Category: 2018 Tour de France

Commentary: The French resolution

Editors’ Note: Samuel Abt was a long-time sports journalist and columnist for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. He covered the Tour de France and other professional cycling events in an inimitable, signature style for more than 30 years. He has also written numerous books about the sport, including detailed biographies of Americans Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong. A long-time resident of the Paris area, Abt retired several years ago and rarely writes now, but he is still widely recognized as the “dean” of American cycling journalism. We were pleased that he recently sent over this piece on the state of French professional racing.

Sigh. Another Tour de France is behind us, another page torn from the calendar, and another failure by French riders to win their home race. How long has it been? Not since Bernard Hinault finished first in 1985 has the military band on the Champs-Élysées been able to break into “La Marseillaise” to honor the victor’s country.

It’s not for lack of trying; a few French riders showed flashes of the will, if not often the ability, to win. But the Frenchmen who gave their all for victory were really the Tour’s organizers. The worst kept secret this year was that the route was tailored for a specific French rider, Romain Bardet, who had finished on the final podium in the previous two years.

Because Bardet is a good climber, in came fierce stretches in the mountains. Because he is a lame time trialer, out went all but one relatively short individual race against the clock. (He finished 22nd.)

All to no avail. The highest French finisher was indeed Bardet, sixth overall in his fifth top 10 in five Tours, including second place in 2016 and third in 2017. See why the course was built for him? More than that was needed, however, as bad luck dogged him: a costly mechanical breakdown in Brittany, three flats in the Roubaix stage, the early loss of Ag2r teammates. It became painful to watch his daily interview on television as he tried to sound chipper about his dwindling chances, smiling — sort of — through the tears.

Who else did well and may yet do so again? Nestled in 33rd place overall in Paris was Julian Alaphilippe, winner of two mountain stages and the polka-dot climber’s jersey, enough of a haul to stir the sluggish national pulse. It doesn’t take much.

Nearly two generations have come of age without the chance to wear anything like the blue T-shirt proclaiming “We Are The Champions” that sprouted after the soccer World Cup. It’s been 33 years, folks. Hinault is such a distant memory that he is now known mainly as a television pitchman for a plumbing company that transforms bathtubs into showers.

Bardet pledges to do better next year and so, no doubt, do the race organizers. They have long been hunkered down to design the stages from the start in Brussels, which will honor both Eddy Merckx on the 50th anniversary of the first of his five Tour victories and the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the leader’s yellow jersey.

When the 2019 route is announced in October, which French rider will it be tailored for? There seem to be few choices other than Bardet and Alaphilippe.

Much will depend on which way the race heads out of Belgium. If it follows the tradition of Alps-first this time, Pyrenees-first next time, the 2019 edition should head left across the north of France before plunging toward Spain. That trajectory would favor neither Frenchman. What would is a route south out of Belgium toward the Alps and, first, the Vosges Mountains, which are not strenuous enough — the Grand Ballon is its top peak at 1,424 meters — to demand a strong support team for a climber. That fits Alaphilippe, whose Quick Step roster is built for stage victories on the flat or nearly flat. (The Vosges terrain should benefit Alaphilippe, as he showed by winning the up and down Clásica San Sebástian in August.)

Quick-Step, or whoever is the main sponsor next year, should also excel in the second stage, a team time trial, giving Alaphilippe an early psychological edge. If he needs a booster shot in the Alps, perhaps the organizers, the Amaury Sport Organization, could eliminate a massive climb or two. Despite his polka-dot jersey, he showed signs of strain late in this year’s mountains.

Moreover, he is a mediocre time trialer, so don’t expect an abundance of races against the clock. There will be no prologue. Forget the cobblestones next year. Forget the inane Formula One starting grid. Climbs, climbs, climbs, well spaced and less than dominating, that’s the ticket to building a French contender.

Alaphilippe? Bardet? (Him again?) Thibaut Pinot, third in 2014 and a no-show in 2018? Somebody? Anybody?

As Geraint Thomas reminded the crowd in his victory speech, he finished 140th and next to last in his first Tour in 2007. Perhaps there was an obscure French rider sunk deep in the overall classification this year who will bloom like Thomas. Be patient. Give him a dozen years to break the hex. Sigh.

