Tour de France 2020

Tour notebook: Boredom, breathalizers, and a rest day swim

Sky riders say they like being boring, Rasumussen criticizes anti-doping, top Frenchmen battle to be best on GC, and Dennis departs.

Our Tour de France reporters already bring you the biggest stories and best analyses every day. But what of the notes they scrawl in the margins, those little bits of gossip and narrative that are as much a part of the Tour as Chris Froome and the color yellow, but which rarely see the light of day? You’ll find those here.

Notes from the margins

[related title=”More Tour Notebooks” align=”right” tag=”Tour-Notebook”]

We love boring
People accuse Team Sky of sucking the life out of the Tour de France. That’s just fine for Sky’s Geraint Thomas. “Boring? Maybe, but we don’t get paid to make it an exciting race. We get paid to win the race, so I really don’t care. It might seem that way in the mountains. Maybe they want to see big, long-range attacks, but if any other teams were in the same position as we are, they’d do the exact same thing. That’s the best way to get the results for us.”

A rest day swim
The Aare river courses through the rest day city of Bern, Switzerland, and teams took advantage on a hot day.

Rasmussen said treatment not equal across nations
There is a familiar figure walking around the press room at this Tour de France: Michael Rasmussen. The former pro returned to the Tour last year, working as an analyst for a Danish newspaper, and is back on the Tour this year. Speaking to the Spanish wire service EFE, Rasmussen said cyclists are treated different across Europe. “I don’t know [if Alberto Contador doped], but Contador had an advantage over me. He was Spanish. If he were Danish, the Danish prime minister wouldn’t have defended me like [former Spanish prime minister] Zapatero. There are different ways to tackle doping, and that’s one of the big problems in sport. The rules are the same for everyone, but they’re not fairly applied. Only 10 or 15 adequately apply the rules. In 2010, in Germany, there were 238 bans against athletes who did not correctly fill out their paperwork. In Poland, not one. The rules are the same, but they’re not applied the same. It’s not fair.”

Bottoms up
Journalists pulling into the press room yesterday were surprised to find police administering breathalyzer tests. Tour organizers have clamped down on traffic violations during the race, when thousands of vehicles hit the road each day. Overall, Tour vehicles are much more respectful of speeds and safety compared to the old days, when it was like a rally race to reach the finish line. In fact, back in the day, there used to be a rest stop at the 99th kilometer of every stage, where journalists and officials could load up on local delicacies. These days, free bottled water is about as good as it gets.

Le meilleur Français
The battle for top Frenchman at the Tour is always heated, but is now all but decided. Romain Bardet is le meilleur, the best, with nearly nine minutes on Warren Barguil (Giant – Alpecin) and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale – Drapac).

That said, watch for the latter two to hop in breakaways this week. They’ll want stage wins, of course, but might have another motive. They’re far enough back to be non-threats to the top GC riders, but close enough that a nice breakaway could pop them back into the top 10 just in time for Paris. Don’t think for a minute that’s an accident.

Dennis pulls Olympic chute
Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) is out of the Tour de France in order to prepare for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, where he will be one of the favorites for the time trial. “BMC Racing Team’s performance and management team agree that it is not in his best interest to continue racing beyond stage 16,” said Yvon Ledanois. “The next two weeks are crucial for him as he prepares for the Rio Olympics and given the final time trial here at the Tour de France isn’t suited to him, his preparation is best done at home in order to avoid further fatigue.”

Coming up

Wednesday’s stage: Bern to Finhaut-Emosson, 184.5km. After a nice rest day, the Tour jumps straight back into action with one of the toughest days of the race so far. The finale is brutal. The peloton will first tackle the Col de la Forclaz, then descend briefly, then head up the hors categorie climb to Finhaut-Emosson.

Weather update: Hot, over 90˚ F for most of the stage, with no chance (as of Tuesday evening) of a late shower to cool things off. Wednesday’s finish is up high and will be far cooler.