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Buchmann: Winning the Tour de France is not impossible

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann receives plenty of support on the Col du Tourmalet during stage 14 of the 2019 Tour de France
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann receives plenty of support on the Col du Tourmalet during stage 14 of the 2019 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is happy to continue working from home even after the cycling season makes its planned resumption in August. The five-day Critérium du Dauphiné will be the lone event on his calendar before the Tour de France, but he is not concerned about finding himself short of race fitness when he lines up for the Grand Départ in Nice on August 29.

“I think it’s no big problem at all,” Buchmann told reporters in a video conference this week. “I had a really good level already when I finished my first part of the season at the UAE Tour [in February – ed.] I’ve done good training since then and now I’ll start to reach a better level for the Tour. I think it will be possible because I can always get better through training. I don’t need races to get in really good shape.”

Fourth overall at the 2019 Tour, Buchmann began this year with a win at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana in January, but a crash forced him to abandon the following month’s UAE Tour, which was his last race before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the season. Assuming he completes the Dauphiné, he will have just eleven days of racing in his legs by the time the Tour gets underway, but he feels no compunction to compensate for his dearth of competition.

The German believes that he can prepare as well by training as he can by racing. He is currently training in the Ötztal Alps in Austria with his Bora-Hansgrohe team, and he will take in another altitude camp – “for seven or eight days, probably in Livigno” – immediately after the Dauphiné concludes on August 16. He acknowledged that the entire peloton’s meagre diet of racing before the Tour might even play to his advantage.

“I think it’s not bad for me that you have to do everything in training because I think I can reach a really good level just with training and without races,” he said. “Normally, I have my best level when I come from a long training period. Last year I often did four, five or six weeks without racing and then I was in the best shape for the races, so that’s the plan.”

Twelve months ago, Buchmann served notice of his Tour form by placing third overall at the Dauphiné, though the 27-year-old said that he has no particular ambitions for the scaled-back edition of the race this time out: “I think it would be really nice to have a good result there but it’s more important to have a good feeling and see that you are ready.”

A native of Ravensburg, Buchmann is now based across Lake Constance in Bregenz, Austria, where – unlike peers in France, Italy and Spain – he was able to train outdoors throughout the break from competition. His regimen included an ‘Everesting’ attempt on the slopes of the Heimelerberg in aid of a German children’s charity, though the effort was not classed as a record as it fell foul of the unofficial rules for the endeavour.

“It was never planned to be an official record: it was just a charity action, for a good cause. I wanted to do something different in training,” said Buchmann, who quietly added that he has no plans to pursue the record, not least now that the serious business of preparing for the Tour has begun in earnest. “Now is not the right time.”

Climbing team

Bora-Hansgrohe named their selection for the Tour on Tuesday, and though Peter Sagan will be present in search of an eighth green jersey, the squad is built around Buchmann’s general classification ambitions. Max Schachmann, Felix Großschartner, Gregor Mühlberger and Lennard Kämna will flank Buchmann in the mountains, with Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger providing support elsewhere.

“I think Ineos and Jumbo have the strongest teams and I expect them to make the race,” Buchmann said. “But we also have a really strong team for the mountains when everyone is in good shape and we have to act when it’s possible to do something.”

Buchmann placed just 25 seconds shy of the podium and less than two minutes off the maillot jaune at the end of the 2019 Tour, where he was a consistent if unassuming presence towards the head of the race every time the road climbed. He gently dismissed the idea that a notionally deeper list of contenders at the 2020 Tour would make the path to the podium all the more complicated in September.

“I think last year there were also a lot of competitors,” he said. “Everybody must first start the Tour in good shape, and then finish the Tour without crashes or getting sick. Not everybody can finish the Tour like he expects.”

Indeed, Buchmann is reluctant to cast his mind beyond the Champs-Élysées on September 20. The World Championships – assuming they go ahead as planned in Martigny – and the Vuelta a España are also pencilled in on his programme, but the Tour is the event etched into Buchmann’s consciousness at this juncture.

“I'm not a born captain, one who makes great speeches,” Buchmann confessed on the eve of last year’s Tour, and he remains a softly-spoken, almost shy character even after his break-out performance last July. Such self-containment should not, however, be mistaken for a lack of self-belief. On Tuesday, he was asked if he was a potential winner of the 2020 Tour. His response was short but instructive.

“It’s not impossible,” Buchmann said. “Why not?”