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Sky’s Bernal, Castroviejo discuss Tour de France drama

Two of Team Sky’s newest and most effective “gregarios” defended the team’s collective strength and questioned the tactics of their rivals.

Egan Bernal and Jonathan Castroviejo, speaking in different interviews over the weekend, offered new insight to what happened inside Team Sky during July’s Tour de France. Castroviejo said winner Geraint Thomas and co-team leader Chris Froome held “mutual respect” all the way to Paris, while Bernal said the team’s rivals waited too long to mount a counter-offensive.

“They are afraid to attack,” Bernal told Mundo Deportivo. “That’s the problem, not Team Sky. Everyone attacked in the final mountain stage of the Tour. I thought, ‘why did they wait so long?’ They should have done it earlier.”

Bernal, who spoke to the Spanish sports daily ahead of his crash Saturday at the Clásica San Sebastián, insisted that Sky’s racing style isn’t as predictable as it might seem.

“It’s not a question of speed or watts. Sensations count for a lot,” Bernal said. “They speak about taking away the power meters. I looked at mine occasionally out of curiosity. No one ever told me to go at this power or be careful not to go above this limit.

“You know yourself and you know your ‘cruising speed’ that you can hold for 20-30 minutes,” Bernal continued. “They told at Alpe d’Huez to climb and leave them at such and such kilometer. What would have happened if I could have only pulled for three instead of eight? The leaders would have been isolated. It could have happened because I was on my limit. [Our rivals] seem more concerned about our race than theirs. They are afraid to attack.

“What did Landa do on the final day? He attacked and put us on the limit,” Bernal said. “It’s true that we had time on him and we had the time trial coming up, but someone could have attacked who was at 10 or 20 seconds.”

Bernal, 21, left the Tour as the revelation of the race. Before his crash, he hinted he wanted to race the Vuelta a España. After crashing Saturday, Bernal underwent surgery for facial injuries and did not know what the rest of his season might look like.

Castroviejo, meanwhile, revealed that Thomas and Froome worked well together to handle what could have been an explosive situation.

“Yes, it was a surprise, but Thomas demonstrated he was a just winner. And for us, there was never an uncomfortable situation or ‘polemics,’” Castroviejo said. “Thomas was intractable and he raced a perfect Tour. And what Froome did the last day I admired a lot because he is noble and humble.

“It’s not easy for a team to share leadership and we were talking about first and second on GC. Even so, there was never any kind of problem,” he continued. “Each one gave in for the good of the team, and the winner was decided on the road. There was mutual respect and ‘good feeling.’ At the first part of the race it was more complicated, but as the race advanced, especially in the Alps and above all in the Pyrénées, the ambiance was much better. By the time we got to Paris, everything was normal.”

Team Sky’s domination of the Tour continues to haunt rivals and officials alike. After winning six of the past editions of the Tour, Sky looks firmly in control of its destiny after recruiting such riders as Bernal and Castroviejo.

Castroviejo joined Team Sky this year after racing six seasons with Movistar. The four-time Spanish time trial champion was tapped for his ability against the clock and his pulling power.

“It looks easy on TV, that nobody ever put us in difficulty, but the day to day is very different,” he said. “It’s very complicated. In the mountains we always have to stay as a solid group and you never know until the time trial. You can have a bad day and lose all the hard work in a bad moment.”

With Bernal waiting in the wings and Froome and Thomas likely returning to next year’s Tour as co-leaders, Sky’s rivals will be scratching their heads all winter on how to unravel the British outfit’s stranglehold on the yellow jersey.

Read the full article at Sky’s Bernal, Castroviejo discuss Tour de France drama on

Ten Dam: ‘Even with smaller budgets we can be there’

Much has been made about Team Sky’s fiscal advantage. Its budget is three times as large as most of its competitors, allowing Sky to hire the best riders in the peloton to back its GC leaders. Some have even called it “financial doping.”

Two modestly backed teams — Sunweb and LottoNL-Jumbo — took it to Sky this summer with budgets that are at least one half to one-third of Sky’s. For veteran Sunweb climber Laurens ten Dam, the fact that Tom Dumoulin was second overall to Geraint Thomas is a ray of light in the aftermath of another Sky throttling of the Tour de France.

“With some smart thinking, you can be there,” ten Dam told VeloNews editor in chief Fred Dreier. “We were there with [Simon] Geschke and me. LottoNL-Jumbo did a great Tour as well. They were there in numbers, so even with a 12- to 15-million-euro budget, it’s also possible to be there.”

