After the enormous effort it took to take it and the emotion that followed, nobody is denying how much the Tour de France yellow jersey means to Mathieu Van der Poel. But proof of just how badly he and the Alpecin-Fenix team want to keep it comes in a story that broke overnight in the lead up to today's stage 5 time trial.
According to a report by Het Nieuwsblad, Alpecin-Fenix have bought a wheelset from Princeton Carbonworks - which happens to be the spare time trial wheels of Ineos Grenadiers' Cameron Wurf - and had someone drive them 10 hours north from Wurf's home in Andorra to the team's hotel in Rennes on Tuesday.
It is claimed that Alpecin-Fenix team manager, Christoph Roodhooft, met a representative of Princeton Carbonworks, Meindert Klem, on a bike ride last year.
“I got a sudden call on Monday morning from Christoph asking if a set of Princeton Blur 6560 was available. Canyon wanted Mathieu to be the classification leader even after the time trial,” explained Klem.
In the absence of the existence of a 'Blur 6560', Cyclingnews assumes the request was intended for a Blur 633 rear wheel and a Wake 6560 front.
“The simplest solution to the problem seemed to me to borrow a couple from Ineos, but of course they are not so keen on that if they have invested a lot of money in it. An additional complication is that these time trial wheels are not yet available on the Dutch market.
“Finally, I found some unused wheels at Cameron Wurf, an Ineos rider who lives in Andorra."
According to a source from Ineos Grenadiers, Wurf handed his wheels back unaware of the situation.
"I don't know who paid for it," Klem continued. "The amount was paid by credit card (€3,800). But how would I get that to the mechanics, 900 kilometres north, within 24 hours?”
The solution here came via an acquaintance of Klem, Van der Poel fan and Pyrenean holiday resort owner, Mark Putter, who is said to have collected the wheels from the Andorra border – where Wurf resides – before driving them north to the Alpecin-Fenix team hotel in Rennes.
“I'm crazy about cycling, and what Mathieu has done in the past few days borders on the unbelievable," Putter said. "If I can lend that boy a hand by delivering the fastest wheels, I think that's a great job. It would be wonderful if he immediately keeps the yellow jersey with a second lead."
However, the move didn't come without approval from Shimano. As has been suspected with both Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo Visma using wheels from non-sponsor brands, Shimano was notified of the upcoming change. According to the report, the Japanese component brand has agreed to turn a blind eye.
In addition, Cyclingnews understands that Van der Poel has taken further measures to save time in the stage 5 time trial. One of which has been confirmed in an Instagram post by Wattshop, where the brand claims that Van der Poel will be using its Anemoi Extension System.
Josh is our Senior Tech Writer meaning he covers everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. He'll spot something new in the pro peloton from a mile off, and is always keen get his hands on the newest tech.
On the bike, Josh has been racing since the age of 13. After racing XC with friends in his teens, he turned to road racing in his early 20s. Pre pandemic, he was racing as a Cat 1 for Team Tor 2000, but for the time being, he's taking shelter in his garage racing on Zwift and RGT. In the real world, he enjoys a good long road race but he's much more at home in a local criterium.
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