Andy Raymond Schleck is a former pro-cyclist, a Luxembourg native, the 2010 Tour de France winner and has cycling running in his family. Currently, he functions as a chairman of the ŠKODA Tour de Luxembourg and as an ambassador at the Tour de France’s ŠKODA Hospitality Programme so we reached out to him to get both his insider and expert overview of this year’s Le Grande Boucle.
This year, the Tour de France’s organizers decided to treat the riders properly. And by “treat” we meant “make them suffer”. With no remaining time trial, the battle for the yellow jersey will take place over the course of three intense alpine stages. Each of them has an arsenal of features not suitable for the faint of heart, such as a 207-km-long slog snaking through three huge mountain passes, a summit finish at 2,770 meters of elevation (and that is just one of the five total climbs of stage 19) or the life-draining 33.4-km climb of the final stage, all of which will decide about the future owner of the GC yellow jersey.
All eyes on Alaphilippe
It seems that Alaphilippe is slowly becoming the favourite of the race. Could he possibly even make some gains on the descents in the Alps, even though he already expended a great deal of energy and his explosive performance power does not suit long climbs? “He’s a really good descender but Pinot is one as well and I don’t think he will gain points. I believe it’s possible if, for example, Alaphilippe is behind Pinot on a descend, he can minimize the gap but I don’t think he will drop anyone on the descent. But I also believe he can still win the Tour de France,” Andy commented.
We’ve all been taken aback by Alaphilippe’s sensational performance so far and so is Andy, who deems his unexpected progress to be one of the greatest surprises of this year’s Le Tour overall. “I was really surprised to see Julian to be so strong in the climbs, no one really expected that. Normally, he’s the guy always there, on the 3rd, 5th or 6th place, and now he actually managed to step up.”
Watch your back, Julian!
Even though Alaphilippe is certainly the talk of the town, he doesn’t have the Champs-Élysées in his pocket yet. As he himself has admitted, the yellow jersey is hanging on him “by a thread”. There’s still a fat chance that either Thomas or possibly Pinot will be able to take it off his back, despite Pinot’s run-in with the crosswinds on stage 10 and the subsequent loss of time.
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“I believe Thomas will have a very good last week, he’s very strong in the mountains and he’s also strong in endurance as well, he has a quality will. He’s obviously stronger at the moment but out of the main rivals [of Alaphilippe], I would give Geraint Thomas more points to win the GC than the other contenders,” Andy assumes.
The most nerve-racking Tour in years
So far, the events at the Tour have been pretty wild and unexpected. There’s a cluster of riders separated by mere minutes and seconds and all of their chances are pretty even. All of the top six riders in the bunch are notable either for their lack of experience at this stage of a Grand Tour or for a history of dropping off in the final week. So after many years, it’s hard to even try to predict the outcome – it almost looks like we’re in for a ‘vintage’ unpredictable Tour this year. What’s Andy’s take on this?
“This Tour has been really open, more interesting than several last years because it doesn’t have someone who’s outstanding from the start, there’s a lot of guys on a similar level. It will be really interesting to see the following days. I would really like to see Julian Alaphilippe and I hope he will manage to wear yellow in Paris.”