Opinion

Respectful Tour de France opening sees peloton enter France with resources intact

As the Tour de France makes its way through Northern France tonight, Philippa York reflects on the beauty, excitement and surprisingly sedate racing during opening three stages in Denmark.

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Denmark's Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-Easypost) was a clear crowd favourite in the opening stages of the 2022 Tour de France Source: AFP / NILS MEILVANG/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima

As a country, Denmark is culturally magnificent. There’s an interesting mix of modern design and respect for their historic past.

The Danes have invested a lot in the things that improve the life of their ordinary citizens, something that came through strongly in the way the country hosted the opening three stages of the 2022 Tour de France: infrastructure, healthcare, wellbeing, the possibility to do, and embrace, sport or outdoor activities.

Since everyone cycles, the Grand Depart of the Tour de France had the feeling of being one big bike orientated party.
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That’s often been the case when the Tour goes outside of its borders, however the Danes have embraced the visit of the world’s greatest race and had a ball.

Every town, street and hill has been covered in spectators and they been properly excited by the occasion.

They’ve waited a long time to be granted the honour of hosting the Grand Depart and they have done themselves proud. If only the racing had been of the same standard.
Everyone was expecting the wind to be the major factor for splitting the peloton into little groups.

If that wasn’t enough, then the same infrastructure that keeps ordinary cyclists separated from motorised traffic was bound to get in the way of the 176 starters.

None of that happened. No desperate echelons, no crashes that took out a favourite or two.

In contrast to the crowds’ sights and sounds, entertainment through race antics and dynamics has been sparse.

There have been no abandons which is unheard of.
In terms of Tour de France opening stages, it’s probably been the most respectful few days that I’ve ever seen.
Usually the stress levels of the riders are off the scale but it’s as if the ambiance of Denmark infiltrated the race and calmed everyone down.

For a coffee loving nation, we’ve been served decaf.

The only thing that’s been unusual has been Denmark’s Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education- Easypost) and his intentions to be leader of the Mountain classification.

He’s been the entertainment before, during and after the stages with his Viking helmet, aggressive riding and milking the crowd on the podium.
Denmark has a new climber, though mention of their most notable wearer of the polka dot jersey Michael Rasmussen [who later admitted to taking performance enhancing drugs for several years] has been as equally quiet as the action on the road.

The pre-race worry of possible time gaps between the contenders has, like the Copenhagen rainy time trial, dampened the competition to a point where the teams have been strangled by fear of commitment, maybe of what’s to come in Northern France or if wasting energy in an attack that proves futile.

Compared to last year with multiple incidents every day the racing in this edition of the Tour has been docile.

It will kick off soon, of that there is no doubt.

There are too many teams who have been invisible and, although it was tense on the second stage with the 17km bridge to negotiate in the final half hour, almost all the peloton has their resources intact and unused.

For the favourites like Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emrites) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) these opening stages have cost them and their respective teams very little.
Jumbo-Visma have Wout van Aert in yellow so they head into tricky stages where there are cobbles and small roads with their car at the front of the race convoy. This would have been one of their objectives when planning who made up the six or so riders supporting Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard but they will have taken note that Pogačar lies in third.

The defending champion landed the first psychological blow by beating his compatriot in the rain-soaked time trial, though the fact that Vingegaard stuck it to his team leader too will have added to the inner politics at Jumbo.

Now someone needs to call Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and remind him there’s a race on and his presence is required in order to shake things up as the race heads into France.

Tune in for Stage 4 tonight for live, free and exclusive coverage from 9:05pm AEST via the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker, with SBS television and SBS On Demand coverage starting at 9:30 pm AEST.

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4 min read
Published 5 July 2022 at 3:42pm
By Philippa York
Source: SBS