Into Belgium

Tour de France Views by John Eustice


Editor’s Note: This blog entry was written prior to today’s stage but due to some technical difficulties (the editor was out until 4am) the blog is just now going up.

The reality TV show format was invented by Dutch TV producers, who used the Tour as their inspiration for the on-going personal dramas that have proven so effective at garnering ratings. It’s the daily drama of the Tour, the intense actions, reactions and interactions of its racing actors that make the competition so interesting.

We had tragedy right off the bat with the potentially career-ending crash of Alejandro Valverde. It took the Spaniard years to build up to the condition he had, possibly the best of his life – but at 36 and with the long road ahead full of physio and healing, he could very well not come back. Valverde was ready for this race, that much was clear. In a telling move, despite promising that his Tour would be devoted to shepherding Nairo Quintano around, Valverde skipped the big Friday press conference, leaving the Colombian to his own devices. The way that he attacked his fatal turn was telling as well, the man was full-on and was clearly seeking his own glory.

As a race organizer, I was most disappointed in the technical preparation of yesterday’s time trial. It rains in Germany – the roads are always wet. That’s a fact. It would have cost what – 25 to 50,000 Euro – to either sand down the crosswalk paint, or to recoat with the new skid-free that is available on the market. The TT was not a normal road race, it’s more like F1 with riders perched on top of exotic machines in abnormal positions. The bikes are hard to handle to say the least, and with the quality of the riders, the immense speed they are capable of today, and the importance of the race, to have not understood that the crosswalks were capable of so much danger was inexcusable.

Today into Belgium for the first road stage – which is always the most nervous and dangerous of the race. All the riders are fresh, fatigue has yet to settle in, and the fighting for position is wild. The Quickstep boys should have things under control to set up a sprint for their boy Marcel Kittel, but watch for the rising French star, Arnoud Demarre of FdJ. He’s brilliantly fast.

John EusticeJohn Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.