In the aftermath of another Team Sky victory, many are exasperated at the British domination of cycling’s grand tours.

Sky rolled to its sixth Tour victory in seven years with three different winners. Sky has won four straight grand tours and has riders like Colombian sensation Egan Bernal, the youngest rider in this year’s Tour, waiting in the wings.

Everyone is wondering what to do about the team’s dominance. UCI president David Lappartient promised a commission to study ways to make the peloton more competitive, including the unorthodox idea of reducing squads to six riders in a desperate bid to break Sky’s supremacy.

Ten Dam, who broke his clavicle this week in a post-Tour criterium, did express exasperation at Sky’s financial muscle that gives it unparalleled depth.

“The thing is they have several teams to bring. I think only [Wout] Poels did the Giro, so they have the numbers to bring strong teams to each grand tour,” he said. “That’s their budget — Wout Poels makes 10 times more than I do.

“‘G’ [Geraint Thomas] is a surprise to me. He never did a top-10 three-week tour — I even did that — I didn’t expect him to stay that strong until the third week,” said ten Dam, who was ninth in the 2014 Tour. “It’s a big chapeau to the team. It’s a plus to the team to keep him at the same level. They are always at a high level for the third week.”

Team Sky won its sixth Tour de France in 2018 with Geraint Thomas. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media |

Ten Dam said there is a sliver of hope for emerging rivals like Dumoulin and LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk even if Sunweb’s and LottoNL-Jumbo’s combined budgets barely equal Sky’s.

Next year, Dumoulin and Sunweb are expected to bring a full-on attack to the Tour de France. The 37-year-old ten Dam hopes to be there.

“At the end of a three-week tour, they were on their limit,” he said. “When we put our best guys in there; Sam Oomen and Wilco Kelderman and maybe me in the altitude, maybe we can do even more.”

Ten Dam said the emergence of dominant players in cycling is nothing new to the Tour. He cited Miguel Indurain in the 1990s and the now banned-for-life Lance Armstrong.

“You always have that in sport,” he said. “Still cycling exists, I am not too worried about that. Sky is winning, so if I was them, I wouldn’t change anything.”

It certainly appears Team Sky has no intention of doing that.

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Photo Essay: Behind the scenes with Sagan at the Tour de France

From the sprint finishes to the early breakaways on mountain stages, chasing green jersey points, Peter Sagan animated the Tour de France. We wouldn’t expect anything less from the three-time world champion.

Behind the scenes, Sagan is just as entertaining. Photographer Brian Hodes went inside the Bora-Hansgrohe team bus at the Tour to capture the fun.

Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan horsed around with his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates two days before the Tour start. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Team manager Ralf Denk (L) talked to Sagan before the Tour, perhaps asking where he got that snazzy haircut. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan sipped a beverage before the Tour began — nonalcoholic, of course. The real beer would have to wait until Paris. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Any guesses as to how many re-tweets Sagan might get? Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
It was his goal. And he achieved it, matching Erik Zabel’s record of six green jerseys. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Even something as everyday as an under-shirt gets special treatment when you’re the reigning three-time world champ. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan mugged for the cameras on the Thursday before the race started. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
World champion selfie-taker. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Since Daniel Oss puts in so much time working for Sagan at the front of the peloton, maybe he should get a chance to beat him, just once. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan talked to 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (center) at the teams presentation. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
The day before the Tour, Sagan made sure his mechanic got his seat height perfect. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan made time for a fan the Friday before the Tour. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Photographers followed Sagan’s every move on the last day of training before the race. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan got ready to race before the start of stage 1. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan greeted fans on the morning of stage 2, a race he would go on to win. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan stepped out of the bus — the moment all the fans had been waiting for. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
And the crowds mobbed the world champion. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan and Denk celebrated his first stage win of the Tour on stage 2. Plus, Sagan took the yellow jersey that day. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
The Bora team had lots to celebrate at the Sunday night dinner table, having won stage 2 and taken the overall Tour lead. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan saluted the teammates that helped him win his ninth Tour stage. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
The team posed with its first (and only) yellow jersey of the 2018 Tour. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan slipped on the yellow jersey on the morning of the Tour’s stage 3 team time trial. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Since it was a podium jersey, he needed a little help zipping up. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
For stage 3’s race, Sagan would wear an all-yellow time trial skinsuit. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan surveyed his yellow jersey. Stage 3 was the fourth day of his career wearing the Tour leader’s jersey. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan began his warmup for the 35.5km team time trial. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
The time trial isn’t his preferred discipline, but Sagan was still focused, prepared to defend the jersey as best he could. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan’s 100% sunglasses have special arms to open up his nasal passages. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
To cope with the French summer heat, Sagan wore an ice vest prior to the time trial. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
He also pulled down his skinsuit to let his shoulders breathe. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
One last trip back into the bus before race time. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
When you’re the world champ wearing yellow, you get special treatment, like a last-minute lens wipe. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan couldn’t keep yellow in the team time trial, so he greeted the day on stage 4 with a green jersey instead. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
The fans didn’t seem to mind Sagan’s wardrobe change. Green suits him after all. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Inside the bus, Sagan geared up for another sprint stage on stage 4. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
UCI president David Lappartient (L) spoke with Sagan before stage 4. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan caught up with his father before the start of stage 5. Dad would be happy to see his son win later that day. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
A green selfie stick for the green jersey-wearer. Why not? Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan signed autographs before stage 6 to Mur de Bretagne. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Sagan planned ahead for the cobblestones that awaited on stage 9 to Roubaix. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
Coach Patxi Villa (L) and Sagan on the team bus — what could they be watching? Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
A quiet moment in the dark confines of the Bora team bus. Photo: Brian Hodes
Peter Sagan
And then it’s off to take on another day of racing at the Tour de France. Photo: Brian Hodes

Read the full article at Photo Essay: Behind the scenes with Sagan at the Tour de France on

Tour de France Photo Essay: From the punishing Pyrenees to Paris

Read the full article at Tour de France Photo Essay: From the punishing Pyrenees to Paris on

VN Show: Was the 2018 Tour a good race for fans?

Editor’s note: This VeloNews Show includes footage from YouTube/Tour de France, YouTube/BobkeTV, Getty Images/Velo Collection, geraintthomas86/Instagram.

The 2018 Tour de France is over and a new winner has donned the final yellow jersey, Geraint Thomas. But did we cycling fans win this July? Were we rewarded with an exciting race?

We consider the ups and downs of this year’s Tour, from the unfortunate crashes to the uncertainty of the final mountain stages.

All that and more on this episode of the VeloNews Show.

Read the full article at VN Show: Was the 2018 Tour a good race for fans? on

Nibali undergoes back surgery following Tour crash

PARIS (AFP) — Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, who was forced out of the Tour de France after a crash during stage 12 on Alpe d’Huez, underwent surgery on his injured back in Milan, his Bahrain-Merida team said Tuesday.

The 2014 Tour champion will be released from the hospital on Wednesday and will be able to return to training in a few days, starting on a stationary bike before heading back out on the road.

Nibali fractured a vertebra on July 19 after his bike got tangled up with a bag or a camera strap, sending him crashing to the ground as he rode through a plume of smoke on the crowded climb.

He finished the stage seventh and was fourth overall, 2:37 behind eventual winner Geraint Thomas, but he was ruled out of the rest of the race.

The 33-year-old is one of just seven riders to have won all three grand tours. He also won this year’s Milano-Sanremo, one of cycling’s five monuments.

Read the full article at Nibali undergoes back surgery following Tour crash on

Measuring the impact of taunting, jeering Team Sky at the Tour de France

First it was Chris Froome who received the brunt of fans’ ire at this year’s Tour de France. Presumably, this was a direct reflection of how some fans felt about him racing the Tour after his drawn-out case for an Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a España, despite being cleared to race days prior to the Tour start.

Eventually, teammates and staff members at Team Sky also suffered through days of taunts, jeers, and fierce opposition to their presence at the Tour. The roadside boos became a constant.

Despite the abuse, Team Sky managed to collect yet another grand tour title, this time under Geraint Thomas, with Chris Froome finishing third. Did the taunts have any effect? Did they add stress to the riders and staff? Did they have the opposite effect, and bring about emotions that propelled the British team to its fourth grand tour title in a row? We may never know the extent of the impact, but it’s interesting to understand the nuances of negativity on athletic performance.

