You’ve heard of the Secret Pro, right? Well, we’re excited to announce that throughout the course of this year’s Tour de France we’ve secured exclusive rights to the Secret Journo who, free from the ever-demanding and politically-correct shackles of the UCI, ASO and his own editorial staff, will tell us how it really is on the ground over there. Will he tell the truth? Is he even real? Who knows, but at least it will be different to the usual media fare… here’s the first report, just in from Utrecht.
Our American friends have New York New York. This year’s Tour has Utrecht Utrecht. Which if you ask me is two Utrechts too many. Right up front, I hate Utrecht. It’s a big Dutch uni town and that brings brings back bad memories for this scribe. Throw into the mix the annual scrum of cyclo-groupies, corporate back slappers and overpaid media hangers-on and the next few days are likely to be rather unpleasant, brown cafes or not.
I’ve done a few now, and the Grand Depart is always the same; like one big high school reunion for the media where everyone acts as if they’re best mates at first, until quickly remembering just what tools they really are, albeit 12 months older and with even less hair than last time. Last year the locales for this annual tradition were the pubs of Leeds and other dry stone-fenced nooks of Yorkshire. This year everyone is cruising the Oudegracht and other canals in this uber flat city, microdosing on the local coffee, bakkie. I’m over it already. Thank god the race starts tomorrow and by Tuesday afternoon we’ll be in France.
As for the reason we’re all here, most folks are saying 2015 will be a race in four. I’m not so sure. Questionable steak burgers or not, if Contador can get up again after the Giro I will dip my cap to him, I really will. But I just can’t see it happening. Everyone here is worried about Quintana and rightly so. Fresh and fit, he really seems the stand out, yet unquestionably brings an enigmatic element into the race given we haven’t seen that much of him this season as yet. After the little Columbian I’m also fascinated by the prospects of Bardet. Lots of pressure on his scrawny French shoulders after finishing top ten in 2014. But what’s new in the land of baguettes and smelly fromage? We’ll also be watching Porte very closely, not so much for the overall win but for signals as to whom he might be riding for next year. The peloton’s jungle drums are already banging more than the team mechanics and podium girls.
Stage 1 is pancake flat, but at a smidgen under 14km may not be long enough for Tony Martin to exert his full time trial might. Might be a little biased here but someone like Rohan Dennis might pop up in yellow on Saturday or even the Dutchman, Domoulin or Movistar’s Dowsett.
Until next time…