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David L. Stanley

2023 Tour de France After Week One:
A Look at the American Riders

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo,, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Story of the Tour de France and Cycling Heroes.

David L. Stanley

David L. Stanley's masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

David L. Stanley writes:

Bicycle racing has deep roots in America. At the turn of 20th century, cycling was one of the top spectator sports in the USA. Racing on the velodromes, the US produced many of the finest track riders in the world. Arthur Zimmerman, Zimmy as he was called in the press of time, was the world’s first pro sprint champion in 1893. Frank Kramer won 16 consecutive national championships from 1901 to 1916 and the UCI world sprint championships in Newark in 1912. Major Taylor won the 1-mile sprint event at the 1899 world track championships to become the first African-American to win a world championship. Taylor was the second Black athlete to win a world championship in any sport, as Canadian boxer George Dixon, 1890, was the first.

Major Taylor

We invented the 6-day race. It is called “The Madison” because the races found popularity in Madison Square Garden in the late 1890s. While originally a 1-man 24 hr/6 day hellish nightmare of a spectacle, the two-man team races saw the popularity of the Madison skyrocket as fans flocked to the tracks for the high speeds, the crashes, and the gambling. It was “The Scene to be Seen” through the Roaring ’20s. It is so identified with the USA that in France, the race is called l'américaine.

Yet, while we were going crazy for riders like Goullet and DeBaets and Walthour, Europe was entranced by the road cycling scene. Riders like Thys, Garrigou, and Magne dominated the headlines. Road racing would not see an American enter the Tour de France until Jonathan Boyer made the Renault-ELF team in 1981. 7-11 was the first US-based team to ride the Tour de France in 1986. Of course, the only US man to win the Tour is Greg LeMond in 1986, ’89, and ’90.

Map of 2023 Tour de France

Let’s talk about this Tour: no Grand Boucle at all, but instead a mad dash across all five of France’s mountain ranges; from Bilbao to Le Markstein and home to Paris. The US-bred riders number six in this Tour. That’s just one fewer than Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. Yes, Italy, the land of Forza Italia! has just seven riders spread across the 22 teams of eight riders each in this year’s Tour. You might also find it interesting to know that Norway(8), Denmark(11), and Australia(12) all sport more riders in the Tour than Italy.

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You make a Tour team, you are one of the very best bike racers in the world. If there are only 176 spots available, you rate. Let’s rate our six lads to date (in alphabetical order).

Lawson Craddock (Team Jayco AlUla). 83rd place @ 1:21:58. Lawson is a worker on Team Jayco. The Aussie squad has one of world’s top sprinters in Dylan Groenewegen and part of Lawson’s job is as a member of the sprint train to set DG up for his best finish. So far, Dylan has snagged a 4th, 5th, and 8th, so Lawson is earning his keep. In the mountains, Lawson often sets the early pace for ace climber Simon Yates. You might remember that breathtaking moment when Simon and his brother Adam went 2nd and 1st on stage one. Lawson did a lot of the early work that paved the way for that noteworthy 1-2. Lawson is writing a fun blog for Velo. Here’s a snippet from it as he talks about his love for the Basque country:

“I had a fun moment in the team presentation in Bilbao. There’s this Basque cry or call, and it’s called irrintzi. I learned it from my previous team director Juanma Garate. I love the people and love the culture here, and I did it when I went out on the team presentation and it seemed pretty popular with the fans. It’s another way to show my appreciation for the Basque culture and all their support for us.”  

Click here (Lawson’s cry) for Lawson’s irrintzi. Caution, it definitely can be heard across the Pyrenees.

Lawson Craddock racing the 2021 World Time Trial Championships. Sirotti photo

Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar). 40th place @ 47:04. I write this several hours after Sunday’s stage on Puy de Dôme. I’m still feeling crushed for Matteo. To be caught just 400 meters from the line, even by a rider as worthy as Rusty Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) is gut-wrenching.

Did you know that Matteo was stung by a bee under his helmet as the peloton rolled towards the Puy?

Matteo Jorgenson finishing fourth atop Puy de Dôme. Sirotti photo

Matteo has targeted this stage since the route was announced. He recco’ed it right after the Dauphine. The official Strava data for the climb: 12.37 KM in length. 955 meters gained at an average grade of 7.7%. A starting elevation of 456 meters and its highest point at 1,411 meters.

