The Tour is a state of mind, a world of sensations that do not fit into a mold, a 10 year old boy on vacation who is approached by an old man having dinner at the hotel, who will win in Carcassonne , and after thinking a few seconds, to upset dozens of possibilities in the magin, answers, without hesitation, Philipsen. And, chant ta ta chan!, 20 hours later, in the clear curve of boulevard Marcou, a certain Jasper Philipsen, a young Belgian sprinter, 24, from Alpecin, infiltrates the fences and Van Aert, advances and launches his bike over the finish line one wheel ahead of the Belgian in green and the Dane of Sealand Mads Pedersen and, as the boy has already said, he wins the stage, his first victory on the Tour after having finished, between 21 and 22, seven times per second Or third, like last year on the same straight in the Cathar city, when Cavendish pitcher Morkov had to slow down for Man’s bad boy to win .
The Tour in Occitania is hot, 40 degrees, say all the runners, as if they could not express the unbearable heat with another number, talk to each other from bike to bike with the can in their mouths, bar where they sit shower and they refresh themselves and compare the stains left on their swimsuits by the salt which deposits their sweat and whitens them. Older, less salty ones, experts say, sweat better, lose less sodium, and scrub youngsters, who, deluded, think the more dry salt stains there are on their clothes, the more they’ll smell, and cheer , the fans, standing, the epic of an effort that seems absurd to them. Through Carcassonne, with which it falls, and through these roads, always uphill, narrow between gigantic plane trees which hide their shadow, and this greasy and rough asphalt, on which they pedal hard and have the impression of not advancing , the cartoons in slow motion on melted asphalt that those who maintain the roads say reaches 70 degrees on hot days. Sensations, and salt stains, are deceiving, of course. They do not stop, they steal and drink 12 liters per head so as not to lose more than a kilo and a half in sweat. More than 200 kilometers of stage on land rich in lithium which seems to recharge the batteries of more than 45 on average in the fastest Tour in history.
Everyone is complaining, except the elders of the other battles, who say, well, wait for the Vuelta in August, in Andalusia, if you want to know what the heat is.
Steven Kruijswijk wears Tour number 13, and superstitious, he turns it upside down, sticks it upside down on his Jumbo jersey to ward off bad luck, which is stubborn and powerful, and when the broad-shouldered Dutchman falls, and for a moment is Upside down, the 13 shines straight up, out of place, and it even appears to wink as frontman Jonas Vingaard’s ill-fated, and good mate, watches with fatal eyes as doctors uncover his right shoulder , and enjoying the break he already knew had happened, his snap. As if the abandonment before the start of the stage, more or less planned, and expected, of Primoz Roglic, injured and exhausted, “a knife stuck in his back” after his fall on the fifth day at the Arenberg roundabout after swallowing an alpaca of misplaced straw, would have been the signal, the entire exact planning of the Jumbo, the quintessence of cycling perfection, begins to suffer the effects of the unpredictable, very harmful. The antidote to the inverted number 13, perhaps adopted by the memory that his Robert Gesink, 13 in the Tour des 21, fell, hit his shoulder and had to start again in the third stage, did not have the same effect as the plan devised in December to end the tyranny of the Slovenian boy who mocks his faith in spreadsheets. Then they decided how they were going to go about winning the Tour, and they prepared one by one, in particular each of their eight riders, to whom they assigned clear and precise tasks, and an area of expression, and even told them how many hectometres from the Telegraph or Each of them would take charge of the Galibier the day the Granon su Vingaard would drive the knife into Pogacar.
Even for bad luck they had a solution, they thought, foreign to their colodrillo, to their logic, the very notion of the Tour, the wisdom that passes from old to young, that champions only fall or puncture when they cease to be champions, Armstrong looks to Indurain. They even had a replacement for Roglic’s march, which was already troublesome and in the Galibier he had fulfilled his assigned mission by harassing his compatriot child, and he goes there and they let him go, and it breaks. Kruijswijk – the second consecutive Tour that neither Roglic nor the Dutchman has finished, who, ill, retired in the Pyrenees in 2021, and the Tour was finished by four, Vingaard, Van Aert, Kuss and Theunisse – was the key cyclist to mark Vingaard’s tran tran in the last climbs, and what a performance on Thursday at Alpe d’Huez. Van Aert falls with him, covered in kryptonite, the Belgian it seems, who gets up unscathed and continues, and rejoins the peloton just in time to see another couple of his people on the ground, Vingaard, just that, and Benoot . They both get up and continue, with no apparent physical damage. The crack that, in his mentality of steel worked by mental trainers and his experience, in his self-esteem, can suppose uncontrollable falls is a question that Pogacar will explore next week, during the Pyrenees. The final heads-up, two champions alone, and fate in front, at the foot of the mountain, is inevitable.
“We are bound”
Before launching into freezing pools, air conditioning banned, and devoting themselves to doing little or nothing on Monday off, runners take a new collective covid test (and perhaps they are already anticipating that none will be tested positive), shower Pogacar with a bottle of San Pellegrino at Philipsen and Jonas Vingaard shows his most laconic side yet. He says he’s fine, nothing’s hurt him since the fall, he and his juggernauts are fine, “ready for battle” (prepared for battle),
Without Kruijswijk or Roglic in the team in defensive formation, he will have to multiply, even more, Van Aert, the classic Benoot will have to suck up the mountain and the explosive Kuss, the pure climber, will have to hang on like the last man. alongside Vingaard, the key in the moments when the expected attacks of the young Slovenian arrive in the two very tough arrivals at the top that remain, that of Peyragudes, and its 16% wall, Wednesday, and Hautacam, on Lourdes, Thursday, and without forgetting the terrible wall of Péguère (3.3 kilometers at 17%), Tuesday, 27 kilometers from the finish of Foix.
“We are tied”, launches Pogacar, second overall at 2m 22s, who recalls that his Emirates lost Laengen and the climber Bennett because of the covid. “With them, things would have been different. It will be curious to see what happens in the Pyrenees. I don’t know how Vingeard fell. He told me he was fine, and I’m sure that at Péguère he will become a very tough rival again”.
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