Remembering the Tour de France war victims
The Tour de France continues to remember the victims of World War I during today's stage 6 from Arras to Reims.
Race director Christian Prudhomme and former Tour winners Bernard Hinault and Bernard Thevenet visited the French memorial site at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette near Arras to remember Francois Faber, the winner of the 1909 Tour de France, who was killed in May 1915 during the war.
Numerous riders who competed in the early editions of the Tour de France, including winners Lucien Petit-Breton and Octave Lapize, lost their lives during the Great War. Fifteen of the 145 riders who raced the 1914 Tour de France were killed.
The route of the Tour de France follows what was the front line during the war. While the red poppy is a sign of remembrance of the war in Britain and Belgium, in France the "Bleuet" flower is used to remember the fallen. The four jerseys wearers on the podium will wear a special bleuets jersey after the stage in Reims and be awarded a bouquet of bleuets.
Makers and sponsors of the yellow jersey, Le Coq Sportif, have made custom skinsuits for each of the team leaders at this year's Tour de France. The French clothing company took the measurements of the riders ahead of the race. Each rider will also be able to specify certain aspects of the skinsuit, such as sleeve length and neckline.
After the Alps are completed, Le Coq Sportif will assess the general classification and make the custom suits in time for the Bergerac time trial on the penultimate day.
A medium size suit will weigh a featherlight 150 grams, including the chamois. The material used does not absorb water and will not take on weight when it gets wet.
Seconds are vital in time trials, and teams will go to all lengths to ensure that their riders are not disadvantaged by their machinery or kit. In 2012 Bradley Wiggins opted not to use the official Le Coq Sportif time trial suit. Instead, Wiggins chose to ride both time trials with the team’s tried and tested adidas suit.
With sponsor money so important for race organisers and teams, it was only time before Le Coq Sportif made this move.
After crashing three times in two stages, Chris Froome was forced to call it quits. The defending champion looked stunned as he climbed into the team car and sat with his helmet still on for quite some time. His departure makes him the first defending champion to leave the race since Bernard Hinault in 1980.
Hinault had won the last two editions of the race and was the overwhelming favourite to do it for the third time. He began the race by taking the prologue, beating Dutch rider Gerrie Knetemann by five seconds. Hinault handed over his yellow jersey a couple of days later to Knetemann. The Frenchman went in to win two consecutive stages later in the first week. The second of which saw Hinault and Hennie Kuiper escape up the road and take more than two minutes on the peloton.
However, things began to take a turn for the worst for the defending champion. His stage victory had come at a cost. The race had been run in bad weather, and Hinault and a number of riders developed tendonitis. He suffered on for six more stages. On the evening after the 12th stage, Hinault finally gave up and left the race.
"I abandoned due to the cobbles," Hinault told L'Équipe after yesterday’s stage. "In 1980, it was an abysmal two days two days and it was longer than today. The first day, all went well, I won at Lille. The second day, I said to myself: 'Damn, I've hurt my knee.' The doctors told me that the shock waves had created minerals, like tiny pebbles were fixed to the tendon. Through the cobbles, the pain is amplified. It was over for me."
Rain, rain go away
After the Dantesque conditions of stage 5, bad weather continued to dampen the spirits of the riders as they started stage 6 under grey skies and on wet roads.
The forecasts for the east of France offered little cheer, with rain and cool conditions expected to last until the weekend, when the Tour de France heads into the Vosges mountains.