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Thoughts on LeTour 2020

By Larry Theobald

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Larry Theobald of CycleItalia gives his toughts on the 2020 Tour de France

September 21, 2020

Great tour, no? Guy with practically no team takes on a juggernaut of the sport, going into the final time trial 50-something seconds behind the leader. Nobody gives him much of a chance to make up this kind of gap unless the leader suffers a massive meltdown. The challenger races with his heart rather than information provided by technology or outside assistance. He produces the race of his life while his rival falters. He wins the Tour de France in the process.

Great tour, no? That one was in 1989 with just an 8-second gap separating Greg LeMond from Laurent Fignon on the final podium. While 2020’s gap was considerably larger, the result was just as shocking and for me, just as uplifting.

Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon

Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon finish the 1989 Tour de France stage 19. Sirotti photo.

Fans of the British team that had so dominated LeTour in recent years seemed to take a bit of comfort in the fact that while their team was out of contention, the Jumbo-Visma team of the leader was very much in the mold of what I like to call the “Can’t beat ‘em? Buy ‘em!” strategy. The challenger meanwhile had lost the two men planned to be his helpers on the climbs when Fabio Aru went out of the race and Davide Formolo crashed out, leaving a team that wasn’t much more help than LeMond’s low-budget, in-at-the-last-minute ADR squad in 1989. While the budgets of Jumbo and UAE might be similar, nobody would compare Pogacar’s UAE squad favorably with Roglic’s Jumbo team. One could say the same about Super-U vs ADR back in 1989.

To me 2020’s Tour seemed more human somehow than recent editions, even before the dramatic finale. Perhaps it was that the Jumbo-Visma team failed to snuff out so many attacks in the mode of SKY/INEOS, something that Eddy Merckx has blamed for their ultimate failure to win.  Yours truly (just as he’d done in 1989) assumed there would be no change in the Tour’s top 3 places after Saturday, the time gaps were just too large barring any disastrous meltdowns, mechanical failures or crashes.

Just like in 1989 I was wrong and happily so.

LeTour 2020 also provided more interest for me than usual, thanks to the battle for the green jersey. The competition between the teams of Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett reminded me of the old Panasonic-Quantum rivalry from back-in-the-day.

Sam Bennet and Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan, Sam Bennett and Mads Pedersen duke it out in the 2020 Tour's final stage. Sirotti photo

So on Saturday afternoon as I tuned in for the penultimate stage I was already happy with LeTour 2020: more human, less domination by a single team and perhaps most of all, the simple fact that it looked like they’d make it to Paris despite France’ skyrocketing Covid-19 infection rates. When a barely 21 year-old kid left the start house and produced the race of his life I was cheering. My guess is Greg LeMond was as well?

Tadej Pogacar

Tour winner Tadej Pogacar delivers a surprise in the stage 20 time trial. Sirotti photo

Vive LeTour! But please, please, please get a new TV director. Even the commentators on Italian Eurosport complained about the overly long scenery shots with this director either cutting away from or missing almost entirely way too many critical moments in the race. LeTour deserves better.

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