POITIERS, France (VN) — In what has become a pastime of Tour de France coverage, there’s talk of alliances as the race speeds toward its final week.
This time, there’s chatter that the Colombians may work together to turn the tide against the Slovenians.
That might play well with the fans back home, but cooperation among Colombians on national lines is pure fantasy during this Tour. Here’s my take: Nairo Quintana isn’t going to help Egan Bernal, just as Rigoberto Urán won’t be helping Miguel Ángel López.
They might be compatriots, but they’re rivals on the road, and not necessarily friends off of it. Cycling is a mercenary’s game, and it’s every rider for themselves (and their teams) from here to Paris.
Bernal said as much when he was asked about the idea. As it turns out, just because these guys share the same nationality doesn’t mean they are best buddies.
“It’s not so easy that all of us Colombians go together, that we help each other, that we arrive — not easy at all,” Bernal told ESPN Bike, adding a comment about Quintana. “Many times I’ve attacked with him, and I asked him to take pulls, and he never did, so that would be complicated.”
Bernal might have torpedoed that idea, but López seemed to suggest it could work. Better a Colombian win the Tour than a Slovenian, right?
“Right now, everyone is racing for their teams,” López said. “But at the end of the day, we’re compatriots. Once things are more settled, maybe we can collaborate. I wouldn’t have a problem with it, because it would be beautiful to see another Colombian winner of the Tour.”
An alliance on the road might happen, and if it did, it would be an amazing thing to see.
Will the Colombians race as a unified force? My opinion is: No. Will they pull if all four are up the road, and Roglič, Pogačar and others are against the ropes? Absolutely. Will they attack each other for the win? Of course.
Collaboration is an invention on the road, not something hashed out in hotel lobbies.
Ewan and sprint rival Sam Bennett are close friends. They live in the same apartment building in Monaco, and are frequent training buddies. Both are rising sprinters who want to win every chance they get.
And that means they’re often sparring against each other.
“We’re very good friends, he’s one of my best mates and we train a lot together,” Ewan said.
The bonds of their friendship could be seen after Tuesday’s 10th stage into Îl de Ré, which Bennett won just ahead of Ewan. It was Bennett’s first Tour de France victory, and Ewan rode up to congratulate him after the victory, offering him a fist bump and a hug.
“It’s always hard because we both have the same goals and we both have a lot of pressure on us to win here, it’s the biggest bike race in the world, and the sprints get very heated. But we’ve done well so far I think to separate work and our friendship.
On Wednesday, it was Bennett who played the role of cheerleader. Despite losing the stage by the width of a tire, Bennett offered Ewan a congratulatory fist bump as the two sped past the line.
“And you know when he won yesterday I couldn’t have been happier for him because everyone saw how much it meant for it and I’ve seen how hard he’s worked for it and so I’m super happy for him,” Ewan said. “On the other side, obviously I was disappointed for myself because I worked hard for it and I didn’t win. It’s always a hard one like that, but if someone’s going to beat me then I’m happy it’s him.”
Weight of yellow
Primož Roglič found his second day in yellow easier than his first. Wednesday’s rolling sprinter’s stage was in sharp contrast to the tense, crash-riddled stage in the crosswinds Tuesday.
One thing’s obvious — he’s taking a liking to the yellow jersey.
“The yellow jersey is ultimately the highest honor that we can know in the world of cycling. We are at the pinnacle there. So I am very proud to wear this tunic,” Roglič said. “Anyone who has won once here knows that. It makes you addicted. I don’t think I took the yellow jersey too early. But indeed, it takes a lot of energy for the aftermath. This is not the first time that I have worn this kind of jersey. I have experience in handling this kind of situation.”
Peter Sagan will seek his revenge
I fully expect Peter Sagan to wreak revenge in Thursday’s tough stage to the edge of the Massif Central.
After being relegated Wednesday for bumping Wout van Aert in the sprint, Sagan needs a big push to get back into the green jersey hunt. The lumpy finale, with a second- and third-category climb in the final hour of racing, could see Sam Bennett dropped.
The profile could suit Sagan, but a breakaway could stay clear as well.
At 218km, it’s the longest stage of this year’s Tour. Sagan might sit up, just to make sure he can save some matches for the looming Alps. It certainly won’t be a bunch sprint.
If a reduced group comes in, put your money on the Slovakian if he’s still there.