Wednesday, July 28, 2021
HomeInterviews11 Years of VeloVeritas - 2017: Roadside at the Tour; Maciej Bodnar!

11 Years of VeloVeritas – 2017: Roadside at the Tour; Maciej Bodnar!


Sprinter stages – they almost have you feeling sorry for Carlton. When we settled down in our mini-market/café with it’s big screen and fridge full of cool beer we were quite prepared to sit and wait on Kittel obliterating everyone again after the usual boring run-in. But Big Bora Pole, Maciej Bodnar, AKA ‘The Bison’ – in his Cannondale days he had a great Polish bison air brush job on his top tube – had other ideas; jumping his doomed breakaway companions and heading off on a solo epic which only ended in sight of the line. He had us on the edge of our seats and turned a good day into a great one…

And his day would come, in the Stage 20 chrono he did get the flowers and the pretty girls.

* * *

This article first ran on 12th July, 2017 

Maciej Bodnar

‘Sprinter stages,’ why are they so dull? Albeit ‘Bison’ Maciej Bodnar (Bora – hansgrohe & Poland) did a job of enlivening the last wee bittie of yesterday’s procession.

Firstly, the GC teams won’t go in the break, they’re there to look after their team leader; mountain stages are different where they’ll put men up the road so as the team leader can bridge up to them.

That rules out Sky (Froome), AG2R (Bardet), Movistar (Quintana), Trek (Contador), Astana (Aru), UAE (Meintjes) and Orica (Yates).

In all of Lance’s seven Tour ‘wins’ his team mates (Hincapie) only ever won the one stage – the focus has to be 100% on the GC man.

Secondly, the big sprinters’ teams won’t go because the last thing they want is for a break to ‘stick’ – they want a mass charge.

Maciej Bodnar
Kittel’s Fifth. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

Scratch Dimension Data (Boasson-Hagen), QuickStep (Kittel), Katusha (Kristoff), Lotto (Greipel), Sunweb (Matthews), Cofidis (Bouhanni), LottoNL (Groenewegen), Bahrain (Colbrelli) and Fortuneo (McLay).

Even although it’s apparent that the likes of Bouhanni isn’t on form, neither is Greipel at his best but if he can win on the Champs Elysees then all will be forgiven.

Who’s left?

Maciej Bodnar
Marcel Kittel in green. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASO

BMC: they’ve lost their GC man, Porte so their focus now will be on ‘transition’ stages for GVA, Kung and Roche.

Bora: after the loss of Sagan for the sprints their focus changed to Rafa Majka but with him out now too, to their credit they’ve started going in the breaks with Maciej Bodnar serving us up a great ride on Stage 11.

Direct Energie: with Calmejane’s beautiful stage win their Tour is a success whatever happens, but as with BMC they’ll be thinking more of ‘baroudeur’ stages for the likes of Chava and Tommy V. But it’s still surprising we haven’t seen them be more aggressive on the flat, you would imagine they crave that TV time?

Cannondale: See BMC/Direct Energie, with Talansky having given up his dreams of Grand Tour podiums and Rolland on his best form in years, they’ll be hoping for mountains glory but again it’s hard to see why they don’t fire men up the road to get the Cannondale name out there.

Maciej Bodnar
FDJ are super-popular. Photo©Pierre Froger/ASP

FDJ: whilst the elimination of Demare and three of his team mates, morale isn’t going to be good but again, French team, French race – why so little visibility?

Wanty: where would we be without these boys? Every day they fire men up the road, doomed or not, they’re getting the column inches and TV time. Team boss, Hilaire Van Der Schueren was saying the other day how happy his sponsors are with all the exposure.

Another factor to consider is that in years gone by it was only the last hour or two of sprinter stages we witnessed on tele so much of the tedium went unrecorded to us punters.

But now with every minute of every stage televised and analysed by ever more ‘experts’ the reality of these stages is there for all to see.

In the Hinault – and Cipo in the Giro – eras, the racing didn’t start ‘til the Capo had stopped for a pee, taken off his arm and leg warmers and given the nod.

What’s to be done?

Drink more beer, earlier, that should help.

Our day was good if long, it’ll be nice to get some real food soon though – with only pizza places and burger joints open when we finally flip the lids on the laptops.

We left our nice rural digs and headed south, missing out the race start and skirting the flat, quiet, wooded region of Landes down to Labastide d’Armagnac where we took up position at a junction where a gaggle of folks had gathered.

Everyone was laid back with not a Janitor in sight.

Maciej Bodnar
The TV ‘copter comes down low for the panning shot. Photo©Ed Hood

We didn’t have to wait too long on the action with the first sign being the TV helicopter hovering low just beyond the bend to get a shot of the peloton streaming round.

