Two high-profile hotel raids in the week ahead of rollout and the loss of Jack Haig one week later saw the Bahrain-backed bunch off the back before the race even hit the mountains.
“We’re much more together as a result of everything that happened, just because it [the raid] was shit for everyone through the team,” British breakaway ace Fred Wright told VeloNews.
Wright and his team fell into the radar of a series of far-reaching Europol searches described as “a coordinated action against the use of prohibited substances in cycling races” in the days before the grand départ.
It all made for a grim echo of a similar situation last year when French authorities bust into Bahrain Victorious hotels deep into the race’s third week to search rooms and inspect files.
Wright saw both incidents first-hand.
“As a 23-year-old I only ever wanted to ride the Tour de France, so to experience two police raids in my first two Tours is kind of upsetting. But that’s kind of the history of our sport, and if we’ve got to do them to show that we’re clean, it’s got to be done I guess,” Wright said.
“They came in early in the morning and looked through everything for 30-45 minutes, and we went back to sleep. It was OK I guess. I felt sorry for all the staff who had to open up all the vehicles and everything, that obviously took a bit longer. It’s just one of those things.”
- Teams worry of impact of further police action at Tour de France
- Europol confirms Bahrain Victorious raids at Tour de France are targeting ‘prohibited substances’
The raids on the eve of the Copenhagen start saw Bahrain Victorious again making headlines for the wrong reasons in the biggest race on the calendar.
“It’s just one of those things [that it’s just us]. It’s hard but we’ve got through it now as a team, the morale is a lot better than it was those first days,” Wright said. “But it is hard because people are still talking about it.”
Less raids, more racing
Bahrain Victorious is now on a mission to make airtime for what happens on the road rather than in its hotels.
Wright was last rider standing from the early break on stage 8 last week and kicked into the escape on the roads to Megève with veteran teammate Luis León Sánchez on Tuesday.
The young Brit played wingman in the all-action final to put his 38-year-old teammate on track for a third-place finish in what was Bahrain Victorious’ best result of the race so far.
And Wright isn’t likely to stop there.
“I’m looking for more opportunities this week, I think once we get out of these big mountains, maybe something then,” Wright told VeloNews.
Meanwhile, Damiano Caruso carries the band of Bahrain captain after Aussie talent Jack Haig became a victim of the cobbles on the roads toward Arenberg last week.
At 16th overall but less than two minutes from the top-10, Caruso’s diesel engine and ability to endure puts the Sicilian in the frame for a climb up the classification as the race hits high heat and high peaks this week.
“It’s similar to last year when we lost Jack and he wasn’t our main GC focus. But that opens up a lot of opportunities for the other guys and Damiano will definitely creep up into top-10 this week, I’m sure of it,” Wright said.
“And then, every day there’s a chance for the breakaway we’ll put someone in it. We’ve tried to get someone in there, but each day it’s just not worked out. It’s coming.”
It got a little closer Tuesday. Third place was a start, now to go two better.