During the 2022 Tour de France the Trek Segafredo rider Toms Skujiņš will be writing an exclusive blog for VeloNews.com. The Latvian time trial champion is heading into his fifth Tour and will be sharing his insight throughout the race.
It had been a while since I was last in Denmark. That time, all the way back in 2011, it was for a bike race too – the World Championships held in Copenhagen. As we rolled up to the presentation last Thursday I suddenly recognized the place. It was just around the corner from the Tivoli Gardens where I watched Tony Martin smash the time trial and win gold over ten years ago.
Growing up I didn’t really dream about riding the Tour, or racing as a professional. I got into cycling when I was 15 and really didn’t watch a bike race on TV until probably 2009. The World Championships in 2011 was the first time I got to see the best of the best in person and then race the U23 race myself.
The memories from 2011, along with the atmosphere of the teams’ presentation reminded me of my first Tour de France. I honestly hadn’t understood how big of a deal the Tour was until I got selected for it in 2018. I hadn’t grown up watching it every summer or dreaming of one day being in the mountains on my bike. I found love for racing my bike, and where the start line was didn’t really matter to me. However, when I was first selected for the Tour and the messages started flowing in it started to dawn on me just how huge the Tour was.
It made me understand how big of a sporting event it is and how many people really follow it. No matter their age, or their understanding of the sport’s ins-and-outs, the Tour is followed by huge audiences just for the beauty of it.
Last weekend, standing on that podium during the team presentation and not even being able to hear the announcers over the noise of the crowd reminded me of all that.
In 2018 we started the Tour de France in Bretagne – some say the heart of cycling in France. I could not believe the amount of people on the roadside cheering us on. And even though I had experienced it once before, yet again I was shocked by the amount of Danes that came out to cheer us on. It seemed like the whole country had stopped whatever they were doing to come to the streets to have a look at the colorful peloton buzzing by. At times I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts during the race, there was so much noise. These three days I will not forget.
My only hope is that we made the racing fun enough for the fans. The ITT on stage 1 was a really tricky one. With the rain, the corners and weather changing it kept everyone guessing who’d win. Could Ganna keep his throne as the best? Would Wout beat him this time? Or would the slippery conditions tilt the scales in favor of van der Poel? In the end it was farmer Yves Lampaert who beat them all. The Tour brings surprises and this was one of them.
People were probably expecting a bit more action on stage 2, but because of the direction of the wind on the bridge there wasn’t much we could do. However, that day was really nervous in the bunch as everyone was anticipating something big to go down, so I honestly didn’t have much time to look around and enjoy the scenery. Luckily stage 3 had plenty of that. With the hometown hero Magnur Cort racking up some more polka dot points the peloton could relax a bit. That changed in the final 40km when it was again warpspeed all the way into a hectic final that even saw some guys lose time.
As a team we were hoping for a bit more out of the first three days as it would have been a dream to get Mads into yellow while in Denmark, but it was a huge challenge to get that done. However everyone is feeling better by the day and we have plenty of opportunities to come. So be sure that after Monday’s little rest we will be back in action and back there to make things happen.