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David L. Stanley
David becomes Tim Declercq, "El Tractor
"

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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). Here's his Facebook page.

His Latest work is voicing and producing the audiobook versions of Bill & Carol McGann's "The Story of the Tour de France". The second volume just went live.

You can get all three versions of "The Story of the Tour de France" volume two print, eBook and Audiobook here.

And if you'd like to start at the beginning (a very good place to start), here's "The Story of the Tour de France" volume one.


Hey, my name is Tim Declerq*. You can find me on Twitter at @tim_declerq. I’m the guy everyone calls "El Tractor". I work my ass off, every day, for my brothers on our Wolfpack team, the guys of Deceuninck–Quick-Step, and then I do it again the next day. In 2020, a Cycling News poll of my fellow pros named me the best domestique in the world. I’m damn proud of that.

Let’s go for a bike ride. Come on, it’ll be fun. We’ll roll along in a 53x22 for 5 or 6 kms, and then see how things go. A couple friends will join us. K? K.

Your legs are sore? Well, sure, you’ve ridden 500 km in the last three days. They’ll feel better in a few. Then, they go numb. Then, they really hurt. What’d you expect? Anyway, we got 2,900 km to go, so, suck it up, sissy-pants.

Sit on the wheels? Oh, no, we don’t do that. We put our noses in the wind.

Whattaya mean, “what the hell is going on here?” This is the départ reel, mate. The race starts now. We’re gonna spend the next hour herding 180 cats at 50-55 kph. Some really aggressive, incredibly fit, supremely determined cats on the prowl for a breakaway that sticks. Can you turn your 12 at 100 rpm? No? Then dump it in your 13 and sit on my wheel. You can spin that at 110, right? Hang on!

When does this stop? Well, we never know, do we? The right guys gotta get away before we can relax a little. What do I mean, “relax?” We can put it in the 14 or 15 and roll along at 45-50 kph for the next couple hours across the valley floor.

Yes, hours. What do we do then? Today, we can let the climbers go up the hills and we can ride home in the grupetto. What’s on for today, um, lemme check my profile, we climb the Saxonnex, the Romme, and the Colombiere. How high? About 3,600 meters. Did I mention we gotta make a time cut? Yeah, those scrawny little climbers back there in our draft; we gotta finish within about 15% of their time or we get the boot. That would not make Lefevere happy.

Tim Declercq

Tim Declercq crashed on a gravel road in stage 13 of the 2021 Tour, remounted and finished the stage before the time cut. Here he rests, exhausted, salt stains from sweat on his jersey. The next day he was back at work. Sirotti photo.

Tomorrow? That’s worse. Saisies, then Pre, Roseland, and up to Tignes. You remember Tignes? The mudslides? Tomorrow is more than 4,500 meters of climbing. That's about halfway up Everest, right? That’s why we don’t think about tomorrow. Ever. Not now, not next week. We only think about now.

Why do I do this? I’m a professional bike rider. It’s my job. I love to ride my bike. I love to race my bike even more, and this, this ceaseless pounding at the front, that’s what I’m good at. Really good.

See Tadej Pogacar up at the top of the GC? He did this year’s Tour in 82:56:36, right? See me down at the very bottom, DFL, the Lanterne Rouge? Yeah, I took 5 hours longer than him. Seems like a lot, eh? Do the math; that’s about 5-6% slower than the best climber in the world.

And look at me, I’m 190 cm tall, 79 kg heavy. Look at Julian Alaphilippe on our Deceuninck–Quick-Step squad – he’s only 172 cm. And his scrawny little butt is 62 kg! You don’t think he gets a lot of rest sitting on my wheel until the mountains? You got that right, he does.

Think about Taddy for a second. He’s got Mikkel Bjerg on his team, the UAE version of me. Freaking beast. Without him, Tadej can’t do his job well. Not at all. We are necessary, and we are every bit as expert, as fit and fast and determined as guys like Taddy and JuJu and Vingo, over at Jumbo-Visma.

I’m not saying that the GC couldn’t ride, couldn’t win, the Tour if the race was just GC men, and they left all us draft horses off the roster. Course, they could. Those guys can suffer. But take a look at this year’s Tour. 43,526 meters of climbing. That, sir, is 43 kilometers of elevation. That’s about 5 Everests. Let that sink in. In this year’s Tour de France, every rider that got to Paris Everested 5 fricking times over the 3 weeks. You wanna bicker the decimal points, go somewhere else. That is metric crap-tons of climbing.

Tim Declercq

Tim Declercq makes sure his teammate and owner of the Green sprinter's jersey Mark Cavendish makes it to the finish before the time cut in the mountainous ninth stage. Sirotti photo

We do get to go down. Descents are awesome. A bunch of us were right around 100 kph on the descent of the Tourmalet. Think of that next time you’re doing 100 KPH on the autoroute. A bunch of exhausted, hungry bike racers, balanced on about 4 square centimeters of Vittoria’s finest rubber were going that fast on 6.8 kg bicycles. That’s 15 pounds in the US. 2 gallon milk jugs of carbon fiber and titanium.

This year was hard, really hard, right from Day One. Look at the final GC. I finished last, 5 hours back, in 141st. I don’t feel bad, only two guys finished within ten minutes of Pogacar. How many started? That’d be 184 really fast, fit guys. About 25% of the guys who started, totally determined and focused guys, never made it to Paris. How many teams finished intact? Something like 4 or 5, right? It was brutal, every day, attacks flying right from the gun. You know those old videos where you see Stephen Roche and Laurent Fignon chatting and laughing in the peloton as the break motors away? Yeah, we don’t do that so much anymore, maybe a few minutes is all. The pressure is always on at the Tour.

Stage 15

Stage fifteen, again in the high mountains, this time in Andorra. Declercq and his teammates have pulled Mark Cavendish to the finish before the time cut. Declercq finished 145th, Cavendish was last at 147th. Sirotti photo

I heard our average speed was a little slower than in years past but that doesn’t mean dreck. I spent 3 weeks at the front and this Tour was fast. I know fast. Everyone knows I’m not a Ferrari. I’m a tractor, the 2021 Laterne Rouge, and darned proud of it.

*Tim Declerq did not write this piece, nor did I interview him. I did read the Ferrari quote in an interview with him from several years ago.


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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