Rik Verbrugghe: “This stage will leave its mark on the riders for many days since we have been dealing with a heat wave”
The riders of the Tour de France have been under strain since the start in Utrecht on Saturday, July 4th.
Aside from the tricky stages, the team time trial, and the difficult passes through the Pyrenees, the heat has enhanced the severity of the struggle. After finishing at the top of Plateau de Beille yesterday, the first transition stage proved to be no less strenuous. Hot enough to fry an egg, the roads of the Tarn and the Aveyron did not treat the breakaway group entirely kindly. With a tortuous and difficult finish that had a final climb that lasted some 800 meters, the victory was eventually decided in a sprint between two talented punchers. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) burned Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) to the line, with the group containing the yellow jersey and many of the other favorites rolling in just seven seconds behind. For its part, IAM Cycling managed to protect its leader Mathias Frank well and place him in a position to limit any possible damage on the final climb. Frank lost only ten seconds to the leaders, but gained 11 seconds on Romain Bardet and Samuel Sanchez, while gaining a whopping 9’33” on Joachim Rodriguez and 12 minutes on Fuglsang.
Rik Verbrugghe, the manager sportif, won a stage of the Tour de France in 2000, which finished in Lavaur, on a course similar to the route today. Consequently he was very aware of the dangers and pitfalls that could fell his riders. At the time of analysis, Verbrugghe was on the whole satisfied with how his riders performed on this exhausting day. “We failed to get into the break, which was one of the objectives for this stage since we knew it was likely to go to the finish. And it wouldn’t have taken much. Fortunately, we managed to help Mathias Frank not lose time in this difficult finish when comparing his direct rivals. Some of his adversaries even struggled, so I am convinced that they may crack in the coming days. This stage and the ones coming up in the next couple of days are likely to leave some damage behind them before we can even think about getting to the Alps. Blame it on the heat wave that has hit the roads of the Tour de France almost constantly from the beginning. Today, we were dealing with temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius. And the riders are forced to drink liters of water and energy drinks to avoid dehydration. A rider can drink fifteen bottles in a day. And to try to keep them feeling coolish even for a little while, we give them ice packs to place around the neck. After crossing the finish line, we are focused on the recovery with ice baths, massages, and above all, rest.”