We spoke with Dr. Kristen Dieffenbach, an executive board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology to help us understand how roadside boos impact world-class athletes.

VeloNews: How do the jeers and taunts that Team Sky was subjected to affect performance, generally? In some cases, in some people, might it actually improve short-term performance, due to the adrenaline surge it elicits, albeit short-lived?

Kristen Dieffenbach: Response will always be individual. The impact and response from each rider will vary, given when it occurs. With regards to the short-term impact, in the last kilometer of a race or last few kilometers, crowd noise is crowd noise. The energy of the crowd certainly helps boost the adrenaline of competitors. With athletes of this caliber, they are used to large and loud crowds at the end of the race and from my experience working with athletes, they are so focused on the task at that point that the noise is just noise, and it is all fuel.

However, there is also the element of the constant nature of the crowd negativity across the course, the individual voices that can be heard on climbs where crowds are more spread out, the reception of those at the finish line, the reporters’ comments and questions. The negativity can feel more individual and targeted in these settings and, as a result, can become quite cumulative.

Some athletes will be able to ignore it completely, while for others it can be very disruptive to performance, focus, concentration, and to their ability to rest and recover post-race. The situation could be compared with home-team advantage with regards to the fans’ support element. It is an “away” event for everyone on the Tour, but the huge negative from the crowds is like playing an away game. While these are not novice pro athletes — they have raced in front of large crowds throughout their pro careers — everything about the Tour is unusual: the length, the physical drain, and the sizes of the crowds, day after day. The negative culture and environment can add to the drain, particularly as the deep fatigue of grueling endurance efforts set in physically. It can take a toll mentally, depending on the support and resources that each individual has.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t just a “vilifying the opponent” reaction from the crowd. The crowds are responding to something in particular, something that they feel is unjust. The riders know this, and they know they are on a team that is being perceived very poorly. They are, at the moment, “that team.” They are also, according to the rule books, playing by the rules at the moment. Nothing has been proven and their team was allowed to make the choices it has made. For some athletes, the public response may be demoralizing and for others it can inspire them to prove everyone wrong. It depends on how they perceive the situation and the support they have.

If I were working with a team, one of my concerns would be the impact on a rider’s ability to rest and recover daily as needed, because whether they see it as a drain, a negative, they are indifferent, or they see it as a challenge, it is an extra emotional component that they need to contend with during what is arguably one of the most grueling endurance challenges.

VN: Is there any way to quantify the effect that emotions and psychological health play in performance, particularly over an extremely demanding three-week event like this?

KD: Simple answer, no. The academic answer? Quantifying emotions and psychological health in general are incredibly challenging. One of the essential measures of “when is it a problem,” is when it begins to interfere with normal activities and have a negative impact on one’s life or the lives of those around you. And this is highly subjective. There are scales for depression and worry and other negative emotions as well as measures of perceived stress, well-being, optimism, and hope. There are also bio-feedback tools.

But these are not infallible or perfect and are best used by a trained professional who can understand the results within the context that they were taken and supported by an individual’s history. None of the types of measures have been validated for use within an extremely physiologically grueling environment. Within the context of a sporting challenge, there really is no way to isolate out an individual straw in the haystack of elements that contribute to any given performance. There are personal and cultural factors, external and internal factors, psychological, social, emotional, and physiological factors. So many things contribute to performance in both positive and negative ways.

And our emotional experience — how we perceive things and how we respond — changes with fatigue. Think about how you know a toddler needs a nap, when he or she loses their little mind over something minor when they are overtired. Ideally, adults have a better grasp on their emotions, but extreme fatigue is extreme fatigue. In the ultra-endurance community, spontaneous tears, uncontrollable laughter, and emotional outbursts — say chucking one’s bike off a small cliff out of frustration — are considered just part of the experience as deep fatigue sets in and the brain just isn’t functioning the same, and that is without the outside stress of jeering crowds.

Keep in mind how much the brain’s ability to function changes with deep fatigue. We know that response time gets dulled, we know that our taste changes — what was fine becomes too sweet — our frustration fuse shortens. So, given the brain is the epicenter of emotion, and that all stress — good or bad, physical or emotional — is cumulative, it stands to reason that it will have an impact. But there is really no way to determine if it is a minor or major factor other than athlete self-report.

VN: What about the danger that the riders might feel? How does that affect performance?