Who holds the Strava KOM for this brute? Why, yes, that would be Mr. Jorgenson with an average speed of 18.5 km/hr. 377 watts! His time? 40:09. His VAM? 1427.
What is VAM, you may ask yourself. Let’s let Dr. Michele Ferrari, who coined the term, explain:“I call this parameter Average Ascent Speed (‘VAM’ in its Italian abbreviation from Velocità Ascensionale Media).”

Another way to grasp the idea is Vertical Meters Ascended per Hour. A VAM of 1427 puts you in with the very best climbers on a Tour mountain stage.

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If there is an upside to a rider leaving the Tour, with the retirement due to crash of Movistar’s team leader, the potential podium finisher Enric Mas, it is that Matteo Jorgenson is a free man. Free to chase every mountain stage he wishes. When Matteo wakes up in the morning and sees a beast in the mirror, he is free to go on the attack for the win. There are plenty of mountains yet to climb.

Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma). 9th place @ 6:45. The man is a climbing god. It cannot be said strongly enough; without Sepp at his side last year, Jonas does not win the 2022 Tour de France. The odds are also overwhelming that if Sepp has a bad day, Jonas will have a very tough time defending the attacks from Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates squad. Yes, there are other superb climbers on J-V, but when it comes down to the last four or five guys in the GC group on the day’s last climb, it is Kuss that Vingegaard relies upon.

Sepp Kuss finishes 2023 Giro d'Italia stage 16. Sirotti photo

In Sunday’s Puy de Dome stage, Kuss was right there until Vingegaard had to respond solo to a Pogacar attack. He ended up 1:17 behind his captain, 20th place on the stage, and in the company of Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla), Tom Pidcock and Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos-GREN), Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), and Giro d’Italia winner and stage five Tour winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe).

This year’s Tour has had the most brutal start in modern history. Sepp sits in 9th place on GC. Should he ride at the shoulder of Jonas as we head into the mountain stages ahead, and rides the last two weeks with his usual aplomb, nobody should be surprised to see Kuss ride himself into the top five. Hell, why not onto the podium?

Neilson Powless (EF-EasyPost). 36th place @ 40:50. The list of US men who have worn the polka dots is very short. Greg LeMond, 1986. Tejay van Garderen, 2011. Nate Brown, 2017. Taylor Phinney, 2017. With an intelligent ride to date, that list now includes that stellar performer, Neilson Powless of Roseville, CA. He grabbed the early points, he took an easy day off and lost the jersey, only to regain it with a robust performance on the very next day. In fact, Neilson so loves the maillot à pois rouges, he has worn it every day but one to date. Looking ahead, he climbs so well, and with such intelligence, he may well be on the podium in Paris in polka dots. I am excited to see an American in Paris (on the podium).

Neilson Powless after stage eight. Sirotti photo

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Quinn Simmons (Lidl-Trek). 160th place @ 1:46:24. Retired before stage 9. Simmons is a tough, tough guy. Like most bike racers after a crash, he got back on the bike after a violently ruinous accident on stage 5. By the time he had ridden from Pau to Lauruns, he was about ½ team kit and about ½ Simmons’ shredded skin.

A bandaged Quinn Simmons racing in stage six. Sirotti photo

Crashing is miserable. The loss of skin feels like your skin has been burned off with a blowtorch. The impact of body on tarmac at 50 kph feels like you’ve been beaten with a baseball bat. It’s not like it goes away anytime soon. If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know how stiff you are. Now, the next day, get on your bike at race for 150-200 km. That’s stage 6. And 7. And 8. Ask any experienced racer how Simmons managed to race 500 km in that condition and they’ll say, “Because it’s the Tour and Simmons is one tough hombre.”

Kevin Vermaerke (DSM-Firmenich). 96th place @ 1:33:11. Since the team lacks a true GC contender—team captain Romain Bardet will seek his stage win in the mountains—the 22-year-old from Thousand Oaks, CA will continue to look for early moves where he can drop back to assist Bardet in the mountains. A young guy, this is his 2nd Tour. He crashed out last year, and the big wish for Kevin is to see him on the Champs-Élysées.

Did you notice that on Sunday’s killer stage up to the peak of UNESCO Heritage Site on the Puy de Dome, two US riders were in the top six? That’d be Matteo Jorgenson with a 4th place and Neilson Powless in 6th, just 1:23 behind stage winner Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech). Did you also notice that Woodsy is from Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from the USA? You did? Good.

On the Twitter run-up to the Tour (I’m @Dstan58), I said often that this would be the most engaging, enthralling Tour de France since 1986. So far, so good!

Vive la France! Vive le Tour! Vive les U-S-A!

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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