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David & Aaron Stanley

2024 Tour de France at Week One:
Point - Counterpoint

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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

Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

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.

The premise of this post:

Polymath David Stanley and his son Aaron have sent their individual takes on the Tour de France's first week. Neither knew what the other wrote. Aaron's is posted below David's on this page.

David wrote:

You wanted a Tour with lots to love, lots of surprises, lots of excitement, right? Week One reminds us that no matter how convinced we are of the Tour’s outcome (I plead guilty to that one), the 176 men we call Les Forçats de la Route will surprise and please the hell out of us: Les Forçats de la Sofa.

A Bunch of Things that I Loved (in no particular order) This Past Week (and a couple that really frosted my cookies!).

1) Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty). I want to brag on this man from Eritrea. He was the first Black man, and the first Black African, to win a stage. He was also the first to wear the green jersey. He was the first man to win two stages in the 2024 Tour. Extraordinary, what this means. Several years ago, I co-authored a biography about a Black man named Willie Artis, born in the Jim Crow South in 1935, who rose to prominence as a wealthy industrialist and Black business counselor to President Obama. Willie told me stories about what it was like to be a Black kid in 1947 and watch Jackie Robinson break MLB’s color barrier. I can’t hope enough that a whole bunch of young boys and girls on the African continent see what Biniam is doing, and reach for his level of stardom.

I also see Girmay shifting from a wicked good sprinter into a classics rider a la Laurent Jalabert. He’s that talented, mais bien sûr.

Biniam Girmay wins stage three. ASO photo

2) Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) was the first Ecuadorian to take the maillot jaune. It was day of smart riding, grit, and some brio, eh?

Richard Carapaz in yellow after stage three. Sirotti photo

3) The first seven stages, we saw seven different winners. Never boring that way, d’accord?  

4) Romain Bardet (Team dsm–firmenich PostNL) is a brave and daring rider. An exceptional climber with a climber’s jersey in the 2019 TdF and two podium appearances, he is, much like Raymond Poulidor, beloved by his country’s fans. To see him take the first stage so bravely, in his last Tour de France (he’s announced he’s retiring next spring, most likely after Paris–Nice) made a fair few French unleash their optical waterworks.

And here's Romain Bardet in yellow after stage one. Sirotti photo

5) French rider Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa - B&B Hotels) won the day in Stage 2, making it back-to-back days with a French rider winning the stage. It’s not a rarity: French riders won back-to-back stages in the Tour de France in 2023 with a Stage 2 win by Victor Lafay followed by Julian Alaphilippe’s Stage 3 victory the next day. They also won back-to-back in 2020. On July 14th, Bastille Day, Nans Peters won Stage 8, followed by Julian Alaphilippe's victory on Stage 9 the next day. It is important to rejoice with the French. After all, it’s been 39 years since Bernard Hinault won the Tour in 1985.

Kévin Vauquelin wins stage two. ASO photo

6) The name is Remco. Remco Evenepoel. I ride for Soudal-QuickStep. That’s right: say my name. I am the world champion time trialist. I have won stages in all three Grand Tours by the age of 24. I am the greatest threat to the Tadej Pogačar/UAE TEAM Emirates hegemony in this year’s Tour de France. I shall gaze down upon you from the podium. From what step, it is still undetermined, for my two rivals are also strong and battle-tested. I shall fight with the wisdom and intensity of an indomitable warrior and we will see who stands alone on the podium’s top step. [DS: I may have gotten a little carried away there, but this is going to be an incredible battle.]

Remco Evenepoel on the second sector of graveled roads in stage nine. Sirotti photo

7) Primož Roglič (RedBull-Bora-Hansgrohe). The man is a very canny rider. There is only one way he can win and that is to play the long game. At 34, he cannot waste any energy. With three weeks of racing, you cannot burn a single extra match. Yet, he waits. He stays close. He stays upright. He needs to be a stoic, reserving his ki for that one telling moment, his dire opening into the maelstrom that are Tadej and Remco. Come week 3, he sees his chance, buries himself, opens a gap, and he just may find himself on the podium. 

