In this blog post, we are looking at some of the backstage aspects that make the Tour de France such an incredible event.
Superlatives about the Tour de France of this year have not been spared. The culmination being the dramatic penultimate stage, that flipped the script on the race, looking all but set in stone.
The picture above may not be the most scenic one from Paris, but it is a telling one.
Instead of having 4 winners of different classifications, Tadej Pogačar grabbed 3 of them: Overall, best young rider and best climber. Sam Bennet won the sprinters points classification (the green jersey)
For those that have always wondered what the whole deal with the Tour de France is, check out this excellent animation that explains the Tour with clarity and entertainment value.
Just like (almost) everything else in 2020, very few things in the race turned out as planned.
Many aspects of Tadej Pogačar’s Tour de France victory have been discussed in length by other outlets. The official Letour.fr website made an excellent 5-minute recap with highlights that led to several firsts.
- Youngest winner of the Tour de France since 1904.
- First Slovenian winner of the Tour de France.
- First time the winner of the Tour de France rides a Colnago bike.
Once again the event showed why it deserves its place as the pinnacle of cycling, as well as one of the most popular sporting events altogether.
There is a vast number of aspects that all need to work seamlessly for the race to take place, and to be both entertaining and unpredictable, while also being logical and practical. The amplitude of the challenge is nothing short of mindboggling.
In an interview with Velonews, the route director Thierry Gouvenou outlines his vision when planning the race route.
Gouvenou constructs the race route — linking start towns and finish towns in the most original way possible — to exploit the beauty of France as well as provide challenging racing.
As the race was unfolding, I was reading comments and predictions from Thierry Gouvenou in the official Tour de France magazine.
More than once, I was amazed at how brilliantly Thierry know how stages would unfold before the race had even begun. A sign of a true mastermind.
Route design is something that is particularly close to our heart as a cycling tour operator.
We know how challenging it can be, despite modern tools. The goal of creatively “linking start towns and finish towns to exploit the beauty of France” is very much an aspect of our ongoing work as well.
For most people watching the race on TV, the racing is one part. The beautiful scenery and the historical locations represent an equally important aspect of the experience.
When the race route is planned, one real consideration is the feasibility in terms of logistics. The Tour de France are exceptionally good at this.
We can just admire the ability to coordinate thousands of people, moving the Tour from one place to another almost every single day.
Our business depends on having smooth and efficient logistics too, and the Tour is simply fascinating to watch from that viewpoint. Best way to see it up close, is to hang around a couple of hours after a stage has finished.
There are 4500 people working behind the scenes to enable all the media, hospitality, security and support functions of the race. Just the commercial caravan, distributing goodies to roadside spectators a couple of hours before the race comes by, is 20km long!
To see what the start and finishing area construction requires, watch this excellent video that gives a glimpse into the magnitude of the operations.
The sporting achievement
The Tour de France would however not be the Tour de France without the teams and the riders.
What does it take to ride around 3500km across France, over mountains and windy plains?
Some of the most memorable tours that we have organized, are those where ordinary people take on Tour de France stages or climbs.
Watching the riders keeping their poker face while riding up mountain passes on their ultra-light bikes can seem hard, but not impossible. Yes, they do have the best equipment money can buy, but spending up to 7000 calories per day when racing provides some perspective on how physically challenging the race is.
Riding in the same legendary Tour de France climbs is another thing. It is often an experience of both humility and overcoming.
Humility, understanding how small we are in the bigger picture, yet empowering when noticing that we have the capacity to exceed our own limits.
I don’t think we have ever had a client regret doing a Tour de France trip.
Consider also that after 21 stages, the winner of the race has ridden 87 hours and 20 minutes, and the winning margin was 59 seconds over second-place Primoz Roglic.
It all changed in the course of the 5 last significant kilometers of the race…
It would have not been possible to imagine a more thrilling, heart-breaking, and exhilarating conclusion of the race.
Today, it has not even been 24h since the riders raced the final kilometers on the Champs Elysées in Paris, but we are already looking forward to next year.
What an amazing race, amazing athletes and amazing organisation behind the scenes.
Once again, we were reminded over and over again why the Tour de France is the greatest sporting event of the year.
Thank you! See you next year again.