• Luke Rowe at the Amgen Tour of California. (Getty)Source: Getty
Luke Rowe doesn’t know anything other than triumph at the Tour de France with his team that has won it six times in seven years. But save for a day, he says the race is not enjoyable.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
5 Jun 2019 - 8:45 AM  UPDATED 5 Jun 2019 - 1:13 PM

Rowe has competed in four consecutive editions, all of which his Ineos (formerly Sky) squad have won with Chris Froome and last year Welsh compatriot Geraint Thomas.

However, triumph at pro cycling’s foremost stage race doesn’t make one immune to aspects of the almost month-long competition that physically ages the hundreds who work at it.

“It’s not an enjoyable three weeks. is it? It’s not. The only good stage is Paris, really,” Rowe tells me. “You’ve been there numerous times, it’s intense from all angles. You don’t get a minute to yourself. The Tour de France is hectic, it’s manic. The crowds, all you journos bouncing around. It’s just knowing those things, accepting them and working around them.”

SBS will broadcast and live stream all stages of the 6-28 July Tour de France. Details TBA.

The younger road captain speaks resting on a double mattress next to teammate Owain Doull, inside the back of a non-descript camper van before a stage start of the Tour of California.

California commences the second part of Rowe’s season, which will continue with the Tour de Suisse alongside Thomas this month and then presumably the Tour de France.

Sports director Brett Lancaster briefly interrupts the interview an Ineos press officer is sitting in on, laughing at the general picture.

“This is quite some interview!” Lancaster jokes.

“It’s better than standing outside,” replies Rowe.

As that general picture suggests, the 29-year-old has become a Mr Reliable mainstay at Ineos since his Tour debut in 2015 – confident of his ability to do the hard yards and boost morale. Our setting only becomes “quite awkward” to Rowe when he’s asked to speak about his standing within the Tour team and WorldTour peloton (he insists he’s not an upcoming patron) with Lancaster part of the audience.

“I think the first year obviously going in I was quite nervous and didn’t want to let the team down,” Rowe says of his Tour debut.

“If they’ve taken you to the Tour de France, they’ve left a bloody strong rider at home. You don’t want to be in a position where that bloody strong rider at home should have been there instead of you.

“They put a lot of faith in me and at that point, I hadn’t really done a lot in Grand Tours. I’d done the Vuelta the previous two years and been pretty solid. But the Tour is another level -- and when you know there is a good chance that you’re going to take that [yellow] jersey.”

It’s a contrast to the now extroverted Welshman who favours pragmatism over mental preparation, as Tour de France magazine previews hit the stands and the Brussels, Belgium Grand Depart becomes timely.

“I think the more relaxed you can be, the better. The worst thing you can do actually is try and psyche yourself up … Nerves is wasted energy, so if you can stay relaxed it’s the best way and I seem to be able to do that,” he says.

Rowe ready to do some damage for Sky
Luke Rowe has commenced his season and returned from injury on solid footing in Australia as he works toward being in top form for the spring classics.

It’s an easy thing to say and harder to do, especially when your supreme budget team has its own security officers around the bus every stage to manage the large crowds and potential disrupt associated with its eminence.

“I guess I see myself as quite versatile. I can be there and support people. I can help the GC guys and then help the sprinters, be a road captain on the road and someone who is reliable. I think that is a key factor for any rider, they just want to be day-in and day-out there, whatever the terrain, whatever the weather, good days or bad days. That’s a good characteristic for a rider,” he says.

And that’s the thing with the Tour de France. You hate it until it’s over, then hope and work to appear at the next one. Rowe seemingly has it sorted.