Maciej Bodnar
The break of the day is lead by Maciej Bodnar. Photo©Martin Williamson

Maciej Bodnar
Photo©Ed Hood

Maciej Bodnar lead the desperados round the corner from Belgian Wanty Warrior, Frederick Backaert who won a stage in the Tour of Austria, last year; tail gunner was former Paris-Tours winner Marco Marcato (UAE & Italy).

Maciej Bodnar
The bunch are only two minutes back and planning when to step on the gas. Photo©Martin Williamson

Maciej Bodnar
Some ‘well-kent’ faces in the bunch. Photo©Ed Hood

The peloton flashes past pretty quick on a stage like this – even though these stages are processional to watch on TV the average speeds are still respectable, Stage 10 was run off at 44.3 kph for instance.

Maciej Bodnar
Stake Vegard Laengen. Photo©Ed Hood

We picked out big Norwegian UAE man, Stake Vegard Laengen and Tommy V sharing a frame.

Maciej Bodnar
Paul Martens. Photo©Martin Williamson

And LottoNL’s German, former Tour of Luxembourg winner, Paul Martens.

Maciej Bodnar
Photo©Martin Williamson

And even as early in the stage as this, well before the end game began, Kittel was attentive, head poking up over the riders in front keeping a weather eye on proceedings.

Maciej Bodnar
Tailenders. Photo©Ed Hood

Your DS will tell you not to sit at the back of the peloton; but that’s where you’ll always find Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings as he waits for ‘his’ stages – it’s harder for him to hide now though in that nice British Champion’s maillot.

Dan McLay (Fortuneo) was keeping him company back there, waiting for his time to come on stage and perform; and he’s creeping up in those mad finishes – 14th, eighth, seventh, fifth….

Maciej Bodnar
Pierre Roland. Photo©Martin Williamson

Pierre Rolland rolled to a stop right beside Martin to check out the derailleur on his bike; a bit of twig – Pah!

Rolland has been going well this year with stage wins in the Giro and Route du Sud – but this is the big one, win a stage here and his contract will be that much more lucrative for 2018.

Maciej Bodnar
Thomas Boudat. Photo©Ed Hood

Tail end Charlie was Direct Energie’s Thomas Boudat, he was coming back from a mechanical – a multiple French champion on the track in pursuit, points, scratch, madison and omnium, he was world champion in the latter in 2014.

But track titles, who cares these days?

Maciej Bodnar
Notre Dame des Cyclistes chapel in Labastide d’Armagnac. Photo©Martin Williamson

Maciej Bodnar
The priest who loved cycling, Joseph Massie. Photo©Ed Hood

Labastide D’Armagnac is home to the Notre Dame des Cyclistes chapel, initiated in 1959 by cycling mad priest, Joseph Massie who was inspired by the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel on the Tour of Lombardy parcours.

Maciej Bodnar
Inside the chapel. Photo©Martin Williamson

Maciej Bodnar
Pro kit mingles with club jerseys. Photo©Martin Williamson

Maciej Bodnar
Walls of jerseys. Photo©Martin Williamson

It’s a treasure trove of old jerseys, photos and cycling memorabilia from way back through the Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain and Contador eras.

Maciej Bodnar
Luis Ocana in the window. Photo©Ed Hood

Maciej Bodnar
Photo©Ed Hood

The stained glass windows rather than dedicated to our lord, the Virgin or the saints have Coppi and Bartali, Anquetil and Poulidor and the late, great Luis Ocana.

The first two mentioned were crafted by 1966 Tour de France winner and now Tour of the Mediterranean organiser, Lucien Aimar.

Maciej Bodnar
Luis’ painting. Photo©Ed Hood

As well as the window in his honour, there’s a painting of him above one of the door lintels alongside a statue of the Madonna.

He was a local man and it was the failure of his Armagnac business coupled with health issues which drove him to take his own life in 1994 – rest in peace, Luis.

Maciej Bodnar
The boys take a break to catch the finish on a TV setup in the supermarket? Photo©Martin Williamson

Maciej Bodnar
Kittel takes his fifth. Photo©Ed Hood

Respects paid we continued south to Estang where we found a wee place which couldn’t make up it’s mind if it was a bar, a cafe or a shop – but the big screen worked just fine and the Sagres was ice cold.

Maciej Bodnar had us in the edge of our seats, but as L’Équipe said of Kittel, yesterday; “No Mercy.”

Pyrenees today – and it’s grey out there, a day for a mountain exploit?

We can but hope.

A demain.

Ed Hood and Martin Williamson
Ed and Martin, our top team! They try to do the local Time Trials, the Grand Tours and the Classics together to get the great stories written, the quality photos taken, the driving done and the wifi wrestled with.

