Tour of Spain: Spanish cycling is still waiting for the next generation

At the start of the last Tour de France in Copenhagen, at the time of the presentation of the teams, the Dane Jonas Vingegaard had largely won the applause meter. We bet that at the start of the Tour of Spain, this Friday August 19, on the podium where the entrants will parade, it is Alejandro Valverde who will be the most massively greeted. For completely different reasons: the future belongs to the first, while the second is the symbol of a lost past.

At 42, Alejandro Valverde takes advantage of this Vuelta to say goodbye to his audience. The meeting had already been set last year, but the 2018 world champion had fallen from the 7e step, and had to give up, broken collarbone. Such an exit was unthinkable for the Spanish giant. Hence this last lap this year. The winner of the event in 2009 obviously hopes for a last spark. But anyway, the Murcian, who holds the record for the number of rankings in the first ten places of a Grand Tour (20 times), “will be missed by Spanish cycling”, as 1980s rider Marino Lejarreta pointed out when honoring the champion at the San Sebastian Classic on July 30.

A ten-year-old fireworks display

Because Alejandro Valverde is the last representative of this golden generation which reigned over the peloton for a decade, from the mid-2000s. The good old days of the “club of five” at the top of the charts, with Valverde alongside, above the lot, Alberto Contador and his seven Grand Tours on the clock (the Tour de France 2007 and 2009, the Giro 2008 and 2015 and the Vuelta 2008, 2012 and 2014), but also Roberto Heras (four Vueltas won), Carlos Sastre and Oscar Pereiro, the last two having also won the Grande Boucle, respectively in 2008 and 2006. If we add over the same period the firecrackers lit by the Catalan Joaquim Rodriguez (14 Grand Tours stages removed) and the Oscar Freire (11 successes and the green jersey on the 2008 Tour), we understand the Spanish enthusiasm on the roadside then.

But now for a few years, the Spanish flag has been at half mast. In 2021, he has not been hoisted once in the Vuelta. A first since 1996. How to win, in fact, when the number of candidates is dwindling? On the last Tour de France, there were only nine Spanish participants. Such misery had not been pointed out since 1972! On the brave all the same at the start, hopes rested on Marc Soler, 28, winner of Paris-Nice 2018, which was not nothing, or Enric Mas (27), second in the Vuelta 2018 and 2021 all likewise. The ace. The first gave up, ill, during the 16e stage. The second before the 19th, caught up with the Covid-19.

A generation gap

Blame it on bad luck? Rather to a generational hole that is more and more a gaping abyss. It must be said that Spain looks gray with only one team out of the 18 that make up the international elite: Movistar, the formation of Valverde. Of its 29 members, only 17 Spaniards. Difficult, in these conditions, to bring the young shoots to the highest level.

This year, the organizers of the Vuelta have requested an exemption from the international federation (UCI) to enlarge the peloton (from 176 to 184 riders) and thus be able to invite three Spanish second division teams. Teams still quite young, like the Navarrese Kern Pharma, the youngest, dismissed only in 2021 and which discovers the Vuelta this year.

Expensive places

The Basque formation Euskaltel-Euskadi, disappeared in 2013 and rebuilt in 2018, is in full reconstruction. Only Burgos-BH can boast a little bottle and a reputation as a combative team, for the fifth time in the Tour of Spain and with a stage victory in 2019. But it too sacrifices to the ambient internationalization, with 14 Spaniards out of its 20 riders.

Opportunities are therefore rare and places are expensive. Literally. In July, the Madrid site El Confidencial created a mini-earthquake across the Pyrenees by revealing the practices in progress in many “small” teams, access routes to professionalism: making riders pay to integrate them. A drift already pointed out in the mid-2010s in Italy and which, to say the least, undermines the popular tradition of cycling. A tradition which, as elsewhere, is eroding. Unless a new Valverde hatches. The little Spanish queen is still waiting for her savior.


Nairo Quintana, absent at the last minute

On the eve of the launch of the Vuelta, the Colombian Nairo Quintana announced Thursday August 18 that he would not take the start of the race, of which he was one of the men expected with the three-time Slovenian title holder Primoz Roglic and the Belgian Remco Evenepoel. A day earlier, the climber from the French team Arkéa-Samsic was disqualified from the last Tour de France, in which he had taken 6th place. The International Cycling Union justified its decision by revealing that the 32-year-old rider had tested positive for tramadol, an analgesic banned in racing but which is not considered doping. Since this is a first offence, Nairo Quintana remains cleared to race competitively. The winner of the Vuelta 2016 can appeal within ten days.



