this exists, no,” says Mikkel Bjerg of UAE-Team Emirates.
“Like in this Tour?” comes Soudal-QuickStep’s Dries Devenyns. “No, I am not aware of it.”
“No. No. I have not heard of this,” replies a clearly stunned Simon Clarke of Israel-PremierTech.
DSM-Firmenich’s John Degenkolb appears disgusted, let down. “An award for the best teammate? Why didn’t you tell me!”
Yep, the Tour de France has an award that celebrates the best teammate of the race, awarded at the end of each of the three individual weeks.
The only problem is… no one in the peloton knows about it, and not even the internet appears to be too aware of its existence.
But, it does exist, it is a thing, sponsored by the Département des Hauts-de-Seine Council. “I have no idea who won,” says Devenyns, clearly disinterested in this discussion. When I tell him that Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert won the first week’s accolade, he appears to question the result, bafflement etched across his face. “Wout van Aert? Huh. I suppose it's always nice to get an award, no?"
It is, Dries. The winner might not receive any public adulation for the award but does earn €3,000 in prize money. How do they win it? A public vote on Twitter of course, because that’s what the 2020s demand: an internet poll is the only democratic way, apparently.
After more than 10,000 votes were cast at the end of the first week, Van Aert claimed bragging rights over his career-long rival Mathieu van der Poel to take the prize, adding another vital victory in the win column against his adversary.
“Then normally the popular guys will win it,” assesses Devenyns. “It’s how society works nowadays, no?” Again, it is, Dries.
If he seems downcast, so too is Bjerg. “I am not that good looking so maybe Wout van Aert wins for the next two weeks,” the Dane says with visible sadness because, in his opinion, having just heard about this award, he senses both an opportunity and injustice: this award could be for him, but Van Aert and his good looks will probably snatch it time after time.
“If this was a real competition,” he says, forgetting that it actually is (see here), “I could do a good top-10 I think. Based on Van Aert’s legs he will probably win three weeks in a row, but maybe I could make one of the three weeks.”
Israel-PremierTech’s Clarke isn’t backing himself, but he does appear upset that the award, essentially an MVP of the race, is a concept only introduced in 2022. “I don’t think I’ve earned it this year,” Clarke says, “but I feel like when Rigo Urán was second [in 2017] I might have gotten close.”
Upon learning of the award’s existence, each one of our riders appeared most enthused when the prize money was mentioned. Most, like Degenkolb, were diplomatic, saying that “for sure the money gets split between everyone on the team”, but Clarke has a different take.
“You have to divide the three grand?” he questions, preposterously. “But not everyone’s the best teammate.” Aware of future headlines labelling him as greedy and a mercenary, he reverts to type and acknowledges that “you’ve got to have a teammate to be the best teammate, don’t you.” Bjerg, meanwhile, knows exactly where he’d be spending his share of the money. “Paris. On the last day. For sure.”
So what about Van Aert, the winner of the meilleur équiper the first week. Does he know about it? He first pauses for a moment when asked by Cycling Weekly at the start of stage 12. “Actually yes, I saw it on Twitter and then I got a little trophy at the team presentation,” he confirms. “It’s a nice thing to win and it’s nice to get an award out of it for sure, especially in this Tour.”
Delighted by Van Aert’s knowledge of this
coveted award, we ask if it will be his main goal for the rest of the race to remain the Official Tour de France Best Teammate? There’s silence for three seconds, and it’s only when we reassure him that we’re being sarcastic (spoiler: we were not) that he answers: “No, it’s not a goal, but I will keep trying to be successful for myself and also for my team.”
He hasn’t convinced us: we know that this award is the reason he rides his bike for six hours a day every day during the wet, cold and dark winter months in Belgium. You can’t fool us, Wout.
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