Tour Notebook: The farmer’s son and a TT walk

Welcome to my Tour de France Notebook, a slightly more polished and legible version of the actual handwritten pad I wander around with at bike races. Throughout the Tour, that notebook’s pages slowly fill with thoughts and observations, which sometimes turn into columns and essays and reporting, but most of the time just sit in sad squiggly solitude forever. This Notebook is intended to set more of them free. I’ll post one every stage of the Tour, some short and some long, in whatever format fits the day.

Full disclosure: I am not actually at the Tour yet. I head over on Monday. So for the next few days these are compilations generated largely by our reporters in Copenhagen: Jonny Long, Ronan Mc Laughlin, and Dave “Shoddy” Everett.

The farmer’s son

The Tour always provides a story.

“Just a farmer’s son” is how Yves Lampaert described himself in just the sort of post-stage interview we love to see. And it’s true. Pro cycling isn’t the blue-collar sport it was for much of its first century, but the local-boy-makes-good narrative can still be found, and Lampaert is one of those boys.

He got himself in a bit of trouble at the Baloise Belgium Tour recently, pulling a move that was utterly classless and that resulted in his disqualification. That feels like a blip in his history though, perhaps the anomaly that proves the point, which is that he has always been considered a peloton workhorse more than a prima donna, generally a quiet guy riding in the service of big names through the Spring Classics .

I’ve been to a lot of QuickStep press conferences over the years and Yves is always there, but rarely asked anything. He sits in the row of folding chairs, off to the side somewhere, as Tom Boonen or Niki Terpstra or Kasper Asgreen answers question after question. This is how I know him – always there, always quiet, doing a job better than just about anyone. The farmer’s son, indeed.

TT tech walk

Ronan said it best on the Tour de France Eve episode of our Tour Daily podcast: the week prior to the Tour, full of new product launches and lifted embargoes, is all about what bike brands want us to see and write about. TT day is all about what teams and riders actually want to use.

How could you tell Mads Pedersen, normally not a pure TT specialist, was targeting this time trial? That wasn’t a team-issue Bontrager helmet on his head. Teams only give the nod to use non-sponsor gear when the potential upside is pretty darn big. Yellow jersey in your home country definitely qualifies. In this case, it looks like he was on a Casco Speedco to us, although it’s difficult to say for sure.

It’s somewhat important to note that this doesn’t mean his team issue helmet is slow, necessarily. A helmet’s aero efficiency is rider-dependent; what works depends on a rider’s position and body shape. The chances of sponsor gear being the fastest for a particular rider are relatively low.

You probably saw that Geraint Thomas forgot to take off his gilet, and did the whole TT in it. Perhaps that tells us all we need to know about G’s ambitions, or maybe about the team’s faith in them. That wouldn’t have happened five years ago.

There’s a more positive way to look at it though. Those are some not-so-marginal losses, up to 20 watts at those speeds. Take that into account and he actually had a pretty good time trial. If the gilet was effectively a 5-10 second penalty, that puts him near the top 10, maybe even ahead of Roglič. Perhaps he’s going better than we thought.

The big names got the weather wrong. This was obvious from the TV pictures, but no surprise to our reporters, who have only been there a week. Not a single weather forecast has been even remotely close to correct since they landed. It’s curious to me that teams didn’t spread out their contenders a bit, just as a hedge.

Take Jumbo-Visma. They have two leaders on roughly equal footing, and stuck them within 20 minutes of each other. Vingegaard went off at 4:20 and Roglič at 4:40. That’s putting a lot of faith in an iffy forecast.

A few other random tidbits:

  • Sylvan Adams, the money behind Israel-Premier Tech, rode the TT course on a TT bike today with some sponsors and other amateur riders. The guy is a pretty genuine bike nut.
  • Wout van Aert’s knee issues don’t appear to actually be issues.
  • That Specialized helmet is awful.
  • Filippo Ganna finished with a flat.
  • Why is every Ineos rider running helmets that are seven sizes too big? (Ronan answers this one.)

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