In the afterglow of the Tour de France, Ellen van Dijk was happy to share the podium of a criterium in her native Netherlands with a couple of younger riders who’ve never worn the rainbow or European bands on the road. Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, standing beside her, were beaming.
“After the Tour de France Femmes, it was really cool they give the men some publicity too at the post-Tour crit Draai van de Kaai yesterday,” Van Dijk tweeted above a photo of the podium. “I think their sport is growing and it’s exciting to watch also!”
This is just one of many benefits of heightened awareness that will hopefully be coming to the men’s peloton in light of the runaway success of the women’s Tour de France, which ended on Sunday atop the Planche des Belles Filles.
Wout van Aert, a 27-year-old Belgian, was far and away the best rider at the recent men’s Tour, winning the green jersey, three stages across differing terrain, the overall combativity prize as well as playing a vital part in his Jumbo-Visma team’s securing of the yellow jersey on teammate Jonas Vingegaard’s shoulders. It is hoped that, with more attention and subsequent investment, the men’s peloton can increase its strength and depth so that more riders are able to match the sublime strength of Van Aert.
Also on the podium at the criterium event was the Dutchman Van der Poel, a talented bike rider who couldn’t quite hit the top notes at the Tour following his completion of the men’s Giro d’Italia a month earlier. Some of the Grand Tour stages may have proven a bit too long for him. However, hesitation lingers as to whether the 27-year-old should immediately try and replicate 39-year-old Annemiek van Vleuten’s arduous endurance-based training that helped her secure the yellow jersey in order to improve his own performance.
Another issue that will hopefully be eradicated by an improvement in depth of the men’s peloton is the seemingly intractable issue of large and possibly avoidable crashes. At the ongoing Tour of Poland, one coming together saw many WorldTour pros hit the deck. A levelling up across the field would see some of the more inexperienced riders gain the necessary skills in order to keep their bikes upright for the duration of the course.
“They still need to learn a lot,” Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt said of his fellow male racers. “They still crash their bikes.”
“I’d rather talk about the positive things in men’s cycling,” Van Dijk replied to De Gendt, initially offering words of comfort, before referring to one of De Gendt’s recent exploits. “But a 35-year-old rider who wins a stage in the Giro after being the break away the whole day? Come on, what kind of level are we looking at?!”
Elsewhere, hours after winning the yellow jersey, Movistar’s Annemiek van Vleuten found the time out of her busy post-Tour schedule to quickly pose for a photo with a young male fan, hopefully inspiring him to one day get on a bike and potentially make it to the start line of the biggest bike race in the world.