Women’s Tour de France: Dutchwoman Lorena Wiebes, first yellow jersey

Dutch sprinter Lorena Wiebes won the first stage of the women’s Tour de France on Sunday July 24 in Paris and is wearing the first yellow jersey of this women’s Grande Boucle. Wiebes was more powerful than her compatriot Marianne Vos to win on the Champs-Élysées where Belgian Lotte Kopecky took third place in the final sprint.

The legend Oranje Marianne Vos, triple world champion (2006, 2012 and 2013), launched the sprint from afar to try to win on the Parisian avenue, as in 2014 when she won the first edition of La Course by The Tour on these same cobblestones.

But Wiebes, well placed in the final bend, was not surprised in this twelfth lap of the circuit around the Tuileries gardens and on the Champs-Élysées that the men will take at the start of the evening. “The girls did an amazing job”praised Wiebes at the end of the 82 km. “I was able to accelerate again to pass Marianne on the line. »

52nd success of his career

At 23, the DSM rocket already signs the 52nd success of her career, the 16th this season. Only Italian world champion Elisa Balsamo was able to deprive her of success in a sprint this year, and only twice. But the wearer of the rainbow jersey, less well positioned, could not defend her chances on Sunday (7th).

Thanks to the game of bonuses, Wiebes has a four-second lead in the general classification over Vos before the 2nd stage between Meaux and Provins on Monday (136.4 km) where they will only be 143 at the start. The Belgian Alana Castrique (Cofidis) was forced to retire after a fall about ten kilometers from the finish.

Like a handover, Jeannie Longo, winner of three editions, the last of which with the Tour de France appellation in 1989, accompanied the race director Marion Rousse at the time of the real start on Sunday.



Tour de France: Jonas Vingegaard and the triumph of Jumbo-Visma

Tears, and more tears. Endless hugs. Jonas Vingegaard, hardly the line crossed, golden tunic assured, in tears in the arms of his wife Trine and his daughter Frida. Wout van Aert, stage against the clock conquered, big guy who collapses on the shoulder of Richard Plugge, the general manager of his Jumbo-Visma formation. Then the green jersey and the yellow jersey who meet and congratulate each other for a long time, with great pats on the back.

There was emotion to spare, this Saturday, July 23 in Rocamadour, at the arrival of the penultimate meeting of the Tour. Because the nerves were giving way too, after three grueling weeks, and because the essential was done, in style. The Belgian ogre in front of the Danish climber and their Slovenian opponent Tadej Pogacar, the perfect summary of this Grande Boucle 2022: the Jumbo-Visma in front, the others behind.

Jonas Vigegaard, pattern size

It was not written at the start of Denmark. Most observers were betting big on Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates), double reigning winner and conqueror since the start of the season. Jonas Vingaard? Wasn’t he a bit too tender, the 25-year-old champion, a nice boy who never dared speak louder than another? And where did he come from, this sweet Scandinavian, who went almost unnoticed before finding himself on the front of the stage, second in the Tour after the abandonment of his leader Primoz Roglic in 2021?

From a time when he pedaled without confidence, too anxious to really break free, with the paralyzing fear of doing wrong. He said it, however: the Tour 2021 had changed him, revealing in his own eyes all his potential. Who really believed him? Certainly his team. It only took a few days, confirmed by the astonishing takeover at the top of the terrible Col du Granon, to understand that the boss-size suit was not so bad for the Danish weakling. His rival Tadej Pogacar could make the powder talk and win three stages, it was Jonas Vingegaard who put his mark on the Tour, “on the pedal” as the experts say.

Wout van Aert, insatiable troublemaker of the Tour de France

And with the help of an overpowered team collecting this year the yellow, the green, the best climber’s polka dot jersey and the title of “super combative” for Wout van Aert. In Rocamadour, between two sobs, Jonas Vingegaard, commenting on the general fever, told a man’s story: “It shows how close we all are in this team, and that something special unites us. These guys are really my friends, brothers even I might say. » A group of friends, who, before arriving on the Champs-Élysées, had six stage victories to their name, including the only French one, Friday July 22 in Cahors, for Christophe Laporte.

