As we approach the end of the second week of The Tour de France and head into the third, what a whirlwind of action we’ve had. This year’s tour has proven to be a standout edition and not for the obvious situation impacting its operation and the unique challenges this year’s tour brings to riders is still going to be the most exciting thing to watch unfold.
We chat again with Sean Kelly to gain insight into what it took for him to reach the success he did at the tour and what his prediction is as we go into the final week. Focusing on the mental and physical requirements of coming out on top in the points classification, we’ll turn to the amazing story unfolding in that of Sam Bennett, a rider who shares a history with Vitus and who we have experienced great achievements within helping him break into the top level of professional riders.
"The first year I won the green jersey, I knew before racing started that I was in the form to compete for it, knowing that I must contest every day and with the mentality to contest even for the yellow jersey, being present every stage. Going with the bunch sprints and then upping the pace on hilly stages to compete against a smaller group of riders. That was my strong point, I was able to contest the sprints but get through that to pretty much the leading group of riders on hilly stages, but if there was a breakaway, that’s something you can’t control."
“Contesting for the green jersey puts a big demand on yourself mentally, you have to be totally focused every day and not missing any opportunities to pick up points, while also making sure you get through the really big mountain stages. You not only have to be in peak physical condition but also mentally, being focused on a lot more stages and days than you would be if you were only going for stage wins as you could look at the route book and look for the opportunities to win in bunch sprints as you could pretty much guarantee when these would be. The other defining factor and especially if you’re new to the tour like Sam Bennett (we’ll get to him next) is that the tour is always that little bit more competitive, everybody is just that bit more focused and the level of competition is up a notch.”
From one member of the Vitus alumni with legendary status to another in Sam Bennett, Sean talks about the Irishman’s chances of seeing out the tour and finishing in green. We couldn’t be prouder to be part of Sam’s journey and everyone at Vitus HQ and Sean are rooting for him all the way to Paris.
“When Sam won the last stage of Tour of Britain in 2013 on a Vitus, that was really when he had his breakthrough into the higher professional ranks. I think Sam knows that’s he’s one of the fastest and can hold Sagan for the green jersey and he and the team will know where his qualities are and the way he rides and where the opportunities will be to pick up those points. The expectations of Sam, and especially from back home in Ireland, was to win a stage, and to see him achieve that on Tuesday was fantastic, it would have been nice to see him win on Wednesday in Poitiers where I won my first stage of The Tour de France but it was still great to see him finish the day in green and opening a commanding lead in the points classification. Going forward now Sam has the team around him and it’s all hands to wheel for Sam but the pressure is still on and he needs to see this through but I have faith he’ll finish in green!”
If the thrills of the second week of racing continue into the last stretch, we’re in for a real treat. Sean talks about the unique challenges facing riders in the coming stages and away from the green jersey, who could come out on top.
“This year's tour is of course under very different circumstances and the key factor is the riders not having the build-up of races leading into the Tour de France. This is going to be a defining factor when we get to those really difficult stages because what way will the rider’s body react after two weeks of racing? This is not only poignant for the green jersey but more so for the yellow jersey, I think we’ll be seeing some big names that we’re used to seeing doing very well throughout The Tour de France, starting to suffer and really struggle. But at the start of the tour, I predicted Bernal to take the general classification, that was my call, and I’m sticking with that.”
Next week, we’ll get the last update from Sean as we talk about the action leading into the final stages to Paris and his final thoughts on the 2020 Tour de France.