It's the big one! With the Grand Départ in Nice under 24 hours away, we chat again to cycling legend Sean Kelly about the biggest annual sporting event in the world. By both competing in and commentating on this most iconic of races, Sean gives a unique and fascinating insight into the tour and looks backs fondly on his success in the points classification, proving his efficient and consistent execution in approaching the race. We will continue to get updates from Sean throughout the tour, shedding insight into proceedings as Sean follows the action closely with his commentating duties.
"During my career, I was fortunate enough to win the Green points classification jersey on four different occasions, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1989. Whilst I had four top-ten finishes in the overall General Classification I only managed a single day in yellow in 1983. That jersey would have been a nice souvenir but unfortunately was stolen from my car outside the hotel n Paris, never to be seen again. If anyone ever comes across a slightly faded yellow jersey in a backstreet Parisian cafe or anywhere else feel free to give me a shout."
"The first question regarding this year's Tour de France, even this close to the start date, is will the race go ahead? And if it does will it be able to continue all the way to Paris? It is on my mind and you can be sure that whilst all teams and riders are preparing to race full-on for 3 weeks they too are also wondering what the next few weeks will be like.
What will happen if one or two teams have a case of covid19 within the team or its staff? Will start/finish towns want the race to visit them? We already saw in Italy how some towns definitely did not want Milan San Remo to even pass through their areas. If there are scenes of hundreds or perhaps thousands of spectators gathered on a mountainside what will be the reaction of the French Government?"
"Aside from these questions and many more, the race itself is very hard to predict. Even looking back at last year we had two big important mountain days at the end of the race which were cut short. There wasn’t much fuss at the time but it would have been a much different race. Thomas also could possibly have gained time and the final result could well have been different INEOS rider on the top of the podium in Paris. As it was, because they were both from the same team the media didn’t focus too much on the possibilities. If Thibaut Pinot also, had not been injured it could well have been a completely different race on those two vital stages."
"Roglic crashed out of the Dauphine but I feel that the team was looking for an excuse to pull him from the race once, especially when Bernal had already gone. Bernal sighted back pain which he may have had but you can be sure that if he had the same pain during the Tour itself he would not have abandoned. INEOS was focusing on the big goal and rightly so.
Once Bernal left the race and with Roglic going so well Jumbo Visma would have been considering the difference between a well-rested and recovered Bernal and the extra fatigue Roglic might experience racing hard for the extra day of an extremely difficult race. They would not have wanted his crash to happen but as soon as it did they had the perfect excuse to pull him from the race, which they did. Without it, as he was leading the General Classification it would have looked too disrespectful to the race to withdraw him."
"Who will win? That is very difficult to predict this year. As there has been so little racing up to now riders endurance levels will differ more than before. My choice, if I had to take a guess for overall victory, would be Bernal. Last year he went into the race in a totally different position not being the team leader. This year he is the sole leader of INEOS Grenadiers, the team expected to win the Tour and the defending champion which changes things a lot. It will be interesting to see how well he reacts to the added pressure."
Next time we talk tactics. Sean will look back at key results for him at the tour and how this year's race is panning out with an update on proceedings and predictions.