Nineteen years separate the oldest of the Tour de France 2020, the 40-year-old Alejandro Valverde, from the youngest Maxime Chevalier, aged 21. These almost twenty years of difference, the time of a long career as a professional cyclist, are not exceptional in the history of a Tour de France accustomed to large age ranges.
→ DOSSIER. Tour de France 2020: all the information to follow this 107e editing
But the new fact is that the youngest are not content to learn the trade by making the representation with the big ones. They win, a lot, and sometimes even the general classification of the Tour de France. As was the case in 2019 of Colombian Egan Bernal, youngest winner since 1947 and unfortunate hero of the 2020 edition, whom he left prematurely on Wednesday, September 16.
This year, the Swiss Marc Hirschi of the Sunweb formation shook the peloton on numerous occasions from the height of his 22 candles blown out at the end of August. Indulging in the luxury of a stage victory after missing other bouquets by very little on several occasions. A student of Fabian Cancellara, Bernese like him, the Swiss amaze the cycling world.
And he promises to be one of the very big of the peloton, with the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar. At 21, he left Nice with the leader sign of the UAE Emirates team, not without having stolen the role of boss in the process from the winner of the Tour of Spain 2015, the Italian Fabio Aru.
“Age is no longer a performance criterion”
The two babies in the peloton, Maxime Chevalier and Mathieu Burgaudeau, are French, as is often the case in the Tour de France, and belong to French teams: B & B Hotels-Vital Concept and Total-Direct Énergie. If they do not yet play in the same court as Hirschi and Pogacar, they carry the hopes of their sports directors, who did not hesitate to throw them into the deep end. Violating an old rule now outdated which prohibited throwing a young duck too early into the pond to avoid breaking its wings.
“When I was Maxime Chevalier’s age, I was told that I was too young, and I lost a lot of time in my career”, confirms the former runner of the 1990s Jérôme Pineau, now boss of the B & B Hotels-Vital Concept team.
At the time, we relied on experience rather than measurable data and we believed that young engines should be saved so as not to burn them out. “In reality, it was not based on anything reliable, continues Jérôme Pineau. Now that we have precise physiological data on the power developed, the recovery, the results of each training exercise, we know that age has nothing to do with performance. “
Very great runners won young
An axiom which is not so new for the category of very great runners. For them, value never waited for the number of years. We cry genius for Bernal, Pogacar and Hirschi, but we forget that a certain Laurent Fignon was not 23 when he won his first Tour in 1983. A rule that also holds true for Bernard Hinault, who brought back his first yellow jersey in Paris in 1978, at 23 years and nine months. “To build champions, other very demanding sports like swimming draw on the machine very early on, from the age of 15-16, so why not cycling? “, continues Jérôme Pineau.
→ ROUTE. Tour de France 2020: the map of stages
Did the young shoots of the peloton also benefit this year from the exceptional health context? Many believe that the forced rest of spring has done the business of new organisms. They would need less time to reach cruising speed than the old diesels in the peloton, which line up a lot of miles to get there.
In any case, this is the analysis of the Belgian Thomas De Gendt, 33, who thus justified his poor performance of the year. The hypothesis is attractive, but there is a lack of scientific data to establish it.
Primoz Roglic did the hard part
Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez brought to his country the 17e stage on the Tour de France, Wednesday September 16, at the top of the unprecedented Col de la Loze, on the heights of Méribel (Savoie). For his first participation in the Tour, the 26-year-old rider at the same time slips onto the third step of the podium, in place of his compatriot Rigoberto Uran. The yellow jersey Primoz Roglic, second on the stage ahead of his compatriot Tadej Pogacar, won the duel of the Slovenes. With nearly a minute (57 seconds) ahead of Pogacar, Roglic is getting closer to victory on the Champs-Élysées.
→ The results of the day: The complete classification of the 17e stage of the Tour de France 2020
→ The general classification: Find the general classification of the Tour de France 2020