Tour de France 2020

Notes From The Scrum: Sky high

Every morning looks like airport security at the Team Sky bus, and our Matthew Beaudin, a Tour rookie, is there

BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, France (VN) — Every morning looks like airport security at the Team Sky bus. Fans and journalists press into the barriers, hoping to get close enough for a chat with Wiggo or Cavendish — or anyone with an earpiece and a Sky T-shirt.

Press officers nod. The backs of TV cameras hit you in the face. A quiet conversation spawns a bouquet of microphones. I blocked out someone’s video camera the other day with my hand, only half-joking. All’s fair in love, war and the Tour de France.

Each morning, I wait for Bernhard Eisel to exit the Team Sky bus so we can film our morning video diary, Breakfast with Bernie. He’s gracious enough to give us a few minutes of time to chat about whatever I come up with, from morning coffee to rooming with Cav. (No, Cav doesn’t sleep in the world champion stripes).

So I spend a lot of time in the circus in front of the Sky bus. I’m a part of it, shoulder tapping for a spot in the front row.

Fans wear Sky kits at the starts and finishes as if they were England soccer jerseys, and if we were actually in England. They seem to be the home team, even at the Tour de France.

Tuesday morning, prior to the start of stage 3, I asked Sean Yates, the team’s director sportif, if it’s all a bit much. Yates, though, tries to keep everything cool.

“I just stay calm myself and convince them to be calm as well, and not get fazed by anything and just stay together,” he told outside the bus Tuesday morning before the crash-marred stage 3, which saw the elimination of Sky rider Kanstantsin Sivtsou with a fractured his tibia.

“It’s not the first time I’ve been with the team, and it’s been building the whole year, since February,” Yates said. “I like to be calm and the riders, they manage to have the same.”

Yates said this Sky squad isn’t unlike Alberto Contador’s or Lance Armstrong’s teams — a swirl of fans, journalists and hype.

The coverage, of course, isn’t unwarranted. Wiggins is favored to snatch the Tour from defending champ Cadel Evans, and Mark Cavendish displayed on Monday he didn’t need a leadout train to win stages, just cunning and speed. On Wiggins, Yates said his man is on top form.

“We’ve not seen the best of him yet, and this Tour will hopefully give us a chance, give him a chance, to show his best. He’s getting better every day and every year,” Yates said. “Although this year’s obviously on paper a great year for him, I think next year, providing he wants to be, he will be stronger still.”

Editor’s Note: reporter Matthew Beaudin will file his note periodically from inside the madness of the Tour de France. It’s his first time covering La Grande Boucle.