The Tour de France may not have raced Monday, although it was no ordinary Grand Tour rest day, with riders, staff and organizers facing the longest transfer in the history of the race as the race south from Denmark through Germany was relocated, and Belgium to northern France.
The riders had it relatively easy as each team filled in six charter flights to Lille and Calais on Sunday evening after stage three. While the majority of teams took race organizer ASO flights, Israel Premier Tech had the luxury of a private jet.
“It’s very simple,” said AG2R Citroën driver Oliver Naesen Het Nieuwsblad. “After the stage you shower, get picked up by a bus and taken to the plane and watch a film during the flight.
“The only thing you need to have with you is your passport and your helmet and shoes so you can train the next day. I thought we were flying on Monday, but we’re already there on Sunday evening. As far as I’m concerned, we could have raced on Monday – that’s a day off.”
However, the journey was not without its problems, as one of the three planes transporting the drivers broke down before departure. Those affected were quickly sorted into three smaller planes – taking the seats of members of the organization.
Three members of staff from each team accompanied the riders on the chartered trip, while the teams also had to plan ahead to ensure the riders had a cook and – in the case of DSM – bikes on Monday. The rest of the team’s sporting directors, soigneurs, mechanics and press officers were forced to take the detour.
Back in the 1998 tour, the flight from the Grand Depart in Ireland across to Brittany were about 300 km long, about 100 km shorter as the crow flies than the Sunday flights. In 1998 team equipment and racing caravan were transported from Cork to Roscoff by night ferry. This time, most of the teams – and their gear – undertook a road trip of over 900km.
Drivers of team buses, cars and vans had to spend 10 hours or more behind the wheel before reaching France, although race organizers ASO reserved hotels in Bremen, Germany for Sunday evening.
“We’ve been working on this for months,” said AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu L’Equipe. “It’s not ideal, but we’re getting used to it. We know how to deal with it.”
Finally, five hours after the riders’ flight to France departed, the Tour’s journalists took a direct charter flight arranged by ASO, but which departed at midnight and arrived in Lille two hours later.
After the big move, the teams were able to do practice rides on Monday, but some later than others. Team DSM was even able to overlook Wednesday’s cobblestone stage.
“You will be less tired after the first week of racing,” said Tour technical director Thierry Gouvenou. “The regulations oblige us – because of the distance to Grand Depart – to add the extra rest day. So the drivers have a little breather after three pretty nervous days.
“Now they can rest and start a six-day cycle again. They will be less tired when they get to the mountains.”
🇩🇰 ➡️ 🇫🇷 After 3 stages in Denmark, the riders will continue to write the history of #TDF2022 in France🇩🇰 ➡️ 🇫🇷 Après 3 étapes au Danemark, les coureurs se donnent rendez-vous en France pour Continuer à écrire l’histoire de ce #TDF2022 pic.twitter.com/hFislnoSS8July 4, 2022