KD: The human response to perceived stress and danger is heightened alertness and “fight or flight” readiness. One can be hyper-aware of this or it can be a more subtle, lower level response of being extra tense. It drains resources, contributing to fatigue. Depending on how aware the athlete is, it can be a minor or major distraction, which can be disastrous in a high-speed race causing a missed break or a crash. A tense cyclist is one who is more likely to respond poorly to bumps from the road and other riders — an athlete who is more likely to crash. It is also just draining, which of course takes a toll on the resources the athlete has for performance.

VN: What things can the riders do to combat the negativity that they are facing? How can they keep from allowing their emotions to get the best of them and reacting with negativity themselves?

KD: The riders have a job to do right now. That job is clearly defined. Their job on the bike is to execute the plan, and off the bike it is to recover and prepare. The more they are supported and able to stay focused, the better. Control the controllable. What the crowds are doing or saying is completely outside of their control. Nothing they do or say right now will change that. And any efforts to do so now are a distraction from the task at hand and will just suck energy.

Easy to put on paper, very hard to do when this is something very important to you and that you are so invested in. It is also incredibly hard to stay focused over the course of the entire month. Recovery needs from the emotional stress will be as individual as the perception of stress that is added.

Some things that might be useful: set strict parameters and create blackouts as needed, such as stay away from the news, don’t read blogs, email or social media — places that tend to fuel negativity. Ask someone to filter news and just fill you in on things you absolutely need to know if you have to stay up on things. Allowing themselves time to feel the emotions, they are there, acknowledge them and let them pass so you don’t dwell and they don’t fester. Journal, share them with someone supportive so that they can be released and you can refocus. Find healthy passive recovery activities — watching a movie, getting lost in a book, listening to music. Some athletes will feel rejuvenated through interaction with others and others will need solitude. Very hard in the moment, but knowing what you need and asking for it is essential. This is made even more difficult when they are on the road and travel and lodging is so out of their control.

VN: Besides the taunting, cycling as a sport has many inherent dangers. What are the ways that professional cyclists deal with the constant dangers in the sport?

KD: Danger is a matter of perception and preparation. Rock climbing is incredibly dangerous to the novice and unskilled. And it is dangerous to one who fears it. But to someone who is aware of the risks and has a healthy respect for them, who has developed the skills and knows the bounds of their competence, the danger is greatly reduced. This does not mean there is not risk involved, but the danger from those risks diminishes.

This equation follows for professional cyclists too. A rider who is aware of his or her own competence level and understands the nature of what he or she is doing knows the risks but does not assess it as danger in such a way that it becomes a detriment.

Professional athletes train to prepare, they ride not just to build physical fitness but also to hone corning skills, sprinting skills, descending skills. The good ones study these things and prepare for pushing the limits, much the same way that race car drivers do. They understand how they can push their bodies and their equipment. And they take calculated risks based on their knowledge. The level of risk someone is willing to take will be based on his or her perception of the situation, which is why some are more willing to take risks than others. It is still risk so they understand that factors beyond their control — another rider, an unseen bit of sand, a motorist, a gust of wind — may come into play, but they go into situations knowing they are in control of their controllable and are comfortable making decisions and choices based on this.

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Roundtable: Did Tour de France 2018 live up to expectations?

Another season, another Tour de France in the books — so how does the 2018 vintage stack up? With cobblestones, a short stage, and plenty of mountains, this Tour promised unpredictable, exciting action. Did it deliver? Can we put this high on our list of favorite Tours in recent memory? Let’s roundtable.

Describe your emotional arc during the three weeks of the 2018 Tour de France.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegsThere were lots of ups and downs. Of course, the first week brings a lot of anticipation, but with a somewhat uninspired first eight stages, lots of top favorites losing time in stupid crashes, and those painfully long sprint stages (7 and 8), I needed a jolt of energy. Stage 9 on the cobbles gave me that, and then excitement kept ramping up through the Alps and into the Pyrenees. Yes, Sky was in control, but it felt different without Froome in yellow.

Chris Case @chrisjustincaseMy emotional arc followed a traditional curve: pre-race jitters and first-week butterflies — the anxiety behind frantic sprint finishes — were followed by day after day of fidgeting in my seat, hoping someone, somehow, could break the Sky stranglehold. By the last few days I was resigned to the fact that another year would pass with unbelievable domination.

