After three weeks of dominating the lives of riders and fans alike, the period immediately following the Tour can require some readjustment.
Maybe you’re relieved to have got your afternoons or evenings back and are just looking forward to going on holiday. Or perhaps you’re left with a big hole in your life which you’d got used to cycling occupying. Nevermind. While some think the season stops at the Tour, it pretty clearly doesn’t.
Post Tour criteriums and celebrity appearances
The provincial town-centre circuit races that take place in the weeks immediately following the Tour are not quite as essential to the household income of your average Tour rider as they once used to be. In the 80s, riders would tackle back-to-back days of racing with long overnight drives, car pooling and chip tray dinners in an attempt to make maximum profit from appearance fees that substantially supplemented what were then relatively unspectacular salaries. Amphetamines helped them through it.
Times have changed and a popular rider can likely make as much money stamping a particular hashtag on a barbecue Instagram post as they can haring around some Dutch road furniture wearing last week’s jersey. Still, with thousands to be made from each appearance, a rider may yet find time to do the odd crit between more modern and corporate celebrity appearances. Peter Sagan and Geraint Thomas have already been at it. And it’s all chamois time, innit. As if such a thing was needed after three weeks of undercarriage abuse.
While the post Tour crits are as unsubtlety scripted as all those funeral plan adverts you’ve been watching on ITV4, August does have some real racing going on. Sure, the stakes feel incredibly low after seeing riders battle for Tour stages, but San Sebastian (August 4) remains a bona fide Classic, the Tour of Poland (August 4-10) is actually a pretty good race and last year we went to the trouble of presenting the Artic Race of Norway as the most beautiful event on the pro calendar.
After La Course and Ride London, Scandinavia is also the location for the continuation of the Women’s WorldTour with a team time trial (August 11) and one day road race (August 13) in Vårgårda, Sweden before the Ladies Tour of Norway (August 16-19) across the border.
Along with the often enjoyable Binck Bank Tour (August 13-19) and Cyclassics Hamburg (August 19) – which it is harder to get excited about – the above races plug the three and a half week gap between the Tour and Vuelta a Espana (August 25-September 16). That is just about long enough for anyone who was flying at the Tour to have lost all motivation and put on a load of pounds while basking in their glory.
It’s also enough of a reflection period for the Tour’s underachievers to accept that they won’t be permitted to wriggle out of the rest of the season and they’ll somehow find the reset button for their condition. The form book, as such, has been ripped up.
Thus, keen on silly steep finishes and without quite the same boiling-pot intensity as the Tour, the Vuelta nearly always makes for a good spectacle. Coverage and interest remain high, but it won’t suffocate the rest of an observer’s day quite like the hype of the Tour can.
The race begins in Malaga with a 8km time-trial, then plants its sawtooth profile stages in a kind of reversed Z shape across Spain, chucking in a couple of long transfers for good measure.
It’s August now which means it open season for rumour, innuendo, denial and the odd staid announcement about who will be riding where next season. Will Geraint Thomas sign yet again with Sky? Will Movistar add another Tour contender to their roster? Which highly unlikely candidate will move to Quick Step yet make every success of it?
The news pages will be in frenzy over who was seen holding hands with who. And every story will tell you that the signing that’s just been confirmed was the worst kept secret of the year. What will have been the best kept secret though?
This month is also silly season in the world of news media. And not a bad time for a scandal in cycling either. Did someone get popped at the Tour? Did two riders fall out over who was working for who? Which rider is now in a massive huff about their non-selection and wants out of their team despite having only re-signed last year?
The Tour is over. For long enough they’ve kept things dignified for the sake of their team. Some team, eh? And the journalist was digging for a story in the post-Tour lull. Whoops, that’s it. The dirty laundry is out. And the newspaper has only gone and stuck it on the front page.