Performances that leave you skeptical

According to the management of Jumbo (a chain of supermarkets)-Visma (a management software), everything is in the “professionalization” of the team. Christophe Laporte precisely, ex-Cofidis recruited in the fall, abounds: “Everything is calculated, nothing is left to chance: the preparation, the nutrition, the equipment. »

Let’s take this last example: more bicycles on board than the other teams (about twenty in addition), lighter (it is played at a few tens of grams), undoubtedly more expensive (15,000 € per jewel). Management, in fashionable managerial jargon, also evokes “involvement” troops in the collective project. It is a question of “total cycling”, in reference to the “total football” of all-out attack worn by Ajax Amsterdam since the 1970s.

Explanations that annoy a bit on the side of the other teams. Cédric Vasseur, the manager of Cofidis, translates the general feeling well: “On the preparation, we are not amateurs and the explanations on their superior rigor are not admissible. The difference comes mainly from their ability to recruit very good runners. But that they ride for all the awards at once and get them, I’ve never seen that in cycling. I need hindsight to analyze such domination. »

So inevitably, the specter of doping lurks, as with each exceptional performance. Tadej Pogacar raised many questions before. It’s now Jonas Vingegaard’s turn to face the ambient skepticism: “We are clean, I can guarantee it to you all, he said on Saturday. No one does anything illegal with us. » We only ask to believe it.


The Women’s Tour takes over

They were 144, this Sunday July 24 on the Champs-Élysées at the start of the women’s Tour de France, which offers eight stages for its return until the ascent of the super Planche des Belles Filles on Sunday July 31. A long-awaited rebirth by female riders, lacking a large-scale competition since the first versions of the Tour in the 1980s. Since the Grande Boucle run as a curtain raiser for the men’s event from 1984 to 1989, then of the women’s EEC which only had four editions from 1990 to 1993, the champions had little more than the Course by the Tour – over one day since 2014, programmed by the organizers of the Tour – to get their teeth into. The objective, with this revival, is to succeed in perpetuating the event. Dutch sprinter Lorena Wiebes won the first stage in Paris and is wearing the first yellow jersey.



Tour de France: Dane Mads Pedersen settles the breakaway of the 13th stage

After suffering in the Alps, the sprinters had all checked off the 13th stage of the Tour de France, between Bourg d’Oisans (Isère) and Saint-Étienne (Loire). Almost 200 steep kilometers, of course, but much flatter than the alpine peaks suffered the previous days. For a long time, Wednesday July 15, their teams managed the gap with the breakaway of the day at the head of the peloton, maintained all afternoon at less than three minutes. In vain.

Speed ​​lovers suffered several shards in the racing portion. Five times winner of stages on the big loop, the Australian Caleb Ewan first fell 70 kilometers, without managing to hang up the train. Further on, the Côte de Saint-Romain-en-Gal, the last difficulty in the program, got the better of the sprinters’ teammates, despite the efforts of BixeExhange-Jayco to bring back Dylan Groenewegen and Michael Matthews. Guided by big riders – Filippo Ganna, Stefan Küng, Mads Petersen – the six leading men took off, and the opportunity to fight for victory.

First Grand Tour win

Twelve kilometers from the finish, three men stood out under the impetus of Mads Pedersen, road cycling world championship in 2019: Hugo Houle, Fred Wright and the Dane. In a three-way sprint, the latter left no chance to his last two breakaway companions. Signing in Saint-Étienne the first victory of his career on a Grand tour.

This last stage didn’t change anything in the general classification. Dane Jonas Vingegaard still wears the yellow jersey, plus two minutes ahead of former Tour winners Tadej Pogacar and Geraint Thomas. The French Romain Bardet (4e) and David Gaudu (7e) are firmly established in the top-10. The green jersey seems definitively acquired by the Belgian Wout Van Aert, more precarious, the polka dot tunic remains on the German Simon Geschke.

After thirteen days of racing, no Frenchman has yet raised his arms. Leaving the prospect of a zero point for the tricolors. Unheard of on the Grand Boucle since the XXe century and the 1999 edition.



Tour de France: the yellow jersey Wout van Aert wins the fourth stage

The fourth stage of the Tour de France 2022 ended with the resounding victory of Belgian Wout van Aert of the Jumbo Visma team. After 171.5 km of racing, the yellow jersey won in Calais ahead of his compatriot Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and his teammate Christophe Laporte.

