"It's the Tour de France."
That's the phrase you hear in the first week most. Whether you're a neo-professional or a 15x veteran. Every day brings a stress that subsided, but was never quite forgotten from the year before. You come back and realise what makes the Tour de France so unique. The consequences of every action, on and off the bike, are exaggerated, analysed, and have a direct effect on your next action.
I’m sat here in Pau, on the first rest day of the 2015 Tour de France, and I actually asked my press officer if I could write this blog instead of just talking into a microphone. I’ve been talking into microphones for over a week now, about my ups and downs, my teams ups and downs, my competitors ups and downs, even ups and downs of riders who aren’t at the race. And writing this gives me some relief from the “particular” things I do. Instead I’d almost certainly be doing 1 of the following: tidying my suitcase, turning my handlebars 2 or 3 degrees, raising or lowering my saddle a couple of millimeters, or telling my masseur that my feet still don’t feel parallel to one another.
Anyway, it’s nice to just relax. In fact, in a strange way, I’m looking forward to the next mountainous half of the Tour de France to “relax”. Not the legs of course, just the head. I’m looking forward to just suffering. No need to ride 200km with my fingers slightly contracted over my brake levers. No need to ride 200km with my elbow constantly touching someones hip. No need to ride 200km with Brian Holm telling us to stay at the front after we’ve just passed a roundabout on the wrong side and lost 60 positions.
You see it’s the mental, emotional stress that makes the 1st week of the Tour de France the hardest week of racing in the calendar. And what an emotional roller coaster Etixx-Quick-Step have had this last week!
3 wins, from 3 different riders, in 3 totally different finals. But all with one thing in common: A group of friends all giving everything to make sure the team jersey crosses the finish line first. From the cooks making our porridge in the morning, to the mechanics, soigneurs, press officers, sports directors and riders, everything has to go right, every day, to succeed against the 200 best bike riders in the world, all at peak condition, all trying for the most prestigious and demanding event in cycling, perhaps sport.
If I’m honest, I’m already losing my attention to write a blog, but if you’re reading this, then I’m sure you know how the week has gone, results wise, for the team. You’ll also know the heartache we had when we lost our friend and teammate, Tony Martin, in a crash while he wore the yellow jersey.
But the Tour doesn’t wait. Whether you gain or lose in a certain day, the next day will have a different challenge, that if you don’t seize, another team will. So whatever emotions I’ve had, good and bad, this first week, are really nice to reflect on today, but will be irrelevant tomorrow and the following week. I just know that whatever emotions we’re likely to feel, I’m looking forward to just suffering, not stressing.
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