Tour de France 2020

Tour notebook: Birds, broken hands, and brave rides

The VeloNews Tour team gets the lowdown on Howes' breakaway ride and Rolland's approach to riding with a hand injury

Our Tour de France reporters already bring you the biggest stories and best analysis 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

How brave do you need to be?
Four riders in the breakaway, and only one Frenchman, so who is going to win the “combative prize?” Do you even have to wonder? Jeremy Roy (FDJ) was that Frenchman, and he indeed won the day’s combative prize. American Alex Howes (Cannondale – Drapac) rode into his third breakaway of this year’s Tour, but lo, he has not been combative enough, at least not according the all-French jury made up of two French journalists, a Tour de France official, and former pro and TV announcer Laurent Jalabert. “To win combativity you have to drop all the French guys,” Howes said after his first breakaway of the Tour, on the Tour’s first stage.

Gorilla’s birthday
Today is Andre Greipel’s birthday. That is all.

For the birds
Saturday’s stage finished at a bird park, and press and VIPs were treated to a bird show, and a goody bag with a free plush bird toy. Members of the media with children fought to collect enough to take one home for each of their children.

Why attack?
When asked why on earth he decided to jump in the breakaway on a 208km stage straight into a headwind, Howes made a rather good point.

“Pretty much anything can happen out there. It’s probably better to shoot yourself in the foot than to just sit around and wait to get your legs ripped off by Cavendish,” he said.

Froome agrees with decision
Perhaps it’s no surprise, but Chris Froome (Sky) said he agreed the decision on Mont Ventoux was the right one. “It was extraordinary circumstances, and from my point of view, the jury made the right decision. This was an external factor, and the race had already taken shape, and the three of us were up the road. The motorbikes blocked the road. It was chaos out on the road there, and it was difficult to know what was happening at the time.”

A hurting hand
This remains unconfirmed by a team doctor, but a teammate suggested that Pierre Rolland’s hand my be broken but he doesn’t want to get an X-Ray because he doesn’t want to know. That’s an interesting combination of brave and foolish, we think.

Coming up

Sunday’s stage: Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz. Don’t underestimate this stage, which features 4,000 meters of climbing and finishes with a tricky descent.

Weather update: The strong winds should decrease somewhat and temperature remain quite reasonable, hovering in the high 70s F.