The yellow jersey has therefore not changed hands and Wout van Aert remains at the top of the classification. The Fleming, author of a particularly successful season, has already finished in second place during the first three stages. During this fourth, pushed by his Jumbo-Visma team, Wout van Aert managed to take the lead at the top of the last climb and distance Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadier) and Jonas Vingergaard (Jumbo-Visma) who were on his heels. He also won the green jersey for best sprinter.

In the general classification, he remains closely followed by the Belgian Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) and the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). At 23, the latter retains the white jersey of best young player.

As for the French riders, Christophe Laporte is the highest in the ranking, in 16th position. The second, Romain Bardet (Team DSM), occupies 24th place, before David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ), in 29th.

Two runners left behind after a long breakaway

During this stage, punctuated by six category 4 climbs, the Dane wearing the polka dot jersey Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education Easypost team) and the Frenchman Anthony Perez (Cofidis team) attacked from the start. They managed to maintain a significant gap with the peloton for 125 km, before Anthony Perez decided to try his luck alone, 45 km from the finish. Magnus Cort Nielsen, for his part, was quickly caught up by the peloton. However, he distinguished himself by beating a record set by Frederico Bahamontes in 1958 since he managed to cross in first position and consecutively eight classified summits. He thus retains the best climber’s polka dot jersey.

The Frenchman was finally also caught by the peloton, 12 km from the finish, after having tried to resist during 160 kilometers of breakaway. His effort will nevertheless have earned him the price of combativeness on this stage.

Departing from Dunkirk, the runners also wanted to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark where the first three days of racing took place. The attack, which occurred two days earlier, killed three people.



Tour de France: the hunt for UCI points, the other race for cycling teams

On the Tour de France, this year, there is the race for time that the leaders will soon engage in as soon as the road rises. And there is the race for points. We are not talking here about those who distinguish the best sprinters and best climbers in the peloton, but about another battle which animates the teams, against the backdrop of reform of the International Cycling Union (UCI). Because the change desired by its president, David Lappartient, transforms the end of the current season into a key moment for the allocation of future World Tour licenses, the equivalent of the first division in the world of cycling. For the first time, these will be distributed on the basis of the team classification smoothed over the last three years, and will remain unchanged until 2025.

A few months from the ax, the hunt for points is open. The teams can reap some thanks to victories or places of honor on the races of the calendar. 18 formations will be selected, and, if the rules of the game have been known since the end of 2018, “The poorly ranked teams really became aware of the subject six months to a year ago, recognizes Vincent Lavenu, sports director at the French AG2R-Citroën. It took time to adapt to this new system, and there was the Covid…”

The stakes are high: a place in the World Tour guarantees teams to line up with the three major tours (France, Spain, Italy) and the rest of the most prestigious competitions, a possibility that can weigh in the balance time to conclude a transfer.

The Tour de France, less decisive

Any opportunity to go “look for points” has therefore become good to take, indicated Eusebio Unzué last month on the sidelines of the Critérium du Dauphiné. The Spanish manager of Movistar is one of the main concerned: 16e in the current hierarchy, his team is directly threatened by relegation to the Pro Tour, the antechamber of the elite which can only access the best dates on the calendar thanks to an invitation from the organizers. He then confided that he had asked veteran Alejandro Valverde – who remains one of his sure values ​​at 42 – to add a few days of racing to his last season on the circuit.

On small competitions and not on the Tour de France, generally less decisive insofar as the teams which perform there are already at the top of the table, and a stage victory brings as many points as a title on a minor event deemed less difficult. With the risk that this new race for points replaces the spirit of the race, the real one. “Some teams have chosen to drop the World Tour races, where it is difficult to get points, and to favor the others”, notes Vincent Lavenu, while several teams present in July on French roads sent riders to Romania on the Sibiu Cycling Tour, from July 2 to 5.

Towards a reform of the scale?

“Before, it’s true, we said to ourselves “we’re going to a race to prepare for another”. Now you have to shine in all the races,” admits Cédric Vasseur, head of the Cofidis team, whose survival in the elite is not assured. However, the sports director of the Northerners affirms “not to have changed philosophy: it should not become an obsession either. The points are also brought by the good performances. We start to be under stress when we don’t perform, so we try to grab points. »

“The points are artificial. (…) I understand that the system was created with good intentions, but it is not fair, had insisted Eusebio Unzué, in favor of a revision of the scale. We need to think about how to make it more logical and deserving. » The UCI would be sensitive to this, especially since the health crisis began two years ago.“the legitimacy of this system”, notes Cedric Vasseur. How can we guarantee a classification under these conditions? It’s a bit like Russian roulette. »

Alpecin-Fenix ​​and Arkéa-Samsic, two second division teams, being in good position to reach the elite, two current World Tour teams should be relegated at the end of the season. For the moment, it would be the Belgians of Lotto-Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech, even if five teams stand in less than 1,000 units.