Primož Roglič time trialing in stage seven. Sirotti photo

8) Tadej, Jonas, and Remco. In my preview, I made them the podium. I don’t see that changing. These three are truly generational talents. It has been many years since we have seen three riders so closely aligned with talent, discipline, and good sportsmanship. Did you see Remco and Tadej greet each other during the post-TT warm-down? Respect all the way round. Did you see Riis hugging it out with Indurain in 1996? Or Greg and Bernie in 1986? Yeah, me neither.

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9) Frosted cookies. A heads-up for riders in the Tour de France: while you are out of the race course, avoid all affectionate behavior. Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek) was fined 200 Swiss francs (231 American dollars) by the UCI after stopping to kiss his wife and son during the stage seven time trial of the Tour de France. Around the 15-minute mark of Friday's time trial, Bernard's wife and two-year-old son were on the road with other family members when he pulled over to greet them. The UCI didn't think that show of affection was cute, saying in a statement that Bernard's "unseemly or inappropriate behavior during the race and damage to the image of the sport." Bernard’s response to the Blazered idiocy of the UCI was pure and lovely: "Sorry, but what was that? I love you so much. I’m sorry UCI for damaging the image of the sport," Bernard said in a message posted on X. "But I’m willing to pay 200 Swiss francs every day and experience this moment again." Bernard finished the stage in 61st place, 3 minutes and 11 seconds behind Remco Evenepoel, the stage winner.

My message to the UCI: dear massive asshatted Blazers – instead of worrying about a team’s workhorse greeting his family in what for Bernard was a meaningless stage, how about you once again take action to ensure safe sprinting areas during the last 5 kilometers, adequate marking and warning about road dividers and traffic furniture and let’s ignore tall socks and families who might have this once in a lifetime opportunity to greet Dad/brother/hubs on the job. You want to talk about “unseemly behavior?” Take a look in your collective mirrors, UCI, and you’ll see the fountain of all sporting unseemly behavior. Okay, rant over.

10) Cav. Project 35, level achieved. Astana Qazaqstan Team came to this Tour, this season! with only one goal - Get Cav his 35th TdF stage win and forever see their name attached to the name of the greatest sprinter in Tour de France history. (No, he’s not the Greatest of ALL-TIME!, that’s still Eddy. Cav, and pretty much every single one of cycling’s cognoscenti acknowledge this gladly.)

Mark Cavendish wins stage five. Sirotti photo

His 35th win was a wild one. His lead-out man, Michael Morkov is the best in the business and got Cav into the madness. Along the way, Mads Pederson (Lidl-Trek) crashed at near 40 mph at the left side barricade. Axel Zingle (Cofidis), leading out teammate Bryan Coquard, bunny hopped right over Pedersen, saving the Dane a nice set of broken ribs and at 30 mph, had the presence to look around and see where his sprinter was. But wait, there’s more! As Cav coasted the last 2-3 bike lengths over the line, arms in the air, his chain (as often happens to Mark – I have this on good authority from famed cycling photog John Pierce) hopped right off the chainring. Yes, Cav finished the stage with both a win and an unrideable bike. A pro’s pro, bien sûr.

Mark Cavendish before starting stage six. Sirotti photo

Cav turned pro in 2004 for Team Sparkasse at age 23.  He broke out in 2008 with 4 Tour stage wins for T-Mobile. He’s won World Track championships. He’s won Classics and Monuments. He’s medaled in the Olympics, won the green jersey in the Tour, the points jersey in the Giro and 17 stages, the points jersey and 4 stages in the Vuelta. As Mark has often said, “I’m not just a sprinter. I’m a really good bike racer.”

Indeed, you are, Mr. Cavendish. Chapeau, and good luck in that final sprint in Nice. You and Biniam, head to head, for the ultimate stage sprint? Yes, please.