Related Articles

Time For The Big Boys (Preview: TDF 2012 Stage 7)

Stage 7 finally sees the race leave the flatlands, and Time For The Big Boys to play. The race enters the Jura mountains on the German/Swiss border with France. The sprinters and those who are dealing with injuries from falls in the first week will ride small, attempting to save some energy in the hope that they can come good later in the race, while those with hopes of GC places will be planning how they will maximise advantages, or minimise losses.

Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 11; Carcassonne – Montpellier. Sagan and Froome Escape the Sprinters

From Carcassonne it COULD have been a ‘snooze-fest.’ It SHOULD have been a sprinters stage. Enter, stage left one superb Slovakian in green, Mr. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). He attacks from the front in the cross winds inside 12 K to go with Polish TT champ team mate Bodnar aka ‘The Bison’ and spreads pure panic among the world’s best riders – but that skinny Sky man Froome is sharp again, as is team mate Thomas.

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 8: Belfort – Porrentruy, 154 km

Call me a sentimental old fool, but Thibaut Pinot’s win in stage 8 was what the Tour is all about – the youngest man in the race gallantly holding off the rampaging favourites; Marc Madiot in the FDJ team car overcome with emotion; team mates barging in on the TV interview to hug and kiss Pinot, some in tears. Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage 8.

Le Tour de France 2009 – Stage 16: Martigny > Bourg-Saint-Maurice, 159km

Sitting here in Bourg-Saint-Maurice, perhaps I'm going to revise my opinion that l'Equipe's Tour coverage isn't as good as the Gazzetta's Giro coverage. The Gazzetta looks better, but the L'Equipe goes so deep.

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 17: Bagnères-de-Luchon – Peyragudes, 144 km.

I wasn't sure about the 'blip' at La Toussuire when Froome distanced Wiggins in the finale - I thought it was 'mountain out of molehill' stuff. Although we did hear that Wiggins was 'raging', that night in his room. But today, there seemed little doubt that a message was being sent; 'I can drop you any time I want.' The body language and facial expressions around the team aren't relaxed, happy or positive. But there's little doubt now that Brad will win - barring Acts of God.

No More Hiding (TDF 2012 St 11)

The first big mountain stage of the Tour has exposed the form of the riders who have intentions of finishing on the podium in the race. The best five in the race to date have been Wiggins, Evans, Nibali, Froome and Van Den Broeck (VDB). Bizarrely, Chris Froome is probably the best in the race right now: he completely cracked Cadel Evans AND (briefly) dropped his own team leader.

At Random

Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 18; Sallanches – Megève ITT. Froome Dispels any Doubt

If anyone harboured any doubts about the fact that Froome was going to win this Tour it took him just 30 minutes to straighten things out. He destroyed everyone in including the man who's probably the world's number one 'chronoman' - Tom Dumoulin. Whilst the mountains may be beautiful, a time trial up one is a daunting prospect.

Evan Oliphant – Back with Raleigh for 2013

If we interviewed ‘Jamesie’ McCallum, we couldn’t very well neglect his friend and training partner, Britain’s most northerly professional rider – Wick’s Evan Oliphant. This will be his ninth professional season and his second with Raleigh.

Le Tour ’11, Stage 11 – a wet start, typical Pyrenean thunderstorm

It was a very warm evening yesterday, and we wandered back round to the hotel last night after our dinner in the middle of a typical Pyrenean thunderstorm - huge bolts of lightning searing across the sky and claps of thunder which lingered and reverberated for what seemed like 20 seconds. In the space of 5 minutes, the roads were flooded. We went to sleep in our "pod" room to the sound of pouring rain, and woke up to the same - only worse. It wasn't a nice day to be outside, let alone reporting on, or riding, a bike race.

Scottish Cycling Super 6 – Round 6, Wanlockhead 2009

Nationals apart, Gary Hand (Endura) has dominated the Scottish domestic scene in 2009; he continued that superiority with another win in the Super Six Series in the Tour of the Lowther today, on tough roads around Britain's highest village-Wanlockhead.

Volta a Portugal 2012 – Stage Seven: Gouveia-Sabugal

185.3 km, 2520m ascent today in the La Volta a Portugal 2012. The first stage after the rest day is a bit tough. The rest day can do more harm than good and I for one like to just keep on going, to get it over and done with.

Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2012

From the point that his Sky Procycling teammates took up station on the front of the peloton with 60km to go in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Mark Cavendish never looked like losing today, and so it proved as he swept to an easy bunch sprint win over FDJ-Big Mat's Yauheni Hutarovich with Vacansoleil-DCM's Kenny Van Hummel in third.