Behind The Scenes
On A Tour de France Rest Day Ride
Three weeks, 21 stages, 26 categorised climbs & 3351 kilometres, it's safe to say the Tour de France is no ordinary bike race. Exciting, awe inspiring and sometimes stressful, the Tour is a blue ribbon event for riders, but even they need to recuperate and switch off occasionally during this stage race escapade. The Tour rest day, there's only two of them but for riders they are valuable opportunities to briefly leave the race bubble, rest, catch up with family and ready themselves for the upcoming stages.
We were fortunate enough to join EF Education First Drapac P/B Cannondale for the first rest day of the 2018 Tour. The race so far had been tough on the team, marred by crashes, including that of Lawson Craddock, on the first stage, and most damaging to the team's general classification hopes, Rigoberto Uran, on the cobbles to Roubaix. The rest day for the team was much needed, allowing them to regroup and turn their focus to the Tour's mountainous second week.
The day started for us when we pulled into an unassuming hotel on the outskirts of Chambery. Arriving in the carpark we were greeted with a convoy of pink Skodas and team buses. The time was 10:30am and after a 700km+ transfer, from stage nine's finish in Roubaix, you could be forgiven for thinking the team were taking things easy today. You'd be wrong. The carpark was a hive of activity, with the mechanics busy at work cleaning team vehicles and preparing the rider's bikes for the next day's stage.
It's not just the racing that keeps the fans on the edge of their seats at the Tour. The Grand Tour also is a chance for sponsors to showcase their latest equipment and Cannondale pulled out all the stops on the run up to this year's race with the launch of their first ever aero road bike, the SystemSix. Although not being used for the rest day ride, we couldn't resist taking a closer look at Pierre Rolland's team issue machine. Fully equipped with FSA finishing kit, Vision wheels and Vittoria tubular tyres, it was no wonder this bike was the choice for many of the riders during the flat and fast opening stages.
The bike of choice for when the road rears skywards, Cannondale's SuperSix Evo has long been a trusted workhorse of the EF Education First Drapac riders. Favoured for its lightweight credentials and Hi-Mod Ballistec Carbon Fibre frameset, Tom Scully's bike caught our eye, with a 54t chainring and a 32t rear sprocket. With the mountains on the horizon, the Kiwi was prepared for every gradient.
Staying both hydrated and fuelled correctly through the three weeks is a delicate balancing act and one the EF Education First Drapac P/B Cannondale Team take incredibly seriously. As well as having acclaimed nutritionist, Nigel Mitchell, on the Tour, the team have also invested in a mobile kitchen and chef to ensure the riders never compromise when it comes to nutrition. On the bike, Maurten and OTE are on hand to provide the riders with everything from drink mixes to energy gels, easy to digest bars and, the riders' favourite, peanut butter recovery bars.
Meeting communications manager, Matthew Beaudin, we were told the riders would be amassing soon for an 11am roll out. An easy ride was on the cards, with a short effort to remind the legs that they are still very much needed in race mode. Six riders would be heading out for the spin, with Taylor Phinney choosing to do a ride solo and Lawson Craddock, clearly feeling the effects of his injuries, opting to do his rest day ride on the Tacx trainer.
We joined sports director and former professional rider, Tom Southam, in the team car for the ride. The only car following the six riders, we had the opportunity to see, first hand, how these riders use this 45 kilometre loop to ease out the tired muscles. Relaxed, the group were riding in tight formation out towards the small hills that litter the area. With riders chatting away and moving at a leisurely pace, it was evident this rest day was a welcome one.
The sun was out, the temperature was in the mid 20s and the spirits were high as the riders regrouped at the top, ready for the 20 minute descent back to the hotel. Joking about how he needed to lose 10 kilograms to keep up with the rest, it was safe to say Sep was ready to get his feet up, ready for the mountainous following stage.
Arriving back at the hotel, the bikes were placed carefully back on their stands, ready for the mechanics to clean and check them over. The smell coming from the team kitchen vehicle was wafting over and before long the riders were in the hotel restaurant, eating lunch, ready for an afternoon of massages, catching up on Netflix and much needed rest before doing it all over again tomorrow. The rest day is sweet, but boy is it short.