The Tour returns to France

After its big departure from Copenhagen, Friday July 1, then a very well-attended weekend on the side of Danish roads, the peloton returns to French soil, Tuesday July 5, after a day of transit. The 171.5 km long fourth stage between Dunkirk and Calais should not upset the general classification, dominated by the Belgian Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). Its rugged layout will take runners to a finish designed for punchers. The breakaways will nevertheless have to negotiate the last kilometers discovered by the sea, while the wind from Pas-de-Calais also raises the risk of breaks within the peloton grouped in the yellow jersey.



Tour de France: Dylan Groenewegen wins the 3rd stage, Wout van Aert keeps the yellow jersey

The great Danish start of the Tour de France 2022 ended on Sunday July 3, after a 182-kilometre stage between Vejle and Sönderborg. Dylan Groenewegen, Dutch rider from the BikeExchange Jayco team won in the sprint ahead of the yellow jersey Wout van Aert (Jumbo). The Belgian, second for the third time in a row, retains first place in the general classification.

The victory was decided in a nervous sprint after a quiet stage, during which the peloton was once again carried, all along, by a jubilant crowd. Dylan Groenewegen beat Wout Van Aert by a gut. The 29-year-old Dutchman took his fifth stage success in the Tour, which he had not run since 2019. He brought his total of victories to 62 since his debut at the highest level in 2016.

Behind, the Belgian Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) took third place ahead of the Slovak Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), apparently unhappy not to have found the opening. The winner of the day before, the Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen, whose team was omnipresent, found himself locked up. He couldn’t do better than a fifth place.

Magnus Cort Nielsen’s Unforgettable Ride

For this last stage in Denmark before the transfer to France, the race turned into a long parade between two tight rows of spectators who celebrated the local Magnus Cort Nielsen, wearing the best climber’s polka dot jersey, then the peloton.

The Danish rider, who had already escaped the day before, isolated himself from the first kilometer to open the road with a lead that peaked at six minutes. He offered himself an unforgettable ride of some 130 kilometers, for this unprecedented incursion of the Tour into his country, in front of a peloton led by the main teams of sprinters (Quick-Step, Lotto, BikeExchange, Alpecin).

After the race, the runners planned to reach the airport of Sönderborg, a locality located near the German border, to reach the north of France by plane. The race will resume on Tuesday July 5 for the fourth stage in the Monts du Boulonnais, 171.5 kilometers of racing between Dunkirk and Calais.



Tour de France: Yves Lampaert, first unexpected yellow jersey

For three days, the sun had been shining in the sky of Copenhagen and happy swimmers were diving into the inlets of the harbor. And then, this Friday, July 1, at 2:30 p.m., when the advertising caravan was snorting in the Danish capital, it started to rain. Dru. The downpour made the sellers of disposable plastic ponchos happy. It must have given chills to the sports directors of the riders, still sheltered in their buses while waiting for a 13.2 kilometer time trial drawn in the streets of the city.

Fear of slipping on wet macadam, skidding, bad fall, lost time, even abandonment, it has happened before… According to the weather forecast the day before, the rain was not expected before 5 p.m., one hour before the start of the first of the 176 registered. So, for this opening stage of the Tour de France, the strategists had taken their precautions: they had placed their leaders at the top of the day’s entry list to allow them to set off on a dry road. Bet failed.

Wout van Aert thought he had won

The Swiss Stefan Bisseger, one of the favorites of the day, was the first to tear his shorts on the tarmac. Without too much trouble, but a second bowl definitely put him out of the race for victory. The French Christophe Laporte, in the lead at the intermediate score, also found himself on the buttocks at the entrance of a bend. The most cautious, on the other hand, advanced without taking any risks, with the ambition of arriving wet but whole. The Belgian Wout van Aert then believed he had the winner’s bouquet in hand and the yellow jersey on his back.

