Tour Winning DS Interview: The penultimate time trial stage of the 2020 Tour de France turned the race on its head. With a stunning ride, Tadej Pogačar put time into everyone to take the overall lead and the KOM, to go along with his ‘Best Young Riders’ jersey. As Tadej said at the time it was a team effort, and one of the links in the UAE Team Emirates chain was DS Allan Peiper, Ed Hood managed to ‘have a word’.
It’s already the stuff of cycling legend. Slovenian ‘Roborider’ Primoz Roglič leads the Tour de France by 57 seconds with just 36.2 kilometres against the watch between him and his coronation on the Champs Élysées in Paris. He leads 21 year-old countryman, Tadej Pogačar by those 57 seconds – and even if the younger man beats him it surely won’t be by enough to take the lead; the Jumbo man has a pretty solid buffer.
But not only does Pogacar steal back those precious 57 seconds he adds another 59 seconds to take the stage, the maillot jaune and adds the polka dot jersey as best climber thanks to his devastating ascent of that horrible closing climb. I think that ‘segment’ will stand for a while. . .
But ‘exploits’ like that don’t just happen, they require careful planning. Who was the man behind this masterpiece? Ex-professional, Australia’s UAE Team Emirates DS, Allan Peiper. We caught up with Allan as he drove home to Geraardsbergen in Flanders from Paris on Monday morning.
PEZ: Congratulations, Allan – tell us what sort of young man Tadej is, please?
Allan Peiper: He’s very relaxed, always smiling, of good character, never complains and takes on all the information you give him – you could say a joy to work with.
PEZ: His time trial on Saturday looked like ‘death or glory,’ is that the case?
It’s not quite as easy as that. We were down there to check the parcours of that time trial twice, once, on my own in June and once with Tadej in July. I drove the course and I rode it too. As a result of those visits I was able to get our strategy for the race day. I decided a bike change was essential because the gearing requirements for the two sections of the parcours – the ‘flat’ part then the climb – were so different. I also decided upon a pacing strategy but 20 days into a Grand Tour you’re not sure how the athlete will react.
PEZ: Tell us about the gearing please, Allan.
As I said, I rode the course and I realised that a close ratio cassette was essential for the climb; but most cassettes have two or even three tooth jumps. However, we obtained a cassette meant for junior racing, 14-29 but in the middle it was 18 to 25 with just one tooth differences, that was coupled with 36/50 chainrings. On his time trial bike he rode a single 58 ring with an 11 to 29 cassette. Tadej was down with us in July and we did simulation runs on the hill to confirm the gearing and we agreed the spot for the bike change and practiced it – we got it down to seven seconds but think we may have bettered that on Saturday.
PEZ: He looked so calm, cool and collected before the start, in contrast to Roglic who looked very tense.
Because we’d done a full simulation in July, skin suited, helmet on and with the bike change, he knew the course and exactly what we were going to do in the race so there was no need to drive the course and stress on the day. We let him sleep in until 10:00 am, he did 30 minutes on the rollers, he had some breakfast then we moved him to a hotel just four kilometres from the start with a soigneur for his massage where he had lunch and a sleep before his final warm up. It meant he was away from all the hustle and noise of the start area – we wanted as little stress for him before the race as possible.
PEZ: Did you believe he could do what he did?
I can’t say I believed that he would do what he actually did but I felt that if Roglic had a bad day and Tadej rode out of his skin then it was possible – and that’s pretty much how it happened. Before the Tour we were asking questions about the state of readiness of Roglič and Tadej. Roglič went well in the Tour de l’Ain and was going well in the Dauphine before his crash. Before the Dauphine Tadej had only ridden single day races, the Nationals Champs then the Strade Bianche, where he was 13th and Milano-Sanremo where he was 12th but neither of those are really his thing. In the Dauphine he lost a minute early; we chatted and he said that he wasn’t worried and that he’d get better as the race went on – and that was how it turned out. I think that Roglic just ran out of gas – even though he went well on the Col de la Loze; whilst Tadej was still going strongly.
PEZ: You were in the car behind him, tell us about your radio drill please.
All riders are different, Rohan Dennis for instance only wants the minimum of relevant information, no encouragement – once he’s in his ‘zone’ he doesn’t want to be taken out of it. But Tadej likes coaching and support over the radio as well as time checks. My job is to remain calm and give clear concise information to the rider, as you get deeper into the ride and the excitement is rising to a crescendo that can be hard but you must remain cool, calm and collected. At the finish there was a huge whirl of emotion, it was hard to take it all in.
PEZ: There was no power meter on his road bike?
He wanted the bike as light as possible so we took the power meter and head unit off but that took us below 6.8 kilograms so we put the head unit for the power meter back on and that took us up to 6.820 kg. He did have a power meter on his time trial bike.
PEZ: Did you get much chance to celebrate in the evening?
Yes, we celebrated well, even though we didn’t get to the hotel until midnight – hugs, pictures, a glass, speeches. . .
PEZ: And before we leave you in peace, who are your tips for the Worlds, Allan?
For the time trial I think Wout Van Aert is the man, at 31.7 kilometres I think it’s just a bit too long for Filippo Ganna. For the road race I’m going out on a limb and saying Diego Ulissi, he’s in great shape and my pick.
# And there was me thinking Tadej just jumped on his bike and buried himself – with thanks to Allan, always a pleasure to speak with him. #
A pleasure to work with