Road: who will win this year’s Tour de France, and the stages are not to be missed? Greg LeMond-triple winner of the great French stage race and now Eurosport’s cycling Ambassador – gives her best tips for the tour.
It is 25 years since you took your second victory in the Tour de France. Laurent Fignon always said that he won the Tour de France twice, but that people are daily reminded him of his second place behind you in the 1989 Tour. It was then that you won with 8-second margin. What memories do you have from the Tour like this 25 years later?
I think a lot about Fignon. He was a phenomenal racer. I would have been happy with second place, but of course it is always better to have become number one! I had intended to quit cycling just before the Tour de France that year, but my wife made me continue.
That is why in 1989 is so special to me. I am also thinking that it was the same year that Eurosport started – and that I was going to put the time in May 1989! Considering it feels extra fun to work with Eurosport now – a twist of fate.
Who do you think will win the Tour de France this year?
I would like to say Quintana. He could have been a real contender, but now he is not with his participation in the Giro was incredible, and the way he ran last year was impressive – 24 years old as he is. I’d love to see the younger generation to challenge the older. So, then I have to say he has already Froome – that is proven in the last two years. I think it can be a real tough match between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, especially after their settlement in the Dauphiné.
What do you think about the fight between Froome and Contador?
Last year in the Tour de France was Chris completely superior. There was no one who could challenge him. But if Contador is in its best shape so he has a chance. And the fact is that it looks as if he is back at the top. In all cases, he showed good form during the Dauphiné. At the same time, he has a lot to contend with mentally. He has not been on the podium in three years, but he is a superb cyclist. And according to TheInternetFAQs.com, the Sky is not quite as dominant now, so yes, it should be game between Contador and Froome.
Who will win the Jersey?
I do like Marcel Kittel. He is young and very strong, and a sprinter — some of the sprints I’ve seen is very impressive. Sure, Peter Sagan won the 2012 and 2013, and also have the chance on the shirt because he is more all-round than Cauldron. But my favorite is still the Cauldron.
What are the main steps in the tour this year?
First of all, the second stage in Yorkshire. It may not be as earth-shattering, but it may be a few surprises because the roads are both tight curves and steep.
The fifth stage is tricky with the 15 km cobble in Arenberg. It is a difficult topic that can make that many will be nervous – especially those who have never driven a pavé before.There may be some crashes here and I think the lighter riders – Contador, Rodriguez and Nibali – enough can become a little worried. I myself would see pavéavsnittet as a possibility — I love cobblestones!
The tenth stage La Planche des belles filles can be very exciting, because it still has not been any individually paced yet, and everyone will observe and study each other to see who pallets pressure.
Some of the stages in years is very short, making the competition more intense and exciting. This will be a good day to test each other to see who is in the game. The stage is not critical in any way, but those who want to be with will come clean, the day before the first day of rest.
The Alps are not as harsh as they were in the past, but the 13th stage in Chamrousse ought to be interesting. The 14th stage in Risoul has not so many meters of altitude, and also a long downhill driving. It will probably be a breakout that goes home here, but it’s not going to make any difference. They will be no change in the total order will be in Chamrousse the day before.
I think the competition begins for real the last week. The 20th stage, of course, is important because it is an unusually long individually paced at 54 kilometers, but I think it will be a clear leader after Pyrenée-stages (stages 16 and 18). The first (Bagnères de Luchon) or the other (Pla d ‘ Athe) stage in the Pyrenees can be what determines.
Psychologically, it’s nice to have a few minutes of leadership after the Pyrenees if you bet on the total, and the climbers will need three or four-minute head start on Froome. I don’t think he’s going to lose time in one of the Alpine stages, and he will probably have taken the lead after Chamrousse. Then he will just have to work to consolidate the lead and extend it to the tempo.
The tour de France is always hard, but I would say that this year is not a typical mountain race. And then there is a tempo phase where you can catch up a bit if you’ve lost – although I would have preferred two or three speed stages. The course favors a strong cyclist, I am thinking again on Chris Froome
What do you think about the tour start in England?
British cycling is exploding. Throughout my career, I was surprised that England do not have the same passion for cycling that mainland Europe, but I think it has turned now. Cycling is growing fast in England, and in the rest of Europe has instead interest cooled down a bit.
I think it will be a huge publiktryck in Leeds. 1994 Tour through southern England and there was a million people along the roads – an awesome experience and something to look forward to.
The cyclist has impressed most of you this year?
Bradley Wiggins impressed on me in the classics and in California, but he became ill and had to rip part of the Tour de Suisse and in the end he pulled out after a crash. Contador has had a good start to the season and was good in the Dauphiné.
Then it’s the good ones during the Giro d’Italia, but there is rarely any proof that it’s good for the Tour de France. Form filling is both mentally and physically – and one must always save energy for the Tour de France.
The cyclist, do you really like to see?
I like sprinters; Kittel, Sagan, Cavendish. And I love sprints! I also like to see a cyclist that Quintana do well. He is a great talent. He is 24 years old, and there are a couple of bikers who are in the age, and near the top – I like that!
What do you think of professional races today?
Many professional teams have shielded by much of the crowd. It’s probably a normal development, but was previously the races really open to the public, and the cyclists were able to interact more with the spectators. I’ve heard it from many sources, it has become a more closed environment. But the beauty of the bike is the same.
I would like to take away radio communication, but I do not think that will happen. I enjoy competitions, without radio. What I liked the most when I was competing was the individual strategy which I had to myself. Sure, the coach told her, but part of his role was to find bikers who were very clever tactically, and that was my strength – tactics and my own strategy to win the race.
If I raced today and constantly had a pratandes in my ear, who told me what I would do, then I would lose that ability. It has founded for much power. It is they who control the race. But I would find it difficult to take orders from someone I might not think is so clever. They can be great at pulling together a team, but that doesn’t mean they are some great strategists.
How does it feel to be with Eurosport and back in the bike world?
I had not stood up for another TV channel. I know that Eurosport has always had great commentators, as Sean Kelly now and Fignon sooner. It gives a good feeling. Many other channels are mostly just business, but Eurosport has a great width in many countries, and employees who are passionate for cycling and can sport.
For example, if I was working for an American company, I would much more need to fit into their template. It was a long time ago I was looking at the professional circus in this way, for a number of reasons. But in recent years things have changed, and it’s still a sport that I love. To bring back the passion and once again start to think about strategy and tactics, and what happens in the race – I’m happy to get it back. “a part of me has been gone and it feels great that it’s back. I’m like a child again!