Note: I wrote the above the evening of July 6. By noon, July 7, some things happened:

Stage 9. Sunday’s stage 9 was the single best day of road racing in 2024. Not “in the Tour so far,” but all year, from the January startup races until today, July 7. It was truly a battle royale. We use that phrase a lot but few know what a true battle royale is. In the teens and the Roaring 20s, boxing promoters would hire a dozen or more boxers, throw them all into the ring simultaneously, hoist a big bag of money over the boxing ring, and then ring the bell to start the madness. It was every man for himself, attacks came from behind, beside, and everywhere else. You might be trading blows with a guy, and someone would creep up beside you and clobber the side of your head. You fought until you got knocked out, and then, they’d drag you out of the ring. The last man standing would stumble out of the ring with a bag of money, all the change that spectators ringside would toss into the ring, and all the brain damage he could carry.

Michael Matthews on one of the graveled sectors of stage nine. Sirotti photo

That was today’s stage. 14 sectors of gravel which totaled around 32 km. More importantly for the fans, we got to watch TWO battles royale: the group up front from which Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergie) took the win, and the GC group, who are racing for the Big Win in Nice. Kudos to Primoz, who was in a battle for his GC life all day, and never blinked, and Tadej, who was willing to lose today in order to attack, attack, attack to earn a few more minutes over Remco and Jonas.
Today, the entire peloton showed they have earned tomorrow’s rest day. Me? I felt like I needed a shower after watching the stage.

Anthony Turgis wins stage nine. Sirotti photo

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Aaron wrote:

Week 1 of the 2024 Tour de France was a scriptwriter’s dream. A long-suffering contender gets his day in the maillot jaune; a young star catapults himself to the top; one of the all-time greats breaks a historic record—try to make a movie out of this week and Hollywood might tell you that your story is too unbelievable. And yet believable it must be, writ large in full color before our eyes. Here’s a look back at some of the best parts of the first week of the 111th grande boucle.

Romain Bardet gets his day in the limelight
It was a sure thing that Bardet would seek glory this year after announcing it would be his final Tour. Though it seemed more likely that he would wait for the mountains before attempting to take a stage victory, stage 1 offered an enticing array of climbs straight out of the gate in Florence, and DSM took full advantage, as Bardet and Frank van den Broek struck out on a nearly 50 kilometer adventure together, culminating with the two crossing the finish line mere meters ahead of the charging peloton. For Bardet, this meant putting on the sacred yellow jersey for the first time in a career that has spanned over a decade of competition at his home country’s most famous race, one where he came ever so close, year after year, to achieving one of the ultimate goals in the sport.

Teammates Romain Bardet and Frank Van den Broek take stage one. ASO photo

It was pure joy for him and for his supporters, as his ‘ultimate dream’ was finally brought to reality. Though he will not ever win a Tour, he will leave an indelible mark on the race, winning multiple stages, finishing on the podium twice, and with 6 top-10 finishes to his name. Bardet’s name will be etched among a pantheon of French greats when all is said and done in his career.

Girmay’s ascension
Before 2024, the only African country to produce a Tour de France stage winner was South Africa. That all changed on stage 3, as Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay—brought to the Tour ostensibly as a leadout man for Gerben Thijssen—charged to the win. It was the first win for a black African cyclist in the Tour de France, two years after he accomplished the same feat in the Giro d’Italia, and was achieved at the fore of a veritable who’s-who of sprinters in this year’s competition. In winning two of the first 9 stages, Girmay was incredibly impressive in every regard and his potential seems nearly limitless as he has a solid Intermarche-Wanty roster around him, a nose for choosing the right line, and is even able to compete on classics-style stages as evidenced by his 10th place finish on stage 9 on the gravel.

Biniam Girmay wins stage eight. Sirotti photo

It is exciting to watch him race, and he represents the growth of African cycling in exemplary fashion—witness the videos of excited fans in his hometown of Asamara for an idea of the love that his country has for him. His hold on the green jersey is, at the moment, quite firm, and if he can hang on through the next two weeks and wear green into Nice? What an incredible result it would be!

