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Tour de France

Howes on racing to Utah Beach: ‘Powerful stuff’

Alex Howes kicks off the Tour de France with a long day out in front of the peloton

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Alex Howes took his Knife Bat out early.

Cannondale – Drapac’s leadoff hitter shot out of the field in the opening kilometer of Saturday’s Tour de France in pursuit of a trio of escapees. A group of five formed, rolling turns through most of the 188km stage. Howes was one of two, along with Fortuneo – Vital Concept’s Anthony Delaplace, to stay ahead until the final five kilometers.

“It was a good opener for the next 20 days,” he said. “I’ll probably go to bed early tonight.”

The original plan was for polka dots and a small commemoration. Howes would hit the early KOM’s and earn the Tour’s first climber’s jersey in Utah Beach on a day honoring the D-Day landings of World War II.

The first part didn’t work out. Paul Voss (Bora – Argon-18) took the climber’s points, and Howes was left to fight on with little hope for a stage victory.

“The thing with Alex is once he gets the bit between his teeth, he’s one of those never-say-die kind of guys,” said Cannondale CEO Jonathan Vaughters.

The team’s sport directors had him stick it out, just in case. “Weird things can happen in the final kilometers,” Vaughters said. “Maybe there was a crash earlier on, then somehow, magically you make it in. Once he’s out there, he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to sit up and come back.”

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There was no such luck on Saturday. Howes came away from the stage with a pair of sore legs and a pile of TV time, but nothing more. But his second goal, Howes’ little commemoration of much darker days 72 years ago, that went off without a hitch.

“It’s pretty powerful stuff,” Howes said, cooling down team bus after the finish. “A lot of history here. Just wanted to do a little something to remember those who fought. A lot of nice people had to die here.”

“It’s nice that we have this arena to do battle in and we don’t have to be fighting like our forefathers,” he said.

Watch Howes talk about his day in the breakaway, and what racing toward Utah Beach meant to him: