The weirder stories we didn’t get around to telling this Tour de France

A few anecdotes and golden one-liners we've heard over the past three weeks of racing.

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It would be wise to begin this article with a disclaimer. Yes, we know a lot of the time we already write stories so far off the beaten track we find ourselves lost in the forest without enough water. Tom Pidcock forgetting to put suncream on, Geraint Thomas wanting something different for breakfast, Magnus Cort’s appreciation for helicoptering.

But what we’re talking about here is the more spurious things we’ve heard over three and a half weeks at the Tour de France. The snippets of gossip that can be published with the appropriate redactions. The things we’ve seen that have made us chuckle but probably don’t justify an entire story. Which, granted, is a bit rich.

So here are a handful of anecdotes to close out the Tour. A bit of harmless gossip from inside the circus, a couple of final laughs before this whole thing is over. We can’t wait for next year already.

Michael Rasmussen is maybe Jesus

The racing in Copenhagen may not have been the best, but the spectacle was fitting of a Grand Départ. Denmark really got into the Tour spirit. At the finish of stage 2, it was like a festival, beers flowing, bags of peas pulled out of freezers to keep drinks cool during the hours-long wait in order to get a good spot at the barriers. Such was the number of people that the branch of McDonalds at around 250m turned their drive-through into a walk-through.

As the CyclingTips team made their way down to the finish just before the peloton was due to arrive, the crowds were thick and the path to the interview area was severely blocked by expectant fans who cared only for seeing the race and not journalists needing to get somewhere in a hurry. Luckily, we found ourselves walking a few steps behind Michael Rasmussen, who has been a friendly face in the press room for the last few years.

It is hard to overestimate how quickly and efficiently the crowds parted to let the former professional rider through. Like Moses and the Red Sea. Clearing the path to the finish area like the second coming of Christ except with lots of excited Danes saying ‘Mickey, Mickey, Mickey’ at him. The only proof that he isn’t Jesus is his inability (like every other member of the media) to get the terrible Senseo coffee machines in the press room working.

Vikings in Denmark

Before the start of stage 3, the final day in Denmark, everyone was well into the spirit of the Grand Départ, such was the welcome that the Scandinavian country gave the Tour de France.

With his teammate Magnus Cort having done his best to try and animate the race in his home country, Rigoberto Úran clearly wanted to get in on the action, donning a Viking helmet and hammer as he made his way to the team presentation that morning.

Standing in the mixed zone, you could hear Úran coming before you saw him, and everyone looked around as the Colombian was greeted by laughs and cheers from the Danish fans.

A few English-speaking journalists were talking to Quinn Simmons at the time, the American turning around to also see Úran pass by. Simmons’ reaction?

“If anyone is dressing like a Viking it should be me!” on account of his Viking-esque beard, which he has now sadly shaved off. Maybe this episode played a part in the decision?!

The Duvel record

Speaking to one Belgian journalist in the press room one day, one who admittedly doesn’t mind a night out and a beer or two, proudly told us his record for the number of Duvels drunk in one night. For those who don’t know, Duvel’s are 8.5% Belgian blonde beers usually stored (not like in the image below) in stubby 330ml bottles. They can accurately be described as diet rocket fuel.

While the journalist in question’s record is 11 in a night, another reporter soon piped up saying he knew of a rider whose record was 16.

Window escape

On the travel day, as the race arrived in France, a photo emerged showing Lotto-Soudal’s Reinardt Janse van Rensburg climbing out of a hotel window. Naturally, we had to ask him what that was all about:

CT: Are you on the run, what’s going on?

RJVR: I’m showing how it’s done in South Africa…nah just taking a shortcut, saving the legs.

The Pyrenean king of the Tour de France

There is a man who travels around the Tour de France dressed up as the former King of France Henri IV in order to promote the Béarn region of the Pyrenees. I’ve tried to type that out in multiple different ways and that is as simple as I can describe who this man is and what he does.

In what will come as little surprise to any regular readers, our intrepid ‘hmm, that’s odd’ beat reporter Iain Treloar noticed The King getting into his car at the Megève altiport after stage 10.

He wanted to find out more about this man, how he travelled around the entire country in cotton leggings and a ruff during a baking hot July. Who he was, how he ended up doing this. Unfortunately, Henri IV stayed in character for the entire interview.

Iain: Can I talk to you about…[hand motions up and down over his outfit]”.

The King: I am Henri IV, King of France. Heir of Bearn.

The King: I have been doing it seven years [ambassadoring] but I am 469 years old. I am not just the King during the Tour, but all year, and will be with the race until Paris.

Iain: It’s nice to meet a king, I’ve never met one before.

The King: I know.

Alberto Contador under investigation

We’ll keep this one brief. Old habits clearly die hard at the Tour de France as one morning Alberto Contador was spotted having his bag rigorously searched while trying to enter the start village before a stage. The bag contained, he alleged at the time, his lunch for a long day on the motorcycle working for Eurosport.

American cricket

From left to right: The Author, looking great, Phil Lowe of Quick-Step AlphaVinyl (bowling like a madman) Tom Southam of EF Education EasyPost, Adam Becket of Cycling Weekly (very small, way back there), Chris Marshall-Bell of Cycling Weekly, Sophie Smith of The Age.

On the second rest day in Carcassonne, there was the inaugural press vs. teams cricket match. All levels of ability were on the field, with participants from around the globe.

The international element, while great at a time when the world is in great need of more global collaboration, it also caused a wry smile or two.

Upon seeing an American stepping up to the wicket, one member of team staff said: “Americans playing cricket is like watching someone ski in jeans”.

Upsetting Philippe Gilbert

On the Foix stage, Philippe Gilbert made the break. On the approach to a climb he was reeled in by an attacking Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard, and such was their speed as they came past that the Belgian (who will soon retire) shook his head, marvelling at their athleticism.

At the finish, I wanted to know what exactly was going through Gilbert’s head when he was shaking it, if he could perhaps let us know what it was like to get passed by first and second place at the 2022 Tour de France.

As he began to arrive at his team bus after the finish I started to jog in order to run alongside him and save him time – when he arrived at his bus he would clearly want a big sit down.

“Philippe, why did you shake your head?”

He ignored me and kept riding but I pursued, hovering at the bus while he got off his bike. He wheeled around, eyes glaring.

“Are you searching for some shit?!” he shouted, before storming up the stairs of the bus.

I wasn’t, but I’d certainly received some.

6 countries. No passport.

Supposedly, there is a member of the travelling circus of the Tour (whose identity we will protect of course) who couldn’t locate their passport in the week leading up to the Grand Départ.

It was too late to get a replacement but you can’t miss the Tour, so they decided to risk it.

Hopping in a car and avoiding planes, they managed to enter Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, crossing multiple borders multiple times, without having any identification on them whatsoever. Maybe not that shocking given the lack of water or proper borders between the countries but impressive nonetheless!

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