His compatriot Yves Lampaert made him disillusioned by beating him by 5 seconds, at nearly 52 km/h. Aged 31, the Flemish rider of the Quick Step team had never known such an honor. But he had still been Belgian time trial champion twice, in 2017 and 2021. This farmer’s son also twice won Through Flanders, a semi-classic. But no one really saw him triumph in front of Van Aert and the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, third with 7 seconds behind, in a city where the rain did not dampen the incredible fervor of the public.

(Archives – Video of 06/07/2019)



Tour de France: Jonas Vingegaard, the discreet champion who threatens the hegemony of Tadej Pogacar

No, he hasn’t changed. Boy of habits in Hillerslev, the small city of 15,000 inhabitants in the northwest of Denmark where he grew up and where he still lives, with his wife Trine and his daughter Frida. Quiet father at 25, who does not like to put himself forward. Except that Jonas Vingegaard is cycling champion, at the start of the Tour de France 2022 in Copenhagen, a year after his surprise second place on the Grande Boucle.

So, even if he says to himself ” always the same “, he was well aware that he was no longer quite in the eyes of others at the time of the presentation of his Jumbo-Visma team this Wednesday, June 29 in the Scandinavian capital. As soon as his name is pronounced by the announcer, the crowd applauds him wildly and chants “Vingegaard, Vingegaard! ».

The young man, all upset, takes off his anti-Covid mask to greet his supporters and sheds a small tear. Of the ten Danish riders present during this 109e edition of the Tour, it is now the most awaited. At the top if possible.

The advantages of the Jumbo-Visma

In the favorites, Jonas Vingegaard? Without a doubt. The most capable in any case, with his teammate Primoz Roglic, of threatening the superb of a Tadej Pogacar that everyone already imagines in yellow in Paris. The two friends of the Dutch formation Jumbo-Visma promise in any case to make common cause to bring down the ogre who intends to devour a third consecutive Tour.

Last year, Primoz Roglic was alone in charge of the team before several falls forced him to retire. Jonas Vingegaard had taken up the torch, successfully. This year, the Jumbo becomes a two-headed hydra. “We are stronger together”, swears Jonas Vingegaard. His teammate brushes aside questions about ego management: “I don’t care who wins. It’s a team sport. We try to do our best with what we have. »

And the Jumbo-Visma have a lot, with also the Belgian Wout Van Aert chasing the green jersey in the points classification. The team impresses. It remains to be seen if she does not run the risk of running too many hares at once.

Dispersion is not what UAE Emirates, the collective in the service of Tadej Pogacar, fears. Rather considered a lonely man during his first two successes in 2020 and 2021, the 23-year-old Slovenian now has a largely reinforced team. Who will be responsible for protecting it throughout a tricky first week, before putting the artist into orbit.

Last year, Tadej Pogacar had almost closed the debates from the first alpine stage at Grand-Bornand. Repeat again this time from the nasty Col du Granon on the 11e stage ? Dubbed the legitimate heir by Eddy Merckx, the Slovenian does look like a cannibal.

Crumbs for the other suitors

The other contenders seem reduced to picking up only the crumbs. The French in particular, who in any case have decided to limit their ambitions. Stages, why not, but the general classification, very little for me. This is the disinhibiting speech of a Thibaut Pinot who returns to the Tour as a simple teammate of the leader of his Groupama-FDJ formation, the climber David Gaudu. Romain Bardet also appears ” released “for a Tour that was not originally on his program.

To jostle for the podium, it is rather necessary to look on the side of Ineos Grenadiers. The British team has been missing out in recent years, but it has a good arsenal: Geraint Thomas, 36, former winner of the Tour (in 2018), is animated by a new breath after his recent success in the Tour de Suisse; Adam Yates, he would see himself much higher than his 4th place in 2016. The Russian Aleksandr Vlasov, 26 years old and rather efficient since the start of the season (3e of the Tour of the Basque Country and 1er of the Tour de Romandie), and the Australian Ben O’Connor, 4th last year, complete the picture. But on the edges of the frame, far from the main subject: Tadej Pogacar.

(Archives – Video of 06/07/2019)



The electric bike, a business that also rolls for athletes

All the lights are green, and the electrically assisted bicycle (VAE) tumbles in majesty on the road to success. The Union sport & cycle (USC) confirms this in the annual report of its Observatory: in 2021, the VAE will be the growth engine of the French cycle market. More than 659,000 VAEs were sold, an increase of 28% which extends that of 2020 (+ 29%). All for a turnover of 1.31 billion euros out of the 2.21 billion euros for the entire sector.

