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23.06.2022 - Race reports

A challenging and eventful Tour de France is on the way

Tadej Pogačar and Rafal Majka

I felt that this year’s Tour was going to be something special and epic shortly after I had driven all five important stages of this year’s French Tour in the company of my Polish teammate Rafal Majka, sports director Andrej Hauptman, who accompanied us in the team car, and Spanish masseur Joseba, who was waiting for us in the campervan after our preview. The conditions for the tour were ideal, with sunny and warm weather, empty roads and friendly hosts in various places in France. In five days, Majka and I covered 710 kilometres and over 16,000 vertical metres. Some of the slopes were my first, some I had ridden before, and I enjoyed them all immensely. We have studied the route and the logistics, and we have ridden the routes, some of them several times so that they will remain in our memories until July when it will be especially exciting and hot.

The team spent a week on Tour routes (Andrej Hauptman, Rafal Majka, Tadej Pogačar and masseur Joseba)

5000 kilometres by campervan in one week

Hempi picked me up in Monaco in his campervan. Joseba followed us in the team car. On the way to Lourdes, the starting point for two routes in the Pyrenees, a small pebble flew into our big windscreen at 90 km/h and immediately made a big, jagged crack across the whole windscreen. When we called Carthago, they immediately reassured us that the glass was triple-layered, that it couldn’t break that easily, and that we could drive on safely, do the recon in peace, and replace the glass when the campervan was back in Slovenia. After a long drive, we finally arrived in Lourdes, where Rafal Majka joined us late in the evening after the transfer from Toulouse airport.

Carthago campervan

The campervan has already passed its test, covering 5000 km in one week.

Stages 17, 18, 20, 11 and 12 under the spotlight

To put it into words, that are two stages in the Pyrenees, the last chronometer of the TDF and two stages in the Alps. Stage 17 has four climbs on its profile: the Col d’Aspin, the Hourquette d’Anzian, the Col du Val Louron-Azet and the last one at Peyragudes, where the stage finishes on the steepest landing track with a gradient of 18%. The next day we rode the 18th stage from Lourdes to Hautacam. This stage is also full of climbs, including the Col d’ Aubisque, where Hempi had to turn around in his car as the pass was closed on the other side, and only joined us at the top of the second to the last climb on the Col de Spandelles. Then came the 13-kilometre climb up Hautacam, with an average gradient of 7.8%. As Majka and I cycled back to Lourdes, we took a dip in the nearby river. Our legs were very grateful☺ After the swim, there was a 400 km transfer to Figeac, near the start of stage 20. The route of the chronometer is rugged, up and down, ending with a 2.5km climb of quite some difficulty. Two more days in the Alps were ahead of us. Again, we rode 700 km to Briancon, the starting point for the next two stages. The famous climbs themselves: the Col du Telegraphe, the Col du Galibier, the Col du Granon, the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Alpe d’Huez. At the Galibier, we were met by a closed road a kilometre below the summit, and as we felt we needed to add a little more variety to the climb by walking through the snow, we were reduced to tears when Majka slipped while walking up the snow, and I wanted to immortalise it on video. All’s well that ends well. I filmed it, Majka got knocked back on the road☺

[[[[Photo/video: Rafal Majka in the snow]]]]

Silence before the storm

As always, the TDF will be difficult and interesting and unpredictable right to the end. This year, after two years, the covid protocols will be open again to a wider crowd of fans, which I am particularly looking forward to. They are the ones who will make the stages even more fun and it is the fans who will give me the strength and drive to do my best in every kilometre of the Tour de France. My third Tour, I can’t wait to get started!

Tadej and Rafal on empty roads that will be filled with crowds of fans in a few weeks

Keywords:

  • Tour de France
  • Fans
  • Testing the routes

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Signature of Tadej Pogačar

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