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Neilson Powless’ Tour de France blog: Morale is high as we look towards the Tour de France cobbles

The American rider pens his second exclusive blog from the Tour de France for VeloNews.

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During the 2022 Tour de France the American rider Neilson Powless will be writing an exclusive blog for VeloNews.

 

The first few days in Denmark were pretty unreal and I’ve never seen crowds like that. There was so much energy from start to finish, and I’ve never seen that many people out to watch a bike race. It was an incredible experience.

It was great to have Magnus Cort out there doing his thing with the KoM jersey. That was good for team morale, and for Magnus on a personal level. It’s a pretty unique experience to have the Tour come to your country if you’re not from France, so that was awesome to have him in a jersey, scoring points and hear everyone scream his name.

It was pretty nervous in the peloton for those first few days but nothing too crazy happened. I’ve just been trying to keep myself at the front and out of trouble because our A goal is still Rigoberto Uran and my main goal is trying not to cause any trouble. I’ve had some help from Stefan and the rest of the guys are helping Rigo, so we’ve still got a back-up idea for when we get to the mountains but ultimately we just want to keep everyone out of trouble.

Also read: Neilson Powless’ Tour de France blog: The power and wisdom of a dragon

Getting caught out or caught in a crash can be so bad because the roads are so tight that if you’re involved, you can’t always see where you’re going to land and you can’t see who is going to hit you from behind. It’s almost easier to be at the front but everyone has the same idea so it ends up getting pretty hectic. But I’ve been enjoying everything that comes with it and all the tension that you get with the first few days of the Tour. That feeling isn’t going to last forever with what’s coming up.

Going back a few days, I was happy with my time trial in Copenhagen. It was a bit of a roulette when it came to who was sliding and who was crashing, although I think that everyone was sliding out on some of those corners. In the first 4-5km I felt great and was within seven seconds of van der Poel but in the second half it became more technical and slippy. I could feel my rear wheel sliding around each corner so I had to calm down a bit. I wasn’t there to win the stage so I just took it easy because the main goal is to make it through the first week in one piece. I gave up time but it was worth it to me.

Looking ahead we’ve got another tough stage and then it’s onto the pavé. I’m feeling confident about stage 5 and Roubaix cobbles simply because we’ve got a really strong team for the terrain. Our team has been super strong on the flat and I think we’ve got the riders to put the team on their backs so that riders like Rigoberto and I just need to hold their wheels.

We’ll do our best to stay together but I’m pretty sure that there are going to be a lot of riders losing time on stage 5 because there’s only so many riders who can fit on those roads. If it’s raining then it will be a whole different ball game. Our team will just ride it as a one-day race regardless of time gaps because it could be total chaos.

My experience with cobbles is pretty limited. By limited I mean nothing at all, especially at the pro level. I did race Paris-Roubaix as a junior but I crashed out before we got to the pavé. There were a few cobbles at worlds last year. I’ve raced U23 Flanders, and there were a few cobbles there. We’ve got plenty of guys around us who have that experience so I’ll just try and feed off them.

An update on Ruben who is pretty banged up: the midnight stretching has ceased, mainly because he’s having a hard time moving. He’s a little slower getting around but I do my best to wait for him at meal times and departure times because I know that he can’t help running a minute or two late and I feel bad leaving him behind. I’m trying to keep him company so we’re either on time or a few minutes late as a unit.

The team are taking great care of him though, checking his wounds, and helping him as much as possible. I feel like this is the most comfortable that I’ve ever been on a bike because I’m seeing a chiropractor every day and getting a massage after each stage. Ruben just needs a bit of time but he’s relaxed and saving energy whenever he can. He’s got me for support too.