Dane Cash @danecash: The first week was pretty exciting on the ground in France but with plenty of ups and downs thanks to all the crashes. Heading into the Alps, I started to get nervous that my pre-Tour opinion piece saying that Chris Froome wouldn’t win the race might turn out to be on the garbage end of the hot take spectrum. In the Pyrenees, I realized that Froome’s Tour campaign would fall short. Then, I was able to enjoy some fresher faces (Thomas, Dumoulin, and Roglic) making the Tour GC battle interesting.

Vincenzo Nibali
Vincenzo Nibali crashed out of the Tour on Alpe d’Huez due to unruly roadside fans. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media |

What was the high point, and what was the low point of this Tour?

Spencer: I couldn’t get enough of Julian Alaphilippe’s breakaway exploits — winning two stages, bombing descents, sprinting for KOM points, and giving the French something to cheer about. The low point for me was finding out that Vincenzo Nibali had abandoned after a fan’s camera strap caused him to crash. I think we missed out on a lot of potential action in the third week without him.

Chris: Dare I say some of my favorite moments in the three weeks were watching Chris Froome’s tongue dangle from his mouth as he struggled to keep the pace with the other GC stars, and I knew he wouldn’t win his fourth grand tour in a row. Cruel, maybe, but we need variety in this world, and we also need to have some indications that these riders are human. The low point? Somewhere in that second week, when most of the big GC hopes like Quintana and Bardet started to show the signs that they just didn’t have it in them again to make a run for the yellow jersey.

Dane: The high point of the Tour for me had to be John Degenkolb’s Roubaix win. That was a long time coming for the 2015 Roubaix champ after the horror crash he and his Sunweb teammates suffered while training in 2016. Stage 9 also delivered the low point for me: Yet another Tour de France mishap for Richie Porte. I was really hoping to see Porte put his talents on display this July. As a climber and a time trialist, he’s one of the few riders who might have challenged Sky. But once again, he was out of the race before the GC battle heated up.

Norwegian Fans were out to cheer on the peloton. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Was this Tour enjoyable to watch as a fan?

Spencer: I enjoyed the thrill of Fernando Gaviria’s first Tour stage win, the anticipation as Toms Skujins kept the polka-dot jersey until the Alps, the uncertainty of Steven Kruijswijk’s bold solo breakaway to Alpe d’Huez, and his teammate Primoz Roglic’s fearless descent off the Aubsique to win stage 19. I did not enjoy the utter domination by Team Sky that limited the GC race to a few tepid attacks through the Pyrenees. On the whole, yes, it was enjoyable.

Chris: The Tour is some kind of fun. There’s the pageantry, the tradition, the sense of hope, the routine of it all. But I just don’t see it as exciting as many other races on the calendar, especially the other two grand tours. That said, I still watched because hope springs eternal!

Dane: I thought so. I know people complain about the lack of attacks in grand tours, but at this point, I think you need to accept that Tours are not going to be raced like they were in the ’90s and ’00s anymore, and that’s a good thing. The fact that we didn’t know who was going to win until the final mountain stage is a really big deal compared to recent Tours, so I am coming out of the race very pleased with the entertainment value.

Geraint Thomas stood next to Tom Dumoulin and four-time winner Chris Froome atop the final podium in Paris. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

How did the Tour change our view of Geraint Thomas?

Spencer: I’ll cop to being a real Negative Nancy when it comes to super-domestiques that try to take on GC responsibilities, but gosh darnit, Geraint Thomas stole my heart this Tour. For all my dislike of Sky’s Borg-like domination of pro cycling, G has a humble, laidback manner and he races with aggression and panache. Plus, he likes to knock back a few beers now and again — don’t believe me? Read Fred’s story on the guy!

Chris: Well, I must admit I’ve never paid much attention to Geraint as a GC contender. He’s clearly been a very solid rider on the road for years, but he’s never seemed to have much success when racing for himself. There’s been hype, whether it be the classics or the Giro. But it’s never quite panned out. All that’s changed. From what those who know him well say, he’s as dedicated as they come. Chapeau, for that. Good things come to those who wait.

Dane: Thomas had already proven to be a super talent in the one week races, both as a climber and a time trialist. All that was left was to prove that he could stay sharp through an entire grand tour, and he did that with aplomb after years of uncertainty. He’s already 32, so I doubt he has a decade of Tour domination ahead, but he’ll certainly be a huge contender for a few more grand tours after putting it all together this July.

