Friday, September 10 – Stage 13: Chatel-Guyon to Puy Marie Pas de Peyrol (191.5km)
AFTER his stage win yesterday, my young team-mate Marc Hirschi had to go to the podium and do all of the media stuff that comes with a Grand Tour stage win, so one of the team cars waited to bring him to our hotel afterwards while the rest of us travelled on the team bus.
Before we started the journey, I made the amateur mistake of stripping my plasters off in the shower and, as the team doctor was with Marc for anti-doping at the finish, I spent a couple of irritable hours twitching on the bus with my crash wounds on fire until we arrived in the hotel and I got new bandages, plasters and Vaseline on them to cool things down a bit.
When our stage winner arrived, a grinning Marc hugged me in the hotel lobby and told me that he’d seen the highlights of the stage on TV.
He thanked me for my work in trying to close down the chase group behind him as he soloed to victory, which was nice to hear.
After a late 10pm dinner, we had a bottle of champagne for each table with dessert and Marc gave an emotional speech to celebrate his victory.
Once again, Marc said he couldn’t have won without the team and was very grateful to everybody.
It was a very good speech for such a young guy.
As a team, my Sunweb squad have been riding full-on since the start of this Tour de France in search of a stage win here.
After getting our win yesterday, today we faced one of the hardest days on the Tour with 4,500 metres of climbing spread over seven mountains on the way to the summit finish at Puy-Mary.
After yesterday’s efforts, we decided as a team to try not and go in the breakaways in an effort to recover a bit and save as much energy as we could, if that’s possible on such a difficult stage.
Although Marc had moved up to joint second in the King of the Mountains classification after yesterday, just five points off leader Benoit Cosenfory of Ag2r, we did the maths last night and worked out that with double points on the biggest climbs at the end of stages, the polka-dot jersey would more than likely end up with race leader Primoz Roglic or whoever is wearing the yellow jersey in Paris and it was a waste of time trying to chase it.
Personally, I think the new points scoring system has killed the mountains competition for the last few years and it’s why you don’t get too many guys trying really hard for it any more.
Nowadays, the best you can hope for is to stack up a few points on the small climbs in the first week and hold the jersey for a while before the GC guys snatch it in the big mountains.
With a good chance that the breakaway would stay clear to the finish today, the first 30km or so saw flat-out attacking and, after my efforts at the end of yesterday’s stage, I was suffering a bit as we climbed the 10km-long first-category Col du Creysat. Yesterday’s stop-start chasing in the group behind Marc was a different kind of effort than I’m used to.
The constant sprinting, chasing and jumping after guys really built up the lactic acid in my legs by the end of the stage and it took a while to loosen out this morning.
When a few groups finally merged up front to create an 18-strong breakaway after about 20km, we had nobody in the move so the rest of the day became about surviving to the finish in the best possible shape.
Halfway through the stage we passed through La Bourboule, the town where my dad took his last Tour de France stage win in 1992.
As we passed the bottom of the climb where he won, I was riding beside Casper (Pedersen) and telling him the story of that day and he was amazed.
It’s gas, but a lot of the younger guys here have never even heard of my dad or the fact that he won the Tour.
There’s a whole new generation coming through now and while they might know some of the riders from the end of the 1990s onwards, they’ve never even heard of anyone from the 1980s.
By the time we headed towards the penultimate climb of the day, the second-category Col de Nerronne after about 165km, myself Soren (Kragh Andersen), Tiesj (Benoot) and Marc were still in the main peloton about eight minutes behind the front group.
I had told myself earlier that if I got to the foot of the climb with the peloton then I would take my own pace to the top but, as it happened, the bunch split just before we got to it so we just stayed in the back end of the split while the GC guys fought for time over the last two climbs.
Even though I rode a 39-tooth front chainring today with a lowest gear of 30 on the back, I could have done with a 36 chainring for the last 2km today. They were brutal.
We finally get to the top around 28 minutes after Colombian climber Dani Martinez had won the stage for EF ahead of my friend and chocolate supplier Lenny Kamna of Bora-Hansgrohe, who jokingly texted me afterwards that he needs to learn to sprint.
At the summit, we were greeted with the news that we had to ride another 15km down the other side of the mountain to get to the team buses. Between that and a long neutralised section this morning, it made today around the same distance as yesterday, the longest stage of the Tour.
After leaving the hotel at 9.15 this morning, we now have a two-hour bus trip again this evening and it’s looking like we won’t have dinner before 10.0 tonight.
So much for a recovery day.
Tour de France, Live, Eurosport/TG4, 11.55am