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Tour de France

Riders arrive in Calais as Tour de France entourage takes to the road

Peloton whisked off in Sunday evening flight while mechanics and sport directors trundle back to France in long drive.

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LILLE, France (VN) — Dylan Groenewegen didn’t have time to field many questions after winning stage 3 at the Tour de France. He had a plane to catch, quite literally.

The 176 riders in the 2022 Tour were whisked away Sunday evening moments after crossing the line in Denmark. The Tour peloton jumped on a flight and arrived in France a few hours later.

It was a mostly seamless transition out of Denmark in what was the furthest and most northern grand départ the Tour de France has ever had, at least for the riders.

After three raucous stages in Denmark, the peloton enjoys the first of the race’s three rest days Monday before resuming the action Tuesday in a tricky road stage from Dunkirk to Calais.

“It will be a bit strange to have a first rest day so soon,” said yellow jersey Wout van Aert. “I know myself, and you have to keep the engine turning tomorrow to have the good legs on Tuesday. For me it’s something new, but I also like that we can rest ups after the travel tonight.”

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Grand tours have been venturing further and further away from their “host” nations over the past few decades, bringing the thousands-strong entourage far from borders.

When the race starts in a nearby country like Belgium or the Netherlands, a major transfer isn’t necessary.

Yet when the race ventures so far afield, an extra rest day is scheduled, meaning the race starts on a Friday instead of on a Saturday, with the rest day slotted in on Monday.

While the riders and some key sport directors were tucked into bed early Sunday night, most in the Tour entourage made the long drive from Denmark to northern France.

Buses, mechanics trucks, team cars and other vehicles started the long drive Sunday evening. The trip is about 950km and took about nine to 12 hours, depending on the vehicle.

“I get tired just to think about it,” said EF Education-EasyPost sport director Matti Breschel. “We have quite a long drive. Charly [Wegelius] is flying with the riders, the rest of us drive down. We will sleep halfway. We have people down there taking care of the riders when they get down there, a chef, doctors, soigneurs and others. It’s a big drive for the rest of us.”

It’s a drill that teams are well accustomed to. The Giro d’Italia started in Israel in 2018, the first grand tour that reached beyond the European borders.

Rolf Aldag, sport director at Bora-Hansgrohe, said teams don’t mind the far-flung starts to grand tours if there is a reasonable limit.

“Will the Tour someday go to the United States or Japan? Maybe that’s too far,” Aldag said. “The teams don’t mind going into these new markets because you can see the interest that the Tour can generate, and that’s good for teams as well. So long as there is a good historical connection to cycling, it makes sense.”

‘We’ve been working on the details of the transfer for months’

Teams are already bracing for one more foreign adventure. This year, all three grand tours started beyond their host nations, with the Giro starting in Budapest and the Tour in Denmark. In August, the Vuelta a España ventures to the Netherlands, requiring another logistical and travel challenge for team.

“We’ve been working on the details of the Tour transfer for months,” Aldag said. “It’s a bit complicated to get all the materials up here, especially for the time trial, but it’s the same for everyone. We are seeing huge crowds in Denmark, so it’s obvious the people love the Tour.”

The separated teams will reunite Monday afternoon in northern France, and the Tour will remain on home roads for its duration except for a detour into Switzerland later this week.