Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Champ Rolls On


The Champ Rolls On. I can remember seeing the photos from the presentation of the teams at the start of the race and thinking how embarrassing it was for the Garmin team to be doing their bow down to Thor thing while he held up a warhammer. I was clearly completely wrong!

The man’s a legend, and after yesterday’s fantastic win in the World Champion’s Rainbow Jersey, he has cemented his place as a giant of the modern era.

The Champ Rolls On
The man, doin’ his thing.

For those who missed it, yesterday was a stage with one of the more famous massive Tour climbs, the Col d’Aubisque, being covered with 43km to go. Whenever you see the “HC” on the stage profile for the day, you instantly assume that the sprinters and bigger blokes will be taking it easy as they just can’t get up the bergs as well as the smaller lads. Thor had other ideas quite clearly, and was up for the breakaway, getting himself into the key break of ten men.

Getting in the break means you’re guaranteed to have a long, hard day compared to anyone sitting in the peloton, so for the big man to still be up for it after his magnificent first week when he led out JD to set up Ty’s stage win, and also held and defended the Yellow with such panache is just a great signal as team leader.

The other riders know they’re in the race to be winning stuff, the staff know that all of their massive hours of work and effort are for more than just getting the boys to finish each day, and the sponsors and VIPs who inevitably come to the big show to see what their dollars have paid for come away very happy people. As I said, great leadership from Thor.

Anyhoo, the big man attacked at the bottom of the Aubisque, and probably had the other blokes in the break thinking “Well that’s a shock. Reckon I’ll be seeing him in a little while.” Eventually Jeremy Roy, and then David Moncoutie & Edvald Boassen-Hagen responded and the break was shattered.

Roy caught Thor, Boassen Hagen was dropped by Moncoutie, and then Roy dropped Thor, Moncoutie caught & dropped Thor, but couldn’t catch Roy. By the top of the climb all those Thor had dropped must have been wondering “where the crap has that big bugger gotten to?? Did I not notice when I caught him?”

Instead, it was a three horse race, with Roy holding a 2min lead over Thor, with Moncoutie in between, and 43km to ride.

At this point, Thor held the distinct advantage of being a lot heavier than Roy, and thus descending faster, on top of being a gun descender at the best of times anyway. He hauled a lot of the time in on the descent, and also caught Moncoutie at this point. I’m sure the French were wondering why Moncoutie (a Frenchman) helped Thor at all when he caught him as they shared turns to catch Roy (also a Frenchman).

There’s no way Moncoutie could beat Thor in a sprint at the finish line if it came to that. Eventually Moncoutie stopped helping, and Thor hit across the 15s gap to Roy with about 2.5km to go, the poor little Frenchman’s shoulders dropped, and the big Norwegian took the stage win.

Brilliant riding. Who knows what he’ll do next!

Painfully, Hushovd isn’t in my fantasy league team, and so I’ve stopped the minor run that I’d made with the first genuine mountain stage. Neil Metcalfe is dominating on 3186 points, Rhysco is 2nd, Browny (aka Robert) has dropped to 3rd, my schoolmate Crackers now coming 4th. I’m dominating 13th place… Hmmmm.

Toby Watson
Ex-Garmin Transitions physiotherapist and soigneur Toby Watson brings you inside the squad, and shows you what it's like to be working with a top team on the biggest races in the world. Through his regular blog updates, Toby shares his sense of drama and fun that were essential parts of his job. Toby is Australian, and currently lives in Girona with his fiancee Amanda. If he has any time, he enjoys reading and running, and occasionally skiing too, when he can.

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