It might be mid-summer but there’s a real shortage of racing for the next two weeks. There’s Belgian one day race Halle-Ingooigem on Wednesday and the European nations have their national championships at the weekend. But that’s about it until Saturday 2 July when the Tour de France starts.
It is understandable as the Tour de France dominates the calendar and few want to be racing hard right now given the challenges ahead. Now is the time for riders to recover from recent races like the Tour de Suisse and the Ster ZLM Toer. The main contenders to finish their review of the big mountain stages. All will watch their diet and other tiny details as with every day time is running out to make improvements in training, nobody can find that many extra watts over the next two weeks. Those that aren’t doing the race probably want some rest and a chance to focus on what’s left for the season.
It makes for a moment of calm before the giant media storm that is the Tour de France. The race might be two weeks away but even today most of the stories are about about this race, be it team selection or Contador’s revelation that winning the Giro and Tour is “very difficult”. Well I never.
Things to look out for include team selections where you can see if a squad is aiming to support a leader or if they have more opportunist plans, maybe for a stage win here and there. It’s always a difficult decision for a team manager, to pick the best riders but that can include a range of factors, getting the balance right between who is in form and who will prove useful over the three weeks. The Tour de France is massive and this isn’t the time to experiment.
Plus spare a thought for the riders. Many are nervously awaiting news of whether they get to ride, right now they don’t know if they’ll spend July sitting on their bike… or in front of the TV at home. In sporting terms alone riding the Tour de France is a dream ticket, in career terms it also says something about their value to the team. Some squads will wait until after the nationals next weekend before picking the final nine.