It is the race in the race, that of galley bitumen, scattered as and for miles and must tear to reach the finish in the time allowed. A story of sick guys, tired, tired of legs. Some crack, others do not. On Saturday, the Tour de France linked Mâcon to Saint-Etienne via the Beaujolais and Lyonnais mountains. Not the high mountain, but a winding course, bristling with seven ribs ungrateful bitumen and with a total elevation gain of nearly 4,000 meters.
Release followed this eighth stage in the broom car of the Tour, the last vehicle of a procession starting with those of the advertising caravan. On board, a duo composed of Stéphane Bezault, the pilot, and Patrice Pion, commissioner responsible for accompanying the last rider on the road and to control the possible spoofs (even cheating) of each other to go faster. On the peloton side, the protagonists are Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), forced to retire mid-race, and Yoann Offredo, "red lantern" in the general classification, but arrived in time at Saint-Etienne at the price of an exhausting rally.
12:24, kilometer 0 The peloton, made up of 173 men after the withdrawal of the American Tejay Van Garderen, starts from the city center of Mâcon. The first kilometers are disputed through vineyards: Juliénas, Morgon, Brouilly, the layout tempts the taste buds. Radio Tour announces the first movements at the head of the race, where a breakaway of four men is emerging quickly. For the moment, a relative calm reigns, just troubled by these few signs spotted here and there: "Long live the Picards", "Yellow Vests Popular Strength", or "Where is Steve?", allusion to the young man disappeared the night of the Festival of Music in Nantes. A few miles away, a man, naked ass under his apron, trying to attract attention, just like a woman lifting her t-shirt.
Kilometer 25. On the radio, the voice of Sébastien Piquet releases the names of the first two riders in difficulty: Christophe Laporte and Yoann Offredo. The day promises to be more hectic than the day before, arriving in Chalon-sur-Saone. Stéphane Bezault, a heating technician in "normal" life, makes his third Tour at the controls of the "broom": "It is more and more rare that I recover runners after their abandonment. Often they get into the car of their sports director. But last year, during the stage of Alpe d'Huez, I embarked Fernando Gaviria, Andre Greipel, Dylan Groenewegen. All of a sudden, they covered and boarded. They were kidding, the atmosphere was good-natured. " His craziest moment, he lived on Paris-Roubaix 2018, when he traveled for miles with the Lithuanian Siskevicius, so far from the race leader.
Patrice Pion, a salaried worker for a waste disposal network in the Chambéry region, laid all his paid holidays to be the watchman, assisted by thirteen other commissioners, including a video agent. Two days ago, on his way to the board of Les Belles Daughters, he witnessed the abandonment of the Frenchman Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), sick. "It's not pity, but when you see a runner crying because he has to leave the Tour, it's something. In our position, we only see guys who are not good. "
Kilometer 55. The broom car catches up Yoann Offredo in the descent of the Montmain Cross Pass. The 32-year-old Wanty-Groupe Gobert has to change his bike and is alone. He's already trying to play with the rules. Stuck in the trunk of the car of his team, thus benefiting from the aspiration, here he is driving at a very fast pace. Very quickly, Patrice Pion draws his whistle and plays the Fathers Whip: "It's not possible !" Turned towards the window, Offredo tries to negotiate: "Let me at least get back on Laporte, you're not going to piss me off for that while I hit a 200-yard breakaway yesterday!" End of Pion's refusal, which explains: "It's part of our job to call them to order. Why would we let him do it while the others are pedaling? The rest of the runners would not understand that someone is allowed to go up for eight terminals hanging on a car. Indulgence, we can have when we know that the guy will give up whatever happens. "
Kilometer 59. Offredo returns to Christophe Laporte. "Well, we'll have them for the day", slips Bezault.
Kilometer 70, in the ascent of the second difficulty of the day, the pass of the Cross of Thel. On the radio sizzles a call to the attention of the commissioners: "We pay attention, there are sprinters at the back." Understood, the arrival cars are starting to galore, and some smart guys might be tempted to spin. A litany of names sings: Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Giacomo Nizzolo (Dimension Data), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma). These intercalated riders will remain under the supervision of the motorcycle stewards.
According to the duo Bezault-Pion, cheating has decreased in recent years, especially with video control (nine cameras available) and spectators who are quick to post pictures of potential fraudsters on social networks. Several techniques exist: to hang on to a door, to hold for a long time the can that his sport director (the famous can-glue) tends, to place himself in the wake of a car or motorbike to benefit from the aspiration, etc. . At the top, Laporte is now alone last, more than thirteen minutes forward. The buzz of helicopters following the race leader is becoming more and more discreet.
