Rest Day Notes

You’re never short of a story during the Tour de France. The racing gets covered in full but there’s plenty more going on too. It’s the level of coverage that makes July such a rich month for cycling.

With no racing on today here’s a collection of notes and thoughts, from presidential leaks to team mergers, sunglasses to sausage.

Presidential Leak

Yesterday’s stage was so fast that there was no time for the riders to stop for a pee. So when Chris Froome crossed the finish line yesterday one of his first thoughts was to visit the nearest toilet. Normally the race rules say he must go straight to the podium for the official ceremony but he couldn’t hold on. However things got complicated because anti-doping rules meant his first urination had to be for the anti-doping control. This is more than a routine pipi, there’s protocol and paperwork to attend to. This caused a minor incident because President François Hollande was kept waiting on the podium. No harm was done but for a few minutes Froome appeared to have gone missing as the President stood waiting on the podium.

First week winners
Orica-Greenedge have had a great start with two stage wins and the yellow jersey allowing everyone to forget the gatecrashing bus (the gantry has been repaired in full now). But has it all been overtaken by their rock video?

An anecdote: your correspondent witnessed a public naturalisation ceremony where immigrants were sworn in as new Aussies. The process was solemn and formal… except for the theme music of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck that was played along with the national anthem.

Clips like this make the team look fun. This matters in cycling because it’s a sport where you lose most of the time. Even the most successful riders and teams like Mark Cavendish and OPQS are very well to win more than 10% of their races. Flip that and they lose nine times out of ten and the rate is worse for the average squad and dire for a modest team. In other words since you can’t always win then the story of how you try matters.

Impey and Martin’s French Lessons
Daryl Impey and Dan Martin both spent time with amateur team VC La Pomme Marseille before turning pro. Without much success in the Tour so far, the French media are quick to highlight the French background. But if it was a staging post to something more, it was a tough time where immigrant riders are shipped in, housed in rough areas and not exactly the glory of French amateur cycling.

With many nations now offering more comfortable routes into pro cycling via development teams – think Australia or Britain – it seems fewer riders will turn pro after a spell with an amateur squad in France or Italy but these squads remain hungry for foreign talent. Instead of recruiting Irish or South Africans, it’s likely the new “foreign legion” contingent will be made up of riders from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

Cofidis on TV
The ad breaks during the French TV coverage feature ads for Cofidis. A good way to spot the jersey because the team have been near-invisible in the race. It’s bad luck, eight of their nine crashed in Corsica but it shows the gulf between the top teams and the wild card invites.

Hidden from TV
Other things are not shown on TV. French TV helicopters are given GPS co-ordinates of field displays by the farmers’ union so they can zoom in on the agri-action. But other things are less welcome. L’Equipe reports a vehicle is travelling ahead of the race to jetspray any unwanted graffiti, for example blasting a giant syringe painted on the road yesterday. This didn’t stop TV shorts of a huge penis painted on the road.

Ryder’s Eyes

Some say he’s impersonating Elvis but I like Ryder Hesjedal’s eyewear. It’s different and the glasses by Swedish company POC make him easy to spot – although his 17cm bar drop position is a giveaway – and breaks from the near-identical sunglasses of the bunch.

It makes you wonder why riders don’t sport more fashionable eyewear. Sponsorship is the reason, they’re paid to wear a brand and of course metal frames and glass lenses are out of the question for sports. But most fashion glasses feature polycarbonate frames and plastic lenses and Oakley belongs to Luxxotica Group, the Italian firm that also owns Ray Ban and makes sunglasses for Prada and Chanel.

French ambitions
Pierre Rolland might be in the polka-dot jersey but is this a lack of ambition? This is the most mountainous Tour for years and a chance for the climbers to shine. But sprinting for points means Rolland’s given up on the GC. Wise or not? It depends on your views, maybe he could finish fifth on GC by riding a calculating race but this could go unnoticed. Better to get the hi-vis jersey?

Rolland’s ambition was a point made yesterday by French commentator Patrick Chassé during the daily Europe 1 radio show. He spars with Richard Virenque every day and if you want French audio to download, look up the Club Des Sports feed on Europe 1.

If you prefer English, try the Humans Invent podcast with British journalists Richard Moore, Daniel Friebe and Lionel Birnie as well as guest appearances from others. It’s an entertaining look back each day and you’ll find it online at or via iTunes.

