Ahead of the final and second rest day of the 98th installment of the Tour de France we first had to overcome stage 15. Thanks to the strong winds we didn’t get the rain that had been forecast; however the wind made it a very nervous stage. After just a few kilometres five riders made off from the main field and it therefore became very quickly clear to all the riders that there would be a sprint finish at the end of the stage. The stage was finally won by Mark Cavendish, who scooped his 4th stage in this year’s Tour and continued to extend his lead in the green jersey competition.
The tail wind was blowing so strongly from the left that the entire main field was very nervous all day long. The sprinter teams wanted to have their men at the front and the riders challenging for the overall classification wanted the same. In fact, basically everyone wanted to be at the front and the traditional fear of going flying in the cross wind did the rest. It was a very unpleasant stage with so many rides through small villages and a constant changing of direction on the route both before and after. If you are further back in the main field, when you come out of the village you can be as far as 500 metres off the front of the peloton. All you can then see is a long chain of riders. You know exactly when it’s time to get out of the saddle and sprint. This concertina like ride really softens you up in the long-run.
After the stage we had a four hour bus ride to the next hotel. We all did without the massage and at quarter to ten we had dinner. We all then fell into bed exhausted and I slept like baby.
We then eased our way gently into the final rest day. You stay in bed a little longer, don’t pack your things and don’t need to go to the start. It’s all just that little bit easier. We then went for a one hour potter on the bikes and after the ride treated ourselves to a nice cool drink.
I rode the first few kilometres on the photographer’s motorbike, who I’ve known for a long time now and whose bike I also rode on the Champs-Élysées last year. The boys didn’t look in too bad shape and Jelle Vanendert was riding nicely tucked in in my slipstream.
We used the rest of the day to be checked over by the osteopath, have a massage and get a haircut. It was all pure luxury, but tomorrow it’ll all be a distant memory when we reach the Alps and have a very tough last Tour week ahead of us.
Sporting greetings from Seb