On a favourably rolling road with every rider in top gear, they might hit 50mph. That’s more incredible to me than seeing riders hurtling down a descent, because the riders are pedalling their bikes at that speed, and every rider is intent on staying on the wheel.
That was on the Stage 18 when the sprint teams were winding it up. Démare finally got his stage win, which was a relief to my L’Equipe friends.
The next day, stage 19, was the final mountain showdown in the Pyrenees over 200km including the Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque. Following, and sometimes riding alongside the TV bike with the lead group, we could see every attack. I was willing on Geraint as we got as close as possible to show the group riding under Basque flags and mostly supportive fans.
We are the only stills bike allowed to follow TV on the descents. The regulator holds back the others about 100 metres further back.
We hit 60mph coming down the Tourmalet. I know this side well as I have cycled up it myself. It is a fast flowing descent after the hairpins at the top, but it was bumpy and I was ready for a rider to crash in a straight line reminiscent of Jens Voigt sickening accident a few years back.
There’s a big difference between a group riding fast down a descent and one that is racing down it. On Friday every rider in the lead group had something to gain either by a rival crashing out, being dropped or by forcing a split.
Thomas, Dumoulin, Roglič, Froome and the others piled into those last two downhills with seconds to gain, and everything to lose on a bend or a bump.
On the final climb of the 2018 race, the Aubisque, we rode into high cloud then plummeted from it as fast as any descent had been tackled in the whole race. I was on my limit trying to keep up with the TV bike.
And when Zakarin was dropped, I had a few anxious moments trying to time a pass on him and Kruiswijk.
Modern Tours pack the action into the final week and Friday’s stage was as thrilling as any with fabulous views from each summit pass. It’s been a privilege to be present at some of the key moments of this year’s Tour and for a cyclist who remembers when a single Brit rider in the Tour was something to celebrate, this win by G just continues an astonishing era for GB cycling.
Luke Edwardes-Evans is working as a motorcycle rider with a team of photographers from L’Equipe, the French daily sports paper, in this year’s Tour de France.