It's rest day in the Tour. For nine stages we were captivated by a promising battle between the world's best riders. Before the start, we hoped that after the horror crash in the Basque Country, it would still be - and for the first time - an open battle with these four big favorites for one supreme jay.

Seeing Roglič, Vingegaard, Pogačar and Evenepoel compete against each other would be quite a spectacle. Now on the rest day, we like to give our own take on what was, and what is to come. We do this completely apart from all the useful, correct, interesting, but also useless and stupid articles and quotes – said or written about this Tour and the riders. Because let’s face it; there is some serious bullshit being sold in the media world! So we are either bullshitting or trying to look at and describe it differently. It’s up to the reader to decide which side we’re on with this article.

"There is some serious bullshit being sold in the media world."

The Cavendish Hollywood playbook

The fact that Cavendish had Merckx’s record straight away after the fifth stage was like the scripted scenario of a top commercial Hollywood movie, but with an apotheosis that occurred too early in the scenario. Why couldn’t you have waited until the last stage, Cav? It would have been an even bigger apotheosis…. Alfred Hitchcock has become a legend in the world of film for a reason, and he always drove the suspense to the very last moment. It would have given the already wonderful Hollywood film even more cachet…. For Cyclelive Magazine, that sprint victory was perhaps the biggest surprise yet, because with all the sprinting violence present in this Tour, we hadn’t thought too highly of Cav’s chances of winning another stage. It only makes the respect for the performance of the now 39-year-old Manxman even greater, because he proves that even in his latter days he can win from the now fourth generation of sprinters he competed against in his career. In our eyes, he is undoubtedly the best sprinter ever!

However, that he took the record in stage wins from Eddy is the only comparison that can be made between Mark and Eddy. The greatest ever is Eddy Merckx, the best sprinter ever is Mark Cavendish and it stops there.

African dream scenario

That Biniam Girmay was the first African to immediately win the first flat stage – stage 3 – was the perfect scenario of the African dream movie. That Bini would win a Tour stage was actually written in the stars. However, the fact that he was already on the top step a second time in stage 8 and is also a Green Jersey rider only makes the scenario of this film more beautiful. That it happens in this Tour – a Tour where almost all of the current, immense, professional cycling talent on the planet is present – completes the picture.

Cavendish grabs the record © A.S.O Charly Lopez
Bini Girmay in the Green Jersey © A.S.O. Billy Ceusters

The Remco Evenepoel factor

We at Cyclelive Magazine don’t hide it under chairs, couches or tables. We are Belgian and we are proud of Remco Evenepoel! More than that, where many consider his somewhat explosive and – in our opinion honest and straightforward  character – to be disturbing, we always saw it as an enrichment in the peloton. No hypocrisy, no beating around the bush to get everyone’s attention and come across as sympathetic, no, straightforward – if it doesn’t sound right, it will crash – we love that!

That he has now also put some maturity into his still direct character in his interviews we applaud. It comes automatically with age that raising things becomes a bit milder and you can already see that in his communication. However, telling the truth straight up, he will continue to do so, albeit a bit more nuanced than in the early years.

So what is Remco’s truth in this Tour?

That he is feeling very good so far, that he is a wonderful time trial winner, that he is in a great second place at 33″ from Tadej Pogačar and that top five at the end of the Tour is definitely in it. Everything else – and here we mean the immense speculation that has been going on since the fourth stage over the Galibier – is nonsense in packages!

"Let Remco stay calm!"

Let Remco stay calm!

Indeed already after the fourth stage it was frequently said, speculated and written that he might win this Tour after all. If you are Belgian, you can dream this, even think this, but not say or write this. Still, why are journalists, commentators or annalists always so preoccupied with populist statements that can only bring the rider Remco pressure and perhaps a “too crazy head”? As Belgians, we have to pull the same string/rope as the rider. And that tightrope was neatly tethered by Remco and his entourage themselves, before the Tour started, to keep their feet on the ground and be happy with top five and certainly top three! Keep it at that people of the press! If then after stage 19 on top of Isola 2000, Remco is still in a promising position, you may start pronouncing the odds.

Still, we want to continue this for a while but without any illusions of improvement. Again and again the same Belgian press told/wrote that they would not put any pressure on him. Great! At least it lasted until the finish in Valloire! Congratulations to all who participated in the useless speculation. Let him race in peace. Leave him alone where there is no need to bother him. Let him arrive at the start by car and take his sports bag out of the car without those pesky cameras hanging around. Does it really have to? Do the viewers really get any added value from that? Do they really want to see that? It actually needs some thought….

Remco gravel © A.S.O. Billy Ceusters
Remco during the time trial that he won to his liking © A.S.O. Charly Lopez

Pogačar and Vingegaard

Tadej Pogačar was and still is the top favorite for the overall win. Before this Tour began, he stood lonely and alone at the top of the favorites ladder. However, we at Cyclelive Magazine think that Vingegaard has currently returned to parity as a favorite for the overall win.

Yes, we also saw it that Tadej was by far the best in this first part of the Tour. Yes, he was impressive! But, Jonas Vingegaard didn’t suffer much damage! He follows just 1’15” from the Slovenian and his grounds are coming up very soon. Saturday is already the day, when the caravan will arrive at the height of Pla D’ Adet and from then on Pogi will have quite a job to do with this Danish pit bull of only 58 kg. To err is human and people forget quickly, but have we already forgotten who has been by far the best climber in recent years?

"Have we already forgotten who was by far the best climber in recent years?"

Vingegaard and his team tackled the past few days with only one goal and that was to lose as little time as possible before the high mountains arrived. Jonas lost less time than he dared to dream beforehand. As of now, Pogačar is the prey and Vingegaard may be the real predator.

Keep those mountains coming, spectacle it will give.

Pogacar clearly the best in the gravel ride © A.S.O. Billy Ceusters
Vingegaard sees off on the col du Galibier © A.S.O. Charly Lopez

The mystery Roglič

In Cyclelive magazine 78 we wrote that there has actually been a fog surrounding Roglič’s real readiness for a whole year. Well that fog still hasn’t lifted. Primož is currently 1’36” behind in fourth place. In fact, he has always crossed the finish line unnoticed and within close distance. Without seeing him come to the fore in the debates.

What’s that again about the two dogs and the leg? It may well be for a while – as it seems to some now – three dogs and the leg and maybe the fourth dog will run with it? We don’t think so but with the wily Roglič you never know….

Rogilic on the road in the time trial © A.S.O. Charly Lopez

Enjoying every ride

A great Tour so far, with especially a very successful gravel experiment.

An at least equally exciting continuation of this Tour is actually already guaranteed, especially if the protagonists can stay out of the danger zone. Let’s hope that until the last day it may be a fair, open battle and that we as viewers/supporters may enjoy twelve more stages and sit on the edge of our seat or chair.

And yes,…without putting pressure, without speculating, without writing or talking the chances of success up in the air,…as a Belgian or supporter of Evenepoel, you may hope that Remco can rise above himself and take a seat on the final podium of this Tour in Nice. That Remco could achieve this on Belgium’s national holiday – is a dream for many sports fans in Belgium. Especially after many Belgians have suffered yet another disappointment with the national soccer team.

Hopes and dreams are allowed!

Text: Patrick Van Gansen

Pogacar in full yellow © A.S.O. Charly Lopez
Jonas Vingegaard © A.S.O. Charly Lopez

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