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Americans on Tour: Five finishers in Paris

Although a few of them suffered nasty crashes and two were riding the race for the first time in their careers, all five Americans on the Tour de France start list made it through three weeks of racing to finish in Paris.

The American Tour haul in 2018 did not include any GC top 10s, major jerseys, or stage victories. It’s a far cry from the kind of presence American riders had in the Tours of the last two decades. Nonetheless, the veteran Americans in this year’s race each produced gutsy rides following tough crashes, and the rookies delivered solid performances in support roles.

For EF Education First-Drapac’s Lawson Craddock and Taylor Phinney, finishing alone could be seen as a victory. Craddock crashed hard in the very first stage of the race, suffering facial cuts and a broken shoulder blade. It was not initially clear whether he would continue, but he did — all the way to Paris, where he finished as the Tour’s lanterne rouge. He raised around $200,000 for charity along the way.

“It’s pure joy — it’s been an incredibly long three weeks for me,” Craddock said after stage 20, before the largely processional final stage in Paris. “I’m really proud of the work that I did to get to the finish.”

Phinney, too, rode through pain to make it through the last stage of the Tour, after a rough ride in stage 19. The 28-year-old “took a tree to the face” after hitting a bump in the road and losing control of his bike. The crash left him with a broken nose, but that didn’t keep him from crossing the finish line in Paris.

BMC’s Tejay van Garderen also had his fair share of misfortune, having multiple run-ins with the ground in the Tour’s ninth stage to Roubaix. Shortly after team leader Richie Porte crashed out of the race on the asphalt, van Garderen hit the deck once the race had reached the pavé. During a spirited attempt to chase back to the GC group, he crashed yet again. Although he lost time and any hope of slotting into the GC void left by Porte, he came away without serious injury.

He spent multiple days in the ensuing mountain stages up the road in breakaways.

Tejay van Garderen up the road with Julian Alaphilippe. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

“This Tour de France had its up and downs. Winning the team time trial was certainly the highlight and it put Greg [Van Avermaet] in yellow,” van Garderen said. “We had some aggressive showings but it would have been nice to get another stage win and obviously losing Richie was a big blow to the team. But, I think we can look back on the last three weeks and be happy with what we did.”

Katusha-Alpecin’s Ian Boswell and Sunweb’s Chad Haga, meanwhile, both came to the Tour de France as debutants, both in support roles for GC hopefuls. Across the three weeks, they put in turns for Ilnur Zakarin and Tom Dumoulin, respectively, while also learning the ins and outs of life during the sport’s main event.

Both riders pointed to the scale and popularity of the race as an eye-opener. “Everything is bigger. There’s more media everywhere, there’s much less time to relax,” Haga said.

Boswell agreed.

“There’s times where I was a bit overwhelmed — you get to the hotel late, you’ve committed to different media obligations — but at the same time, it’s part of sport, sharing it with people and friends,” he said. “If anything it keeps me busy and occupied.”

Haga said the stressful racing will be a lasting memory. This Tour saw a few of his compatriots crash hard, and numerous overall contenders — like Porte, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), and Rigoberto Urán (EF-Drapac) — crash out. Then again, Haga and his Sunweb squad did a commendable job of shepherding team leader Dumoulin through the race, keeping the Dutchman into contention in the final week, where he nabbed a time trial stage win and a spot on the final overall podium.

Boswell was encouraged by his form across the three weeks of racing, which saw him sticking with the GC riders deep into a few of the high-mountain stages.

“Stage 19, I have never really felt that great into a grand tour. It’s been a hard race but I feel like every grand tour I’ve been in I get more experience,” he said. “I think I managed my efforts well over the three weeks.”

With the 21 stages down and none to go, the American representatives in France can finally enjoy at least a little time off the bike. Following the Tour’s Paris finale, the riders will have their first consecutive days away from racing since the opening week of July, which will come as a much-need break for everyone — although perhaps not as long of a break as they deserve. After all, the Tour of Utah is just around the corner for van Garderen, while others will take on this weekend’s Clásica San Sebastián.

As ever, the racing rolls on.

Andrew Hood and Fred Dreier contributed to this report from Paris.

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