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David L. Stanley

2019 Tour de France, Week One:
La Course des Nouveaux Visages. The Tour of New Faces

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David L StanleyDavid Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes. And there is his masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer, "Melanoma: It Started With a Freckle".

 


No Froome? No Dumoulin? No Cavendish ? No Philippe Gilbert? Is it really the Tour de France?

Why, yes; yes, it is.

This is La Course des Nouveaux Visages. The Tour of New Faces.

Stage 1: It’s pronounced Tuna, son.
Mike Theunissen of Jumbo-Visma (not Mike Tyson, you’re forgiven if you’re confused) not Cav or Greipel or Kristoff or Viviani or Sagan takes the first sprint victory. Mike is ranked 22nd in the sprinter’s world, according to the PCS rankings. In any world, that’s a new face.

Stage 2: Team Jumbo looms large.
Team Jumbo-Visma, not Ineos or Sunweb or Katusha or CCC, teams more purpose-built for a TTT, took the 27 km stage 2 team time trial. As team leader Steven Kruijswijk put it, “maybe aside from Tony (Martin) and Wout (van Aert), we’re not the best as TT riders in the Tour. But today, everything just came together for us. None of us were focused on our GC, we just wanted all to do the best ride possible. We went really fast. We have started the Tour well and hopefully we can keep this flow in the coming days and weeks to achieve even more.”

Jumbo Visma

The Jumbo-Visma machine. Sirotti photo

Stage 3: Some good JuJu.
There is no hotter tip over the last four years for a puncheur’s course than Julian Alaphilippe. Just as Jeopardy James Holzhauer is a sure thing when he goes all in on a Daily Double, if the last 40 km of a race looks like a crosscut saw, no one bets against the 27-year old Deceuninck-Quick Step rider. Just like Greg van Avermaet or Michele Bartoli or Paolo Bettini, when the last third of the race is vicious, push all your money towards Julian’s number.

The look on Alaphilippe’s face when he crossed the finish was neither relief nor joy. It was the look of a young Muhammad Ali in Neil Leifer’s iconic photo of The Champ standing over a downed Sonny Liston on that day in May, 1965 when the young man knocked out the “baddest man in boxing” and shouted “GET UP AND FIGHT SUCKER!” in that most famous of first round knock-outs.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe wins the third stage. Sirotti photo

Stage 4: Elia the First
A 215 km slog for the breakaway, the peloton came together in the last 15 km and the last 9 km was all downhill. While the top five in the sprint finale were the usual suspects, the order might surprise you. Victor Elia Viviani, age 30, has long been one of the world’s finest all-around fast men: track medals galore, stage wins in the other Grand Tours, a Giro overall maglia ciclamino, 2018, in his palmares, yet this was Elia Viviani’s first TdF stage win. Well taken, too, a stage where he was clearly the fastest over the last 100 meters.

1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma

Elia viviani

Elia Viviani (right, in blue kit), wins a close one.

Stage 5: Peto the Great
Once more, @petosagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), follow him on Twitter, proves that he is the best climbing sprinter in the world. Not at all a new face, he is the teeter to other sprinters’ totter. With few exceptions, when the road heads up, most sprinters head to the back. Sagan has the ability to hang in over all but the true alpine stages. More importantly, he hangs in and his legs are able to switch from 9 mph at 80 rpms in his 39x28 to 42 mph at 120 rpm in his 54x12.

To win stage 5, Sagan had to take on la nouvelle visage, Belgium’s newest superstar, 24 year old Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). The beneficiary of perfect team play, Sagan was clearly the class of the day as he headed the field at Colmar. With any other rider, the post-sprint Hulk pose would be classless and baseless. With Peter Sagan, it’s both funny and accurate.

Peter Sagan

Sagan the Incredible Hulk wins stage five.

After five stages, Peter the Great has a death grip on the maillot vert over Michael Mathews (Sunweb), 144 points to 97. With six green jerseys in his closet, he is tied with German great Erik Zabel for the all-time lead. (Want to feel old? Zabel’s son Rick is in the Katusha-Alpecin team for the Tour this year. It was just eleven years ago that Zabel the Elder finished third in the green jersey competition in his last Tour.) A lot can happen to a sprinter between stage 7 and the Champs-Elysees, but only a great fool would go in against Sagan in a land war in Asia, er, a battle for the green jersey.

Does anyone know where I can buy a pair of 100% brand goggles? I am suddenly come all over with the urge to own a pair.

    1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
    2. Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma
    3. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
    4. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida

Stage 6: The Madonna of Ciccone in yellow.
You are a true tifoso if you expected to see Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafreddo) in yellow after the trip up La Planche des Belles Filles. While Giulio has won two stages of the Giro, and he took the blue jersey as best climber in this year’s Giro, the 24-year old was still under the radar. Show of hands - how many of you put him in your fantasy team? Thought so.

Ciccone had company – 27 year old Belgian Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) took line honors with a two up victory over Ciccone. It should also be mentioned that 27 year old Xandro Meurisse of the Pro-Continental team Wanty-Groupe Goubert held on from his spot in the day’s échappe matinal to claim third place, 40 seconds ahead of the big hitters who were led in by Welsh race favorite Geraint Thomas (Ineos). New face Xandro? Well-done, sir.

Dylan Teuns

Dylan Teuns leads Giulio Ciccone to the finish and the yellow jersey. Sirotti photo.

General query: La Planche des Belles Filles. According to my one year of schoolboy French: The plank, or board, of beautiful girls. Those last 400 meters of gravel were breathtaking and exciting and great to have in the race, but can anyone offer the true etymology of the phrase?

Stage 7: Dylan Groenewegen over Caleb Ewan whilst Peto coasts to third.
Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) is not, strictly speaking, a new face. With the pure speed to match any sprinter, the 26-year-old has always been in the shadow of other sprint greats like Sagan and Greipel and Cav and Kristoff. As a result, while he’s won three Grand Tour stages and a handful of one-day classics, his future, as an apocryphal Yogi Berra quote goes, is still ahead of him.
Stage 7 saw him Dylan-duke-it-out with another new face, the 25-year old Aussie Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and nip him by an inch or two. Meanwhile, we got to see the regal green jersey Peter Sagan quite literally coast in ahead of all the rest to secure third place on the day.

Dylan Groenewegen

Dylan Gorenewegen takes the stage with Peter Sagan in green just behind.

If you’re keeping score, and I am, I make it 4 nouvelle visages to 3 visages familiers in the win column. Am I cherry-picking, looking at stage wins instead of the GC? Yes, I am. Bar accidents, no one wins or loses the Tour in Week One. But on Thursday, 18 July, in the near-Pyrenees town of Toulouse, heading southwest to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, we head up-mountain and the real race begins.

Maybe a different nouveau visage, an Egan Bernal (Ineos), takes the jersey. Maybe Ciccone reclaims it on the climbs of the Pyrenees. Or perhaps, as our late friend Paul Sherwen would say, “with that, Geraint Thomas has slammed his fist on the table and told everyone that he’s the man to fear.”

See you next week, and we’ll tote up the results again; Les Nouveaux Visages vs. les Gangsters Originaux. And remember – Please, no wagering.


David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.

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