84 kilometer. In the Pass de la Croix Paquet, a badly maintained tongue of bitumen makes big eyes. Laporte dodeline of the head, zigzags from right to left, without a glance for the two missionaries of the Jehovah's witnesses installed there, in search of lost sheep.
Kilometer 89. It's time for supplies in Tarare, a village 110 kilometers from the finish. Laporte's delay is eighteen minutes. The sprinter of Cofidis seeks shaded portions and tries to stretch calves that can be seen paralyzed. Patrice Pion approaches the car of his sports director: "The delay will be about forty minutes." Subtitle: better not to hang around to avoid the exclusion.
Kilometer 110. After a few hectometres without pedaling and a discussion with his staff, Christophe Laporte ends up stopping on the edge of the road. No spectators around. Its sports director makes the sign of a cross with both hands, a sign of abandonment. "It's empty"said the race doctor, who came to inquire about the 26-year-old's health. The broomstick goes off again. We must catch up with the new race line, which is several kilometers ahead. We inquire about the position of Yoann Offredo. "If the stewards do not control him, he will go back on the pack, it's clear", loose Pawn. A few minutes later, on the radio, a voice announces that the Frenchman has just caught up with the line of cars of the sports directors located behind the pack after a "Super descent". At the wheel of the broom, Stéphane Bezault tries to make his way through a compact crowd on the summit of the coast and to follow the biker of the Republican Guard who opens the way for him.
Kilometer 148. Back to Offredo, now accompanied by Dane Lars Bak (Dimension Data). There is about fifty kilometers of race and Patrice Pion tries to calculate the maximum allowed time to reach the finish after the winner, calculation depending on a difficulty coefficient assigned to the stage and the average speed of the winner. To the sports directors who come to inquire, he plays it cautiously: "It's going to be around thirty minutes, do not hang around." In fact, the deadlines will be around forty-five minutes.
Kilometer 170. The end is cotton. On one of the innumerable portions in false flat amount, Offredo is let down to the broom-wagon and tries his luck with the commissioner: "Why do not you let us put a little behind the car (of his team, to benefit from the aspiration, note)We have the wind on our faces … I've been sick all night and Lars too. " Pion: "You know we can not … Do not be stupid, it'll be okay." Offredo, insisting: "Why do not you stop pissing? That way you'll see nothing! " Blank, he goes back to the front.
Kilometer 180. There are twenty more points to go when the radio announces the victory of Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and the successful coup de force of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), who recovers the yellow jersey. As we get closer to the line, the calls from the arrival are more urgent. "We just passed the four-kilometer banner", tries to reassure Bezault one last time. Because as long as the last ones have not arrived, the organization can not begin the dismantling of the installations of the final.
Kilometer 199. After a last raid in the suburbs of Saint-Etienne, the laggard duo sees the red flame of the last kilometer. "Go Yo!", Bezault encourages. The Frenchman has been taking most of the relays for several minutes. Lars Bak tapped him on the shoulder as a sign of thanks. End of the stage, completed at 29 minutes and 44 seconds of the winner.
6:10 pm, bus of the Wanty-Groupe Gobert team. Twenty minutes after his arrival, Offredo comes to tell his day in the back. "I was sick all night and I was in the hard from the fictional (the procession in the city-departure, before the real kick-off of the stage, note). I quickly found myself isolated. I recovered Christophe Laporte, but it was empty. In those moments, you cogitate a lot. Something in you tells you to stop, but at the same time people are encouraging you a lot. I should not say it, but a guy pushed me for at least 700 meters, while I was stuck on the slope. I gave him a can to thank him, then he pushed me back on 700 meters, so I gave him one again. So, I had more can! The Tour can abandon me, but I will not give up the Tour. "
Sylvain Mouillard In the car-broom between Mâcon and Saint-Etienne
(tagsToTranslate) Christophe Laporte (t) Yoann Offredo (t) Broomwagon (t) Cofidis (t) Tour de France (t) Bitumen (t) Saint-Etienne (t) Lotto-Soudal (t) Red Lantern (t) ) France (t) Du Balai! (T) Sports Director (t) Wanty-Groupe Gobert (t) MTN-Qhubeka (t) Dylan Groenewegen (t) Mâcon (t) Lars Ytting Bak (t) Sheep (t) Doctor (t) t) Galères (t) Morgon (t) Montmain (t) Beaujolais (t) Thel (t) Brouilly (t) Caleb Ewan (t) Social networks (t) Liberation (t) Lithuanian (t) Litany (t) Lyon (t) summer)