Tour ’20 – Stages 3 & 4 – Cousin evokes memories of old

Jerome Cousin of Total/Direct Energie was keen to push on with the stage 3 breakaway to Sisteron. The two other members of the move were more interested in accumilating KOM points and then not contributing so with around 130km to go Cousin pushed on.

His wonderful curly mullet and posh Scott specs make him look every inch the 1980’s retro pro as his long lone breakaway brought back memories of a couple of rides of that era.

Most notably the 1989 breakaway in the first week by Joel Pellier of the BH team. He managed to go the distance and was greeted by his family at the finish. They’d never seen him race as he had a disabled brother who needed constant care and this was the first opportunity for someone else to help out with that and allow his parents to watch the Tour live. It was one of the great stories of any Tour.

Back to 2020 and Cousin managed to stretch his advantage to 4 minutes but the peloton were never feeling generous enough to give him any more of an advantage. Shame.

There were times in his ride where he looked a bit bored riding puppy paws through the lovely scenery. I think he knew from quite a long way out that he would be caught and that didn’t really help his morale.

The catch came in time for Caleb Ewan to fly through the sprinters and take an easy win. It was a great finish to watch from the over head camera and he zig zagged through the group to beat Sam Bennett who left us in no doubt how upset he was by his reaction in crossing the line.

Lot’s had been written about stage 4 and the finish at Orcieres-Merlette. Luis Ocana and Steven Rooks are pretty decent names for a town to have on its palmares of stage winners and in Primoz Roglic 2020 added to that list.

The stage itself wasn’t a classic despite friend of Fendrien Krists Nielands being away until the final climb.

For a mountain stage there were a lot of riders in the group coming into the last 2km. I wonder if this is down to the lack of racing and everyone being at a mostly similar level perhaps?

Jumbo were taking no prisoners and the speed they went into the latter metres of the stage was more than sufficient to deter any attacks. Adam Yates admitted as much in his post race interview.

Sepp Kuss provided the perfect platform for Roglic to outsprint the other favourites and make a real statement of intent for the remainder of the race.

Tour preview – memories of the 1980’s

The strange timing of the Tour de France this year means that in England the first week of the race coincides with the return of children into schools (covid permitting). 

Teenage me would have been horrified at this thought having dedicated half of the 6 week holidays from the late 80’s onwards enjoying the big race on television before recreating the stages on the roads of Huntingdonshire the next day.

The 1987 race is the first one I remember following with any degree of genuine interest. 1988 was the first where I recorded each day’s channel 4 highlights and watched and re-watched until the VHS was worn. This was somewhere around the middle of that November.

The voices of Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett were the sound of summer in our house evolving into the Eurosport team as the years rolled on. David Duffield took over that mantle with his insightful appraisal of whatever local area the race was and its appropriate local produce. 

Having not even left England let alone visited France back in 1987, the Tour seemed to be taking place in a wonderful far off land with sunflowers and high mountains. It was broadcast in grainy low res adding to the air of mystique and drama. 

Steven Rooks of Holland was my first real favourite rider and his win at Alpe D’Huez in 1988 started my obsession with that particular stretch of road. His style on the bike was so neat and efficient that I always aspired to look at one with my bike like Rooks did. I also wanted a mullet but my Mum said no.

As I started riding and racing myself that desire to tweak and adjust my position to look like a pro cyclist meant my Falcon team Banana frame was never far away from an allen key in the garage when not out of the road. 

Despite Jean Paul Van Poppel being the dominant sprinter of those late 80’s Tours, Soren Lilholt and Dag Otto Lauritzen came into my thinking as riders to aspire to. That rouleurs desire to hang off the front of the peloton in the last few KMs of a Tour stage really appealed to me as a rider from the fens. 

I even had the mirrored Bolle shades like Lauritzen and the pony tail like Lilholt which made me think I looked pro. The people of my home village of Yaxley may have thought otherwise. 

The final tour of the eighties was the best in the race’s history and to this day whenever people ask me which celebrity or famous historical person I would most like to have a drink with I answer Greg LeMond! 

As much as it was trendy to watch the Australian soap opera Neighbours at that time, in terms of daily drama the ‘89 Tour was way beyond anything Joe Mangel and Paul Robinson could produce. 

First it was LeMond in the yellow jersey, then it was Fignon, then LeMond again, then Fignon… it looked like the Frenchman had got the jersey back for good before his last day collapse in the Paris time-trial.

It was a one in a million race and the memories I have of it are as fresh as the day that Tour finished. Only Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour in 2012 has come anywhere close to equalling that feeling. 

Let’s see what the 2020 race has in store.

The Dutch are coming

Its been a while in coming, but the Dutch are coming back.

As a kid I grew up watching John-Paul Van Poppel dominate sprints whilst the twins, Gert-Jan Theunisse and Steven Rooks soared through the mountains. 

Greg LeMond won the most exciting Tour in history in 1989 but one of the best stages for me was the mountain time trial to Orcieres Merlette where Rook won. 

It was in part down to those two that Alp D’Huez was christened the “Dutch Mountain”. 

Despite a few false dawns recently the golden era seems to be returning. 

We had Tom Dumoulin going close in the Vuelta last season before an equally late race collapse by Steven Kruijswijk in the Giro. Bauke Mollema was up there in the Tour de France and despite also faltering in the final days the trend was still up. 

I think we will see a grand Tour winner flying the horizontal tricolour before we do that of a Frenchman, but it will be close. 

The old country’s are coming back into cycling rapidly and we had better watch out.