Europcar + Sojasun
Two teams each in search of a co-sponsor and so far there’s no good news to report. So why don’t Europcar and Sojasun merge asks a reader by email? It’s possible but not as easy as it seems. One of the reasons why these teams need to survive is because they’ve each got a structure behind them where the pro team is at the top of a pyramid and below there’s an amateur squad, talent detection and more. To combine the teams would be to close down one of these streams so it’s not as simple as putting two pro teams together. Not that this would be easier either, two teams into one mean a lot of riders getting ejected and then the problem of two clans within the team.

You can hear the air hiss out of Thibaut Pinot’s bubble, the pressure evacuating like a puncture after it was pumped up for months by the media before the Tour. Now the pressure hose is being attached to Romain Bardet. Loyal readers will know Bardet’s been tipped for big things on here and that he’s intelligent beyond his years. But there’s a reluctance to mention this because it can only add to expectations and pressure. He gets a big interview in L’Equipe today and has plenty to say.

Fear of Speed
Pinot’s problems apparently stem from a crash as a junior when he broke both arms. He told L’Equipe he’s got a phobia of speed just like others are scared of snakes or spiders. The fear surfaces from time to time, a crash of team mate Arnold Jeannesson in the Tour of the Basque Country almost took out Pinot and this seems to have set off the mental crisis again. Pinot can recover, indeed the story goes that as a junior he was back on his bike rode down a flight of stairs with two arms in plaster.

Descend with confidence
It’s something that happens to many, see Bradley Wiggins. The good news is this can be fixed. Descending is skill to be worked on, a psychologist can help and equipment like wider tyres or lower pressure can offer that extra security. In the 1990s Gianni Bugno was a contender for grand tours and took to descending with a Walkman – remember them? – loaded with Mozart to calm him. Others will play, for example Philippe Gilbert is known to bounce shoulders with training partners on a descent and lock up a wheel for fun during a hairpin bend. Another rider confided he got over the fear… by crashing: the fear of injury was so big it meant tension on the descents but most times you crash you get up with nothing more than torn bartape and wounded pride.

The weather for the Tour looks set to stay hot for the rest of the week. Normally a flight north would see temperatures dip but a heatwave is here.

French Press
Finally two links to read. After covering the climbers and the sprinters, L’Equipe have a superb piece in English on the time trial. It covers history, tech and the individual suffering and comes with videos, illustrations and more. It’s Web 3.0 stuff.

If you stop in the mountains, you’re dead. The guys grab everything, your hat, your glasses. One year in the Pyrenees some Basques were waiting above the entrance to a tunnel and starting pissing when the caravan came. We were welcomed with a curtain of piss. You had to close your eyes and mouth to pass.

At other times words are enough to paint a picture. No more than Le Monde’s daily blog during the Tour de France. Today features an interview with Elodie, a physiotherapist spending three weeks working on the Tour’s caravan to promote saucisson. It’s in French and explains how nine tons of sausage are handed out during the race along with bruised legs, sunburn and tales of orgies.

44 thoughts on “Rest Day Notes”

    • FDJ do some fun things too, their youtube video channel has plenty of amusing things.

      But many riders have fun, it’s more how much of this is shown on the web and also sometimes how much effort goes in to making it visible.

      • The OGE video is teeth grinding for me as an Aussie. Amateur film work in every sense.

        It makes us look like a bunch of bogans stuck in the 1990’s, perpetuating a stereotype that just isn’t true.

        I lived in London for years and copped that stereotype from the English there, thinking we were all a bunch of mullet wearing drunken yobs or Steve Irwin wildlife killers.

        Boring, out of date, and totally irrelevant.

        If that is the image they want to portray, then I’d be surprised if their corporate support stayed with them.

        • Get over yourself. Who cares what a Pom thinks? OGE are just showing that they have a good team culture. Would you prefer that they act like the Sky/Evil Empire? Obviously a team with internal issues i.e. Wiggins; and an attitude problem – look what an arrogant knob Porte has become, despite being besties with the rather likeable African Froome.

  1. Loved the OGE bit, esp the guest appearance by Philippe Gilbert. They seem like a fun loving team.

    During last years team presentation of the Tour of Utah, Garmin were being introduced, Levi had the lights dimmed and came on the stage with a broom and started sweeping the floor up. As in nothing to hear/see here. Pretty funny stuff !

    Interesting bit about descending fears. Going to see races you can tell who enjoys descending and who doesn’t when they hit the corners.

