Tour Time, Pressure Time
For anyone working in road cycling – riders, management and even commentators – the Tour de France defines your year. It’s a sporting pressure cooker.
Put yourself in Richie Porte’s shoes and contemplate the pressure he’s putting on himself.
Richie has had a good season so far. A stage win and second overall at the TDU, third in the Tour of Romandie, victory at the Tour de Suisse. But if he doesn’t meet expectations at the Tour it won’t be classified as a successful year.
Richie is aiming to win. And for many casual observers only victory counts. But making the podium would be a huge success (only one Australian, Cadel Evans, has done it in the previous 104 editions).
Victory of course would be the ultimate. And he can do it.
The first week will be super stressful and Stage 9, across the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, will have already caused some sleepless nights. BMC teammate, and Roubaix winner, Greg van Avermaet, will be crucial to Richie’s hopes on this stage.
Simon Gerrans, however, will be his most important teammate as the captain on the road, maintaining team cohesion and absorbing some of the media generated pressure.
Across at Mitchleton-Scott they’ve dumped Caleb Ewan, after announcing in January that he’d be making his Tour debut, and thrown all their resources behind an Adam Yates bid for the podium in Paris.
To drop a young Australian star is a massive risk for an Australian team chasing a title sponsor. Everyone on the team will be feeling the pressure to perform.
Luckily they have L’Étape Australia ambassador, Mathew Hayman, on the squad to keep them calm on the road. Hayman will play a big role in the first nine days but then it’s over Damien Howson and Mikel Nieve to support Yates in the mountains.
As for Michael Matthews the odds are stack against him winning the green jersey again.
If he had a team built around him he could do it. But the priority at Sunweb will be Tom Dumoulin and his hopes of wearing yellow in Paris.
The Tour also defines my year. My year is broken up into pre-Tour, Tour, post-Tour. I could do a great call at every other race but it’s my commentary at the Tour that I’ll be judged on.
It’s almost Tour time. The best time of the year.
Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.