Driving Stage 9 of the Tour
Meera - These elite athletes have high performing bikes and high performing bodies, but what's it actually like out on one of the stages, especially one of the climbing stages. And other than winning, where else can points be won along a route? To find out I joined the Tour de France sponsorship manager and ex-tour cyclist, Andrea Peron for a drive along stage 9 of the race which was the first big climb of the tour from Morzine to Saint Jean de Maurienne, reaching heights of 2000 metres...
Andrea - [It's a ] Pretty tough one. We don't have an uphill finish. The finish is down on the flat after a four tough category climb. The toughest is the last one. The last one is Col de la Madeleine. It's 23-kilometre longer for about 1800 metres of average gain. Pretty tough climb, considering that before, the riders, they already had to climb three other climbs.
Meera - Now we've been driving along most of the route so far and along, and there are various kinds of sprint stages and spots for the King of the Mountain points, and things like that. So, how many of those are there along here?
Andrea - Today, there's 2-point intermediate sprints which they bring points for the green jersey and then there's 5 climbing sprints. The last one is the one that carries more points and these are also Hors category climbs., means that it's among one of the hardest climb in the tour.
Meera - Well you're an ex-rider yourself. So what kinds of things are going through your mind when you're say, descending at such great speeds, and how fast a speed do the cyclists reach?
Andrea - When you go downhill, you just try to envision the best trajectory and try to handle the bike as best as you can, knowing when you have to break, and try to calculate the risk. Of course, Sometimes you don't calculate and there are some crashes. Especially because the surface sometimes is rough and it makes it harder to handle the bike. The maximum speed reached can be up to 100 kilometres per hour, but that's very rare, only when you have a straight section of downhill. Otherwise, 70 up to 90-kilometre per hour.
Meera - When it comes to these big climbs like today, there's obviously a change in altitude, changes in temperature, as they're going through the route. So how much did this affect them?
Andrea - The altitude doesn't affect too much because okay, today, they're going to feel a little bit the altitude only on the last kilometres over the last climb which reaches a bit over 2,000 metres. The temperature difference is going to affect them more. Today, the maximum temperature change, it varies at up to probably 15, 18 degrees from the very bottom part of the stage when it's going to be probably 33 degrees up to the top of Col de la Madeleine where probably we're going to have 15 degrees maybe. Temperature will affect them more if there's a bad stormy day or rainy day. That's when especially going downhill, the temperature is much lower and your body is already wet from the rain and colder, so that's when you really have to find something to keep the riders warmer.
Meera - The race has been happening, the stage has been happening for awhile now, so you've been getting updates here through the radio. So what's been happening so far today?
Andrea - So far, the race is at kilometre - around 50, 58, 60 and they have these eight men with 2 ½ minutes lead and then about 3 minutes behind the big perlaton with the yellow jersey.
Meera - So they're are about 60 kilometres then so far, what's the actual total length of today's stage?
Andrea - It's 205 kilometres.
Meera - We've just been driving along the route and they're actually not very far behind us now, are they?
Andrea - Well we are going considerably faster [than] them uphill, but then on the descent, then they're are going faster than us.
Meera - Now as we've been driving along, there have just been fans lining the entire route and some sections just have hundreds of them and camper vans everywhere. As you're going down the route, how important are these supporters, do you think? How much do they help by being around and cheering?
Andrea - They help a lot. I mean, it's so fun. It's good. They really cheer you up especially on the climbs because on the climbs, you just go through two wall of fans and they scream so loud. It gives you definitely an extra kick on your effort when you go up.