Eight circuits of hell before a happy ending.
Less than 48 hours after hammering it around the Champs-Èlysèes, I’m already across the other side of the world sweating buckets in Tokyo. I woke up Tuesday morning looking out my hotel window to a view of Mount Fuji, which made my brain double take for a second and ask, did the Tour de France actually happen or did I just dream that I raced it for the last three weeks? Paris, let alone Brest, feels like it was months ago, not just a few days. A sense of surreal to say the least. It’s amazing how racing a Grand Tour warps your concept of time.
Stage 21 seemed to flash by, we literally crossed the finish line, went straight back to the bus, showered, and then some of us drove to the airport to catch a flight out here. I can report back though, another year has passed by and the Parisians, unfortunately, have still not resurfaced the Champs-Èlysèes.
I’ve often been asked in the last few days of the Tour de France if I’m looking forward to Paris. The first time I did the Tour and we arrived in Paris I couldn’t wait to race round that iconic circuit, because I didn’t know then what I do now. You’re not aware of just how s**t the Champs-Èlysèes is to ride on a bike. Ha! So, these days I don’t think I look forward to it per se, but I do look forward to the race finishing. Although, at the same time when you’re racing the Tour de France it’s something you never take for granted. There’s this huge feeling of contentment and achievement all rolled into one.
Then if your family or friends are there to watch, that’s special. I had some friends come from Holland this year, and seeing their familiar faces after racing hard for three weeks gives you a nice buzz. Also, having that post-race moment with the staff is important, because we all know how they’ve just spent three and a half weeks working their asses off for us. It’s nice to celebrate with them that we’ve all got through it. This year unfortunately we didn’t have long to savour the moment, but long enough to give each other a celebratory hug at least.
Reflecting back on this last week, well the Tour in general, so much has happened. The other night at dinner we were chatting about the feats of Lachlan Morton. We’d been following him during the race until he arrived in Paris on Tuesday morning. It is crazy impressive what he did, basically riding 5,500km in a pair of sandals. Just sleeping most nights in a wet sleeping bag would crack me. A huge chapeau to him.
Another thing we have been talking about is Wout Van Aert. I think they just replaced the word ‘rouleur’ in the dictionary with his name. From second in a bunch sprint, to winning the Mont Ventoux stage, to a flat time-trial, to outfoxing the Deceuninck sprint train on the Champs-Èlysèes. It has been insane to see someone be so versatile, impressive racing to say the least.
Another inspiring performance for me this Tour has been Richie Carapaz’. He never lets himself take the easy option, he’s a true racer, and it’s motivating to race for someone like that. Being able to finish in Paris by Richie’s side, seeing him accomplish something no other Ecuadorian has ever done, by placing on the podium at all three Grand Tours, you don’t get to experience that every day.
Lastly, when you come away from a three week race you also reflect on yourself, and how you feel you’ve performed. I feel I’ve managed to play my part in not only the flat stages but also in the mountains too.
I remember on the Tourmalet when I was riding on the front, and after I had finished my work for the day, I looked back and there were only around 40 guys left in the bunch. It was a moment of confirmation that all the hard work I’ve put in this year is paying off. Not only being able to do your job on the flat but also the mountains; then getting a top 10 in Saturday’s time trial also proved it results wise too. I come away from this Tour, maybe in the best shape than any of the others I’ve raced, which makes me happy.
When I think about how to sum up this year’s Tour de France the words rollercoaster, nervous and hectic come to mind. But as always, it’s been an absolute pleasure to compete in another one. All that’s left to say is, merci beaucoup France and also to you, the reader, for following my journey along.