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Abrahamsen the Unrelenting
There are years where the supercombatif prize seems like something of an afterthought, handed out to one of a handful of riders who’ve exhibited some amount of aggression or other in joining breakaways and chasing stage wins. Through the first week this year, though, Jonas Abrahamsen has put his stamp on the combativity competition in a manner rarely seen before. By now the story of how he put on 20kg to switch from a true climber to a rouleur is well known, and he has put the additional power to incredible use this year, spending hundreds of kilometers out in breakaways and maintaining an early advantage in the polka dot jersey standings for good measure. Abrahamsen has been easily the most exciting rider to watch on multiple stages so far, with a presence in the breakaway day in and day out that makes one wonder if he even has to spend a moment thinking about whether to attack the peloton or if the attacks just happen on their own. Abrahamsen displays pure ciclismo, and it’s a joy to watch.

Jonas Abrahamsen in the climber's polka-dots before the start of stage eight. Sirotti photo

Cavendish and the magic of #35
Mark Cavendish and Astana Qazakstan came into this year’s Tour for one reason and one reason only: to seek his 35th stage win to set the all-time record. In stage 5, it happened. In winning in Saint-Vulbas, Cav displayed all of the skills that have become his hallmark over his years in the peloton: his team brought him to the front, he found the exact right wheel to follow and chose the right line in the final meters before exploding with an age-defying acceleration to defeat Jasper Philipsen at the line. If this was to be the final stage he’ll ever win, it made for a perfect encapsulation of what has made him the most successful sprinter the Tour has ever seen, and the amount of congratulations and goodwill that poured forth from around the cycling world in the wake of his victory showed how much respect and adoration the Manx Missile has earned in his career.

Cavendish's clean stage five win. ASO photo

The Four Bikesmen of the GCpocalypse
Pogacar. Vingegaard. Roglic. Evenepoel. For the first time, these four arrive at a Grand Tour to compete against one another, and while they came into the Tour in varying levels of form and fitness, they have dispelled any concerns by separating themselves from the pack, holding the four top spots on GC and looking unlikely to give them up. Any concerns over Vingegaard’s fitness were allayed in stage 2, when Pogacar put a brutal attack in on the last ascent of San Luca and Vingegaard held his wheel the entire way. Though Pogacar would go on to solo to victory on stage 4 after an intense pair of attacks at the top of the Galibier, his three primary rivals came together on the descent and limited their losses, while Evenepoel gained ground on all three of the others on stage 7’s individual time trial. The most exciting moments on GC are yet to come in this race, but if the first week of riding is any indication, these four great champions will remain the ones to watch as the Tour wends its way toward its crescendo in week 3.

Jonas Vingegaard riding stage nine. What is he really capable of doing in this Tour? Sirotti photo

Gravel, Dust, and Drama
Riders and fans alike had stage 9 circled on their calendar, with its 14 sections of gravel roads sure to create high drama, and it absolutely delivered. Attack after attack came throughout the stage’s 199km; between the early breakaway, the chasing attacks, or even the top 4 members of the overall standings driven by Pogacar heading out on a blistering offensive together, this stage featured nonstop excitement. When the proverbial dust finally settled at end of the day, it was Anthony Turgis atop the podium as the stage victor, and while there were no major changes on the GC, the stage succeeded in flying colors in showing the world why the Tour needs to continue putting together profiles like it.

Anthony Turgis after winning stage nine. Sirotti photo

With 9 days of utterly gripping racing in the books, the peloton receives a welcome rest day in Orleans before embarking on week 2, a gradually ramping set of stages culminating with two high mountain endeavors that may prove decisive: the back-to-back mountaintop finishes at Pla d’Adet and the Plateau de Beille on Saturday and Sunday. There are opportunities for all types of racers in stages 10 through 15, and the stage is set for another tumultuous six days of racing to come!

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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