After three weeks of dominating the lives of riders and fans alike, the period immediately following the Tour can require some readjustment.
Maybe you’re relieved to have got your afternoons or evenings back and are just looking forward to going on holiday. Or perhaps you’re left with a big hole in your life which you’d got used to cycling occupying. Nevermind. While some think the season stops at the Tour, it pretty clearly doesn’t.
Post Tour criteriums and celebrity appearances
The provincial town-centre circuit races that take place in the weeks immediately following the Tour are not quite as essential to the household income of your average Tour rider as they once used to be. In the 80s, riders would tackle back-to-back days of racing with long overnight drives, car pooling and chip tray dinners in an attempt to make maximum profit from appearance fees that substantially supplemented what were then relatively unspectacular salaries. Amphetamines helped them through it.
Times have changed and a popular rider can likely make as much money stamping a particular hashtag on a barbecue Instagram post as they can haring around some Dutch road furniture wearing last week’s jersey. Still, with thousands to be made from each appearance, a rider may yet find time to do the odd crit between more modern and corporate celebrity appearances. And it’s all chamois time, innit? As if such a thing was needed after three weeks of undercarriage abuse.
While the post Tour crits are as subtly scripted as those funeral plan adverts you’ve been watching on ITV4, August does have some real racing going on. Sure, the stakes feel incredibly low after seeing riders battle for Tour stages, but San Sebastian (August 3) remains a bona fide Classic, the Tour of Poland (August 3-9) is actually a pretty good race and then. In two weeks there the Arctic Race of Norway AKA the most beautiful event on the pro calendar.
After La Course and Ride London, Scandinavia is also the location for the continuation of the Women’s WorldTour with a team time trial (August 16) and one day road race (August 18) in Vårgårda, Sweden before the Ladies Tour of Norway (August 22-25) across the border.
Along with the often enjoyable Binck Bank Tour (August 12-18) and Cyclassics Hamburg (August 25) – which it is harder to get excited about – the above races plug the three and a half week gap between the Tour and Vuelta a Espana (August 24-September 15). That should be just about long enough for anyone who was flying at the Tour to have lost all motivation and put on a load of pounds while basking in their glory.
It’s also enough of a reflection period for the Tour’s underachievers to accept that they won’t be permitted to wriggle out of the rest of the season and they’ll somehow find the reset button for their condition. The form book, as such, has been ripped up.
Thus, keen on silly steep finishes and without quite the same boiling-pot intensity as the Tour, the Vuelta nearly always makes for a good spectacle. Coverage and interest remain high, but it won’t suffocate the rest of an observer’s day quite like the hype of the Tour can.
The race begins in Torrevieja with an 18km time-trial, then heads north into France – via the obligatory Andorra stop for gold watches and perfume. From there the race darts across the Basque country and the north-west of the country, then back into the heart of Spain and its traditional finish in Madrid.
It’s August now which means it open season for rumour, innuendo, denial and the odd staid announcement about who will be riding where next season. Will Tom Dumoulin complete the rumoured move to Jumbo Visma? Could Primož Roglič be on his way to Bahrain Merida? Who’s coming in to replace Movistar‘s outgoing stars? Which highly unlikely candidate will move to Deceuninck Quick Step yet make every success of it?
The news pages will be in frenzy over who was seen holding hands with who. And every story will tell you that the signing that’s just been confirmed was the worst kept secret of the year. What will have been the best kept secret though?
This month is also silly season in the world of news media. And not a bad time for a scandal in cycling either. Did someone get popped at the Tour? Did two riders fall out over who was working for who? Which rider is now in a massive huff about their non-selection and wants out of their team despite having only re-signed last year?
The Tour is over. For long enough they’ve kept things dignified for the sake of their team. Some team, eh? And the journalist was digging for a story in the post-Tour lull. Whoops, that’s it. The dirty laundry is out. And the newspaper has only gone and stuck it on the front page.