How many will they be, the valiant devourers of kilometers, to put their sore stumps on the Champs-Élysées? Forty were missing before the final Pyrenean stage, and it was already a wicked proportion with four days from the final accounts.
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So of course, it should be noted that this edition precedes the Olympic Games, and that some have contented themselves with a short tour of the Tour to preserve their chance to adorn their reputation, like Mathieu van der Poel, brilliant but ephemeral yellow jersey of his one week race, or Vincenzo Nibali bypassing the last one. It would be a habit, the dropout rate this year (21.7%) approaching those of 2012 before London (22.5%) or 2000 before Sydney (28%, a record).
Bobos on all floors
This rate is however significantly higher than 2016 (12.1%) or 2008 (19.4%), which qualifies the link a little, and more surely refers to the feelings of a peloton: this year, it was particularly hard. , and all the team doctors are there to bear witness to the bruises to body and soul. “One of our runners let go from exhaustion on the 15e step, there I have two bronchitis, a rhino, buttock support problems because with the rain it macerates more, and another guy who has been running for four days with a broken rib, lists Hubert Long, the doctor of the TotalEnergies team. Yes, the bodies are more than tired. “
Doctor Jacky Maillot has done a few Tours since 2007, first at Cofidis, and for five years with the Groupama-FDJ team. He also underlines the singularity of this Grande Boucle: “There were a lot of falls at the start, and even if the external marks are not very visible, we sleep less well, we recover badly, we are not quite the same runner. Then, the climatic constraints were terrible. In the Alps, on narrow roads, we were not always able, in the cars, to reach the runners to give them, for example, their raincoat. With us, some have caught cold like that. “
Cofidis doctor, the Belgian Michel Cerfontaine also points out these temperature variations: “The cold and the rain in the Alps, then a few almost scorching days, and again in the Pyrenees below 10 degrees: the thermoregulation process is severely tested, which is the bedrock of infectious pathologies, gastroenteritis or damage to the ENT area. Last year, we feared the cold for the Tour shifted in September, and yet we had not had a rainy day! “
A hectic race with no downtime
To the vagaries of the weather were added the racing conditions. “In the absence of a truly domineering team capable of controlling, the stages were run very quickly, with crazy hourly averages in the first hour, says Hubert Long. I only counted one fairly quiet day. So for the recovery, it was really complicated. “ Michel Cerfontaine supports: “To have so many exhausted runners in the second week is totally exceptional. “
→ THE ROUTE. Find the map of the 2021 Tour de France stages
The days off, suddenly, were more than expected. But in Tignes and in Andorra, perched at over 1,500 m, they did not offer all the guarantees to recharge the batteries. “At altitude, the body recovers less well, the nights are disturbed, we get out of breath, we become dehydrated, which can even induce psychological distress”, notes Jacky Maillot. Guillaume Martin, the climber of Cofidis, was annoyed by this choice of the organizers, regretting that “The altitude pumps in the reserves”, even though the latter were not globally famous.
How, under these conditions, to keep under the pedal, in particular for the ultimate time trial Saturday July 17, over 31 kilometers between Libourne and Saint-Émilion? “It all depends on what we play, and for us, it’s not much, philosopher Hubert Long. So the instruction is we calm down and we finish. Tomorrow is Paris. “
“This time should be to the advantage of experts in the genre, like our Swiss Stefan Küng who has been saving himself for a few days”, wants to believe Jacky Maillot. In Laval, on the fifth stage, the first against the clock, the Groupama-FDJ rider, second, grimaced as he watched the Tadej Pogacar plane arrive, landing in first place. Will the ogre leave crumbs this time?