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It’s Tour Time!
Two of our colleagues: James and Becca, have written a piece about the upcoming Tour de France! One has been involved in the cycling world for thirty years, and the other is completely new! Read their thoughts on the race below.
I’m super exciting for another Tour, and as we count down to the grand depart, I find myself pondering two questions; Pogacar or Vingegaard; and will Cavendish get the record?
The GC Battle
In all the tours I’ve followed, I can’t remember a time where there has been two such dominantfavourites fighting for the overall. Now I could moan (I do love a moan) about the same two riders smashing the field to bits every day, but compared to the Armstrong, Froome and Indurain years, this is riveting stuff.
Following his 2021 Tour win, everyone thought Pogacar would dominate the race for years to come. Then the unassuming Dane gives Pogacar a proper bloody nose last year. There is nothing to suggest Jonas Vingegaard’s 2022 performance was a fluke, far from it, so who is coming out on top in 2023?
I have one contact actively racing in the World Tour, and his opinion is that Vingegaard is looking ominously good. Like unfathomably good. Like last year’s win has given him the confidence to chase being the very best version of himself that he can be, and the results are impressive. My contact says Vingegaard will smash it.
However, I suspect Pogacars wrist injury might just be the making of his Tour. Pog’s talent and hunger is so great that he can and does try to win everything. His performances in the Spring were incredible, and his all day, every day approach is totally the opposite of Vingegaard’s meticulously targeted approach.
I believe that without the injury, Pogacar might have come in to the tour physically a little jaded or potentially just a little bit mentally blunted. However, he’s had a few weeks out of competition to freshen up and stew over last year’s defeat and I am certain he’ll start the Tour ready and properly hungry!
That said, for all his talk of early attacks, I suspect Pogacar will be taking a more mature and conservative approach. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t sit back and let the defending champ take leadership responsibilities before attempting another final throw coup like in 2020.
It will be close, but my money is on the Slovenian.
Sport loves a pointless record, doesn’t it? Does it really matter who has won the most stages at the Tour? Would anyone look at Mark Cavendish and Eddy Merckx’s win records and say that Mark is as good as the great Eddy? I doubt it.
However, I think for Mark and his fans, this is a big deal. When looking back in years to come, more than any national or world title, the all-time Tour stage win record will be the statistic that positions Cavendish as the sprinting GOAT. So, can he pull it all together for one more win?
I for one hope so, and looking at the profile, I believe he’ll have up to eight opportunities to do it. Stages 3,4 and 7 are the most likely to come down to a sprint finish, but with everyone’s sprint trains intact and fresh, these will also be the hardest fought. Rather than Mark lacking the speed to compete for these stages, I fear a comparatively weak Astana lead out team, and a growing desire for self-preservation will make a win unlikely.
I suspect the best chance to grab the record will come later in the event. As early as stage 8, if the stars align, but more likely I suspect Astana will plan a raid on one of the less obvious sprint days in the third week, when other sprinters are tired and less motivated.
In summary, I’m saying yes its going to happen, and my money is it happening on stage 18 - with a bonus win on the Champs Élysées for good measure. If that happens, I wonder if he’ll retire on the spot?
So that’s my take, what do you think?
A New Adventure Begins: My First Experience of the Tour de France
I am still very new to the cycling world and am thrilled to embark on a new adventure – witnessing the Tour de France for the first time. The best way I can describe myself in this scenario is as a puppy. They’re eager to get into the excitement, having the best time, but they don’t really have a bloody clue what’s going on. I find myself constantly reading articles about any news or excitement in the lead up to the event. So unlike James, I’m not going to compare riders or victories, I’m simply going to write about all the wonderful things I have discovered and am most excited to share with you. Especially if you’re like me and aren’t the most knowledgeable about the finer details of the race!
The anticipation builds as the legendary race kicks off across the border in the Basque Country, marking its return to this region after nearly three decades. With a flurry of hilly stages and the breathtaking crossing of the Pyrenees into France, this year's race promises excitement and challenges like never before.
The route of the Tour de France entices with its unique blend of challenging terrain and thrilling summit finishes. Only 22 kilometres of time trialling await us, concentrated on the hilly stage 16. As the riders conquer the majestic Puy de Dôme, making its appearance after 35 years, and the daunting Grand Colombier in the Pyrenees, the thrill of the race intensifies. The final week offers a tough and demanding showdown, culminating in a gripping battle from the Vosges to Le Markstein on stage 20.
Last year's champion, Jonas Vingegaard, aims to defend his title and build upon his triumphant 2022 victory. Facing him is the formidable Tadej Pogačar, eager to reclaim his dominance after recovering from a fractured wrist. Alongside them, a stellar lineup of GC (General Classification) men, including David Gaudu, Enric Mas, Jai Hindley, Ben O'Connor, Richard Carapaz, and Mikel Landa, adds an extra layer of excitement to the competition. The Tour de France is not just about the current contenders but also the legacy of previous champions like Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, and Miguel Indurain, who have etched their names in the annals of cycling history.
The 2023 Tour de France welcomes 22 teams, including the renowned WorldTour teams and two discretionary wild-card entries. As the elite squads compete for glory, Lotto Soudal, TotalEnergies, Israel-Premier Tech, and Uno-X join the mix, eager to make their mark. It's a vibrant and diverse peloton that brings together the world's best athletes, all fuelled by dreams of triumph and achieving greatness.
As I prepare myself for the next three weeks, I feel more ready than ever to appreciate the Tour de France as more than just a ‘big bike race’ as it once was to me. The race represents not only a physical and mental test for the riders but also a celebration of the human spirit, endurance, and camaraderie. I am eager to witness the thrilling battles, unexpected twists, and awe-inspiring triumphs that await. The Tour de France is not just a race; it's a tapestry of human stories and dreams, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. I can’t wait to be pestering everyone in the office with “Did you see this!?” and “I can’t believe this happened!”.
Let the adventure begin!
What are your thoughts on the Tour de France? Share them with us!!