This summer, I’m doing radio columns for Dutch Radio 1. This the latest one. Actually, you should listen to it HERE, even though it’s in Dutch, and read the English translation after – or alongside.
It was great to see the national TV broadcasted some Tour stages from start to finish this week. Normally, the viewers only tune in when the breakaway has been up the road for hours and has minutes on the peloton.
Finally you were able to see what goes on in the first hour when riders attack, fight and struggle to make it into the break. It’s not a case of eeny-meeny-miny-moe who gets to get away. Every rider who doesn’t have to work for their team leader wants to be in the break. This means a group just doesn’t ride away for nothing. It involves a serious battle.
I can tell you this: there is nothing more painful that riding every day untill you are completely empty and then start all over again the next day in a furious pace straight from the start. You are more than tempted to not even try and just hang out at the back of the bunch. But you also know that the reward for giving everything and suffering in the first hour, is worth it. If you’re lucky, your group gets the green light and forms the break of the day. That means a day of peace. Yes: a day of peace. And a chance for the day’s victory, but that is of later concern.
And so you tear apart your stiff legs in those first few kilometres. Your lungs burn. Your head bursts after another night of too little sleep because you were so tired that a peaceful rest was not in the cards. You swallow to get the pasta back down. And you look over your shoulder to see the peloton come. It failed. You get back on your saddle and try to find some courage to do it again. More screaming legs and muscles. Every fiber protests but your head is stronger. You don’t look back because you don’t want to see that peloton on your tail again. When you finally do look back you are stunned to see there is a gap. The peloton rides wide on the road 100 metres behind you. They let you and your group go.
Silence envelopes you.
The silence you have been longing for for days. After one and half week of Tour de France your head is full. Full with crashing carbon, clanking wheels, yelling and laughter of the men around you, honking motor bikes, speeding team cars who pass you by, a rainbow of colours in the ever moving mass of team jerseys, you hear your sports director in your ear, feel the sweaty bodies against you and smell the melting brake pads, tyres pop, carbon snaps, yelling, screaming, sirens, the public that goes mad, people all around you, people everywhere and still you need to stay focused and brake in time, or sprint, or crash with the raw wounds on your body in the ever faster moving peloton of riders.
In the breakaway you hear the wind in your ears.
Sometimes someone says something…
Or you hear your sports director ask you how it is going…
If you want something to eat or drink…
Furthermore you have peace. Yes, you do have to pedal, but in the breakaway it’s an even tempo. You don’t have to focus on anything else than the wheel in front of you, which is an automatic reflex, so you can dream away and let your over-sensitive nerves rest.
A day in the break: it is pure bliss.