Enthusiasm was great in Great Britain and Holland for the start of the Tour de France these past two years, but I obviously feel something special with the Grand Départ back in France. It sounds more real.
This week I went to my village, Renazé. The Tour will pass by during stage 3. There is great anticipation for the race. Even the people who don’t care much about cycling are all fired up. The mayor hopes that [race director] Christian Prudhomme will make a stop, it would be like God coming to town!
The wait is the magic of cycling. The show itself will last a few seconds but the lead-up is quite long. I heard the nearby town of Angers has been caught by yellow fever before the finish of stage 3. They’ve even painted the tramway in yellow. You don’t see that for Euro 2016, which is also happening in France at the moment. The Tour de France is a rural affair. Whatever happens in the race, it makes people happy and proud when the race comes to visit them.
We at FDJ chose to take part in this year’s Tour without a sprinter. It’s partly due to the world championships being so late, in mid-October. It’ll be Arnaud Démare’s second goal after he won Milan-San Remo. We’ve also wanted to focus at 100% on the overall ranking with Thibaut Pinot. We’re targeting a stage victory and the top 10 – the closest possible to the podium. But the true ambitions are often determined by what happens in the first week, depending on whether there are any hiccups or not… We want to save some energy in the first half and give it all in the second half.
It’s probably time for the UCI to review the rule of allocating one-second difference when there’s a gap between two riders in the middle of the bunch. Bike racing is more and more dangerous. We can’t forget that several riders died this year. In a Grand Tour, two types of riders are under a lot of pressure in the flat stages: the sprinters, of course, and the GC contenders, who can’t afford to lose seconds in a split after having worked so much on marginal gains, as some say. Regulations have to evolve. The world of cycling is too often too late in taking decisions. Let’s hope that the new measures to prevent mechanical doping will be efficient. Ministries interfering to help sports federations is quite an unusual step. It must be a serious problem!
One year ago, my fellow blogger Oleg Tinkoff said he was ready to boycott the 2016 Tour de France. I’m glad he didn’t. Nobody in cycling wants to boycott such a great event. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet him for the first time before he quits our sport. Welcome back to France, Oleg!