→ EXPLANATION. Sales of electric bikes exceed those of traditional cycles

“The VAE obviously benefits from the boom in urban cycling, the main tool for new mobility in the city, but it is also gaining more and more followers in the sports world, comments Denis Briscadieu, vice-president of the USC cycle commission and boss of the Cyclelab group (the Culture Vélo, Bouticyle and Vélo Station brands). The image of the lazy cyclist is totally obsolete. The ease of use of the VAE already greatly appeals to mountain bikers, and is beginning to convince road users. »

Present in the collars

The French Cycling Federation (FFC) applauds, in fact, the phenomenon. “We can only be delighted with the general increase in the practice that the VAE promotes: that cycling culture is progressing in France, with the Netherlands or Germany in sight, it is necessarily beneficial for us, judge Jean-Michel Richefort, president of the leisure commission at the FFC. In clubs, the VAE often allows the older ones not to pick up and to accompany the younger ones. As a couple or as a family, the VAE is more and more popular. Just look at the passes: last summer, I was in the Alps at the foot of Galibier, and I can tell you that I saw electric bikes go by! »

On the slopes of the mythical Mont Ventoux, they are legion, too, to attack the monster, equipped with this little more appreciable. “Prevention against the machine is gradually crumbling, notes Florence Girard, member of the Mont Ventoux Crazy Club. It is the old ones who take the first step, and who, afterwards, gradually carry the conviction of the others. »

Popular with seniors

Indeed, assistance is not everything. And in the context of healthy sport in a world that is too sedentary, the VAE can also play its part. “It’s an assistance and not a substitute for effort, comfortable pedaling without putting yourself in danger from a cardiovascular point of view, underlines Patrice Delga, the doctor of the French Cycling Federation (FFVélo). Mountain bikers have understood the interest in accessing certain spots, and then enjoying the descent. On the road, you have to adapt to the weight and the different maneuverability, but the VAE also brings an interesting gain on the physical level, which is popular, for the moment, especially with seniors. »

→ ANALYSIS. Stock shortages and price increases, the bicycle victim of its success

Purists obviously favor unassisted practice, and a few factors still limit the attraction of the VAE. “For pure and hard athletes, the question of weight is essential, and, even if we see significant improvements in this area, there are still reservations about equipment that is not perfectly adapted, observes Emmanuel Antonot, co-founder of Mustache bikes, a French brand born in 2011. The VAE road is a bit in the position of the MTB VAE at the beginning. »

In fact, the FFC is organizing its third French VTTAE championship this year, and if “we do not, for the moment, do road competitions in VAE, it is clear that more and more organizers of cycling events offer rides for the general public in VAE”notes Jean-Michel Richefort.

New uses

Another brake for the development of the VAE road, “its 25 km/h limit, which the legislators do not wish to modify for the moment, because they consider that beyond this speed, it would be dangerous in an urban environmentexplains Denis Briscadieu. Too bad, because if, as in Great Britain, we could reach 20 miles, or 32 km/h, we would no doubt win new customers.. As a result, the sector closely follows the most promising segment today: gravel, a mixed bike at ease on the road as well as on the paths.

Sales being well oriented in almost all market segments, the sector is aiming for the milestone of one million pedelecs sold in 2025 in France. “Electricity naturally opens up new uses for the bicycle, and the market is therefore necessarily very promising, concludes Emmanuel Antonot. When we started, we were selling 600 bikes a year. Ten years later it’s 100 times more. Cycling culture is really changing in France. »


The “made in France” acclaimed

Nearly 805,000 bicycles (out of 2.8 million) were assembled in France in 2021 (including 354,500 pedelecs), an increase in volume of 25% compared to 2020. With attractive growth prospects, the sector is begins to dream of 100% French production, in order to no longer depend in particular on pieces from Asia, which have sometimes become rare during the health crisis.

“It will be a long road, because we have to put an end to habits that have been in place for many years, warns Emmanuel Antonot, co-founder of the French brand Mustache bikes. But no doubt we can hope to produce certain references again in France, drawing inspiration from Portugal, for example, which is going back to manufacturing frames which is beginning to bear fruit. We have to launch avenues of reflection, why not with the automotive industry, which also has to deal with profound changes. »