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Tour de France

Introducing Tour de France unsung heroes: Stories from the peloton

Throughout the Tour de France, VeloNews will be talking to some of the unsung heroes in the peloton – those riders that battle on without the recognition the major stars receive.

Cycling is about more than the names on the trophies.

Hundreds of column inches are written about the great and the good of cycling. From Fausto Coppi to Jacques Anquetil to Tadej Pogačar, the finer details of great champions are pored over.

As we head into the Tour de France for another year, there are hundreds of unsung heroes plying their trade away from the spotlight.

Also read: Three dark horses that could disrupt the GC

From the neo-pro learning their craft at their first grand tour to the stalwart domestique digging deep in service of their team, there are hundreds of lives lived and stories to tell within the cycling peloton.

After 10 years of working in cycling, I have seen many riders pushing themselves to the limit for their teammates and even just for themselves. Making it to the finish of a major event, especially one as significant as the Tour de France, is a victory within itself for many.

That’s one of the beautiful things about cycling is that sometimes just making it is the ultimate goal. How many sports can say this?

Due to the constraints of television production, we rarely get to see much beyond what happens at the front of the peloton unless one of the big names is caught out by something unexpected. It is usually only after the fact that we get to hear the stories of what went on, if ever.

One of the stories that stands out during my time in cycling was the story of Evaldas Šiškevičius at the 2018 Paris-Roubaix. The Lithuanian had set out on the morning of April 10, 2018, with the intention of reaching the Roubaix velodrome and that was what he was going to do, no matter what.

His ambition was already looking difficult as the broom wagon, the savior and nightmare of any cyclist, loomed ominously behind him when a puncture on the Carrefour de l’Arbre looked set to end his day.

Also read: Giro d’Italia unsung heroes: Taco van der Hoorn and the pursuit of aero

Šiškevičius was only saved by the discovery of one of his team’s cars on the back of a truck after it had broken down earlier. He was able to retrieve a wheel and carry on and arrived in Roubaix an hour after Peter Sagan had won the race only to discover that the velodrome gate was closed.

We were only fortunate enough to see his story as a crew from the Belgian TV broadcaster Sporza was following the broom wagon that day.

In the end, a sympathetic marshal let him through to complete the race – though his name will not appear on the list of those that finished.

Sometimes it’s not about the finish line or the result but helping another rider in a time of need. Bora-Hansgrohe rider Rudi Selig has shown himself to be someone that looks out for his fellow competitors.

Last October, he jumped from his bike during the finale of Scheldeprijs after a major crash to make sure the stricken August Jansen was ok. More recently, he tended to his young teammate Jori Meeus after he hit his head in a crash at the Tour de Hongrie.

The stories of those riders behind the leaders are not always that dramatic — sometimes it’s just about fetching bidons or giving words of encouragement — but they are still worth telling.

Over the next weeks, VeloNews wants to tell some of the lesser-known stories within the cycling peloton with our Tour de France unsung heroes series.