    Speaking of Agri-action, whenever French tv starts showing landmarks, they have the place name on the screen followed by a number in parenthesis. What’s that about ?

    Also can the editors please tell us if there has been a Tour where a stage winner did not come from the break ? None so far this year.

  2. “Instead of recruiting Irish or South Africans, it’s likely the new “foreign legion” contingent will be made up of riders from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.”

    South Africa is in Africa. Come on guys?!

    • Fair point, but riders like Impey (and Froome) enjoyed a good education in SA and a relatively wealthy background. I was more thinking of riders from other parts of the continent where the sport is slowly growing.

      • Yeah that still isn’t cool, an addendum or footnote would probably be appropriate. I take it you mean a cycling education and not academic education?

        • No I meant schooling, both come from privileged backgrounds. The point about the “foreign legion” aspect is that riders from places like Australia or Britain and to a lesser extent SA have ways to make it into the pro ranks without having to live the dog-eat-dog hard life racing for an amateur team for no wages and earning prize money to buy food. There’s the UCI’s WCC but I think we’ll see the Italian and French teams recruit riders from around the world

          • Dude, you think that just because someone is from South Africa they get it easy, or because they come from somewhere else in Africa they don’t?

            You think SA rider have it easy?
            Burry Stander killed recently, a woman raped and her husband killed, Bike-Jackings regular enough for it to be an issue.

            Cycling is a 3rd rate sport at best here, with cyclists battling as much if not more to get gear and sponsorship than any European Country.


          • I haven’t said it’s easy, think you might have mistaken what I’m saying. Just that there are channels into the pro ranks, notably with the MTN-Qhubeka team and along the way we’ve had the Minolta team, Barloworld and more. By which I mean some SA riders might not have to go through the amateur team process but it’s an observation, not a judgement.

            But more broadly we’ll see fewer riders from Australia, Britain and Ireland try their luck with amateur teams, learning new languages and more.

          • Take one massive chillpill Brr.

            Clearly you seem to have a good understanding of South Africa, but the point remains that ‘most’ white South Africans are far more likely to be better educated and have a better socio economic background than say ‘most’ people from Eritrea or Rwanda. Forgetting the violence endemic in SA, that’s just pure facts.

            A Saffie might be car jacked for his BMW, but the Eritrean doesn’t get donkey-jacked.

            South Africans have been in the pro peloton for a while, but I am yet to see a Rwandan.

  3. I loved that “saucisson” inteview, and its half-serious tone: “do you work a lot on your sausage-throwing techniques?”. 😀

  4. If the mood strikes you, perhaps a story about a few of the TdF legends ASO has invited to this year’s event might be interesting to you/your readers?

    For example, a brief mention of the Eagle of Toledo was posted on a few different sites.

  5. That bloke Watson writing in Roadcycling must be from the Wee Free Church. They’re the ones who disapprove of dancing as it leads to sex standing up.

    He needs more bran

  6. Really enjoy reading insights like this and enjoyed the OGE video. I don’t wear replica kit, don’t kinda believe in it and am not Italian, they do it a lot by all accounts but after this and Call Me Maybe video I might be tempted to get an OGE jersey. Really must remember to visit your site more often.

  7. RE: Ryder’s glasses…

    I wear wayfarers (I’m a hipster, so be it), but on occasion I’ll find that the lack of wrap-around-ness on the glasses creates reflections from behind, especially riding AWAY from the sun. Easy for me to deal with on a training ride, but much harder in a tour I’d imagine. Looks like those POCs are a little closer to the face.

    POC also made those god awful orange TT helmets sported by the Swedes at London 2012.

    • Outside of the race Mark Cavendish often wears Wayfarers or Wayfarer-like shades, which look much better than the Oakley ones he wears during the race. I guess those Oakleys are better in the anti-reflection and anti-slip department, but damn, are their designs usually ugly.

      Jan Janssen seemed to have great taste in sunglasses, while if I’m correct Laurent Fignon always stuck with his normal glasses.

  8. You cut me off, its your right. But please, understand that we are a part of Africa.

    Its a courtesy and fact, not a misunderstanding


  9. The point about descending is a good one.

    “Another rider confided he got over the fear… by crashing”

    I crashed on a mountain bike descent a couple of years ago and broke my wrist. Strangely, once I was back on the bike – my descending improved. Less Jittery/Tense like a weight had been lifted.
    Go figure that one out!

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