The 2020 Tour de France has begun, which means there are plenty of pressing questions to hash out every day, and plenty of hot takes to debate. Our veteran reporters, Andrew Hood and James Startt, are fielding your biggest inquiries each day in this Active Pass roundtable column.
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OK, let’s get to the takes.
Does it feel like different teams are approaching COVID-19 protocols with varying levels of commitment, concern, or precautions? — Drew
Andrew Hood @eurohoody: I’d say most teams are taking this very seriously. Every team knows their future could well depend on getting through the Tour, so that means following the health rules and protocols. Word is already being passed around among the teams that the French government will consider an entire team in “direct contact” if staffers or riders are not wearing face masks as required. They can only take off masks at meals, inside their rooms or racing.
James Startt: I think they’re all handling it with the utmost attention. Every team, big and small, are all worried about the health conditions. They’re also worried that they could be kicked out of the race. We’ve been vacillating between the rules — two staff members or two riders, at one time does a team have so many cases that they get kicked out of the race? The ASO came out and said two cases and you’re out, and then they backed down. Now, the French government is coming back on them to say no, two cases and the team is gone. As a result, all of the teams are being very very diligent.
If one were to plan a first-time visit to the Tour from the U.S. (next year obviously), are there good resources to help plan where a particular stage to watch, and, basically to help plan a trip? — Pat
Andy: I’m sure there are some good blogs out there of people who have freelanced the Tour. After having followed the Tour quite a few times myself, I would suggest bringing a bike. Not only is that already more fun, a bike will give you plenty of flexibility about getting into areas where cars are not allowed. Bring a meaty lock as well if you want to leave your bike unattended. Also, unless you’re keen on following the entire Tour, pick a zone, find a nice base of operation, and take in a few stages. One idea would be to target a start one day, and a finish the next, and plan on at least one of the big major summits. That’s an all-day adventure that’s unique in sports.
James: It all depends on how you want to do your trip. There are many travel companies that bring people over to ride the course and watch the race go past. Or, you can just come. You can get a copy of VeloNews magazine or see on the internet to see where the race goes, and cut it off. You can get there early and watch the caravan go by and have a picnic. It’s honestly not that hard to do. You just have to be able to get over, and definitely rent a car. If you’re in doubt, then just come to Paris and watch it on the Champs-Élysées.
Pretend that I’ve locked you in a chair and administered truth serum to you. Does Chris Froome win a fifth Tour de France title? — Dave
Andy: Haha, well, I’d say he certainly has a better chance at Israel Start-Up Nation, where he will be the team’s outright leader, than at Ineos Grenadiers, where Bernal is emerging as the new boss. If that truth serum also gave us a chance to scope out Froome’s power numbers I could give a more definitive answer. If Froome has fully recovered physically from his crash, I would say yes.
James: Not this year! Ever? I think not. I think it’s over. I think he might be able to win another grand tour, but changing teams so late in his career, and still struggling to come back, the road is so long and precarious. I think that he’s going to have to shift his focus a bit. He might be able to get a Giro or a Vuelta, especially if there are some time trials and he can get that going again. But winning another Tour? That’s going to be very hard.
What’s your all-time favorite edition of the Tour de France and why? — Susan
Andy: For personal reasons, my first Tour way back in 1996. Everything was so new and exotic. And that was well before days of GPS, iPhones and Twitter, so every day was like going to bike racing university. For a wild news rollercoaster, the 1998 Tour was off the charts, a scandal every day. No one likes to even mention his name anymore, but Armstrong’s first win in 1999 was pretty amazing. And the racing over the past several years has been very good. Thomas’s win in 2018 was quite entertaining because it was so unexpected.
James: It might have been the last one that I didn’t do, which was 1989. I missed the amazing eight-second race between Fignon and LeMond on the Champs. So, after that, I’d probably have to say 2011, Cadel’s victory. There was so much suspense. There was the Thomas Voeckler ride. There was no dominant team, and I like that. I get really bored with dominant teams. I know that for the history of the Tour having a big team that goes nad dominates and era and has a dynasty makes it easier for writing history. I much prefer the small Tours, where there is a lot of suspense and no dominating team, and a lot of suspense and lead changes. That’s what we saw in 2011.
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