The Monday After – managing stage 22
The compulsion is to write some more about a bike race. But it’s over. The champion has been decided, the prizes presented. Now it’s back to “normal”.
For three weeks it’s total absorption. When you land on Planet Tour, it sweeps you up in the flurry of activity that surrounds a bike race. It’s not only something that impacts the riders but also those who follow the race – in person, or from afar – and the day afterwards is a strange one to manage. What now?
The race is done, a fitting champion has won and now it’s time to reflect on what unfolded and settle back into the ordinary rigmarole of day to day tasks.
For Geraint Thomas, Monday 30 July is a different day all together. Things aren’t ordinary for him any longer. He is the champion of The Tour de France.
“I’ve not got a good track record with speeches so I’ll keep it short,” he said from the podium on the Champs-Elysées. He went on to thank the team and the public and, eventually, his wife, Sara, for the parts everyone played in a victory that puts a smile back on cycling.
The 32-year-old was generous and humble and a little lost for words, admitting, “I’m a little bit tired.” But he showed respect to the audience who had gathered in Paris, his peers in the peloton, his team-mate in third place, and to the viewing public around the world. And it feels as though people have realised that, with the winner of the 105th edition of the Tour, there’s honesty and sincerity and a champion who has achieved something incredible for himself after years of working in the service of others.
He concluded with a little sentiment to remind people about dreaming big and pursuing even the most ambitious of dreams.
“Just dream big. If people tell you it can’t be done, just believe in yourself, work hard – keep going. You’re going to have knocks, you’re going to have downs, but keep believing and anything is possible.
“With hard work, everything pays off in the end.
“Thanks for all the support, I really appreciate it. You’ve been been amazing. We all appreciate it. Thank you very much and, ah… vive le Tour.”
Microphone drop. Rock star stare. And a wry grin.
And then he was G again. G with a yellow jersey as champion of a bike race.
Photos: Jean-Pierre Ronco
A moment to remember for Geraint Thomas.
Then comes stage 22: this is a long, complicated one that has no start and no finish. It is that rolling sequence of the things we do to acclimatise to the end of something that you can become swept up in.
I’ve often said that The Monday After is the most difficult day of the year but if you prepare properly it’s an easy one to manage. There’s no longer the thousands of people congregating to watch a flash of colour or report on those who are pedalling their bikes or the many associated with the race that makes it all possible. It’s now just another day, another moment in time when there’s not some central focus.
When I first started covering the Tour, I hated The Monday; now it’s good. But it’s also difficult to try and find the words to explain all the experiences, emotions and events of the past month. It’s a whirlwind of memories collected without even recognising some of them as they happen and it takes time for all that to spill out.
Tom, Geraint and Chris. Paris. 29 July 2018.
There’s been plenty of content shared this July and I owe a big thank you to Bennelong Funds Management for their support of this project for RIDE Media at the 2018 Tour. The genesis for the partnership was laid in a brief discussion with Craig Bingham several months ago.
Bennelong’s CEO asked, “What are you going to do for the Tour?”
I replied, “I’d like to tell stories and share the experiences.”
Bennelong agreed to back RIDE Media’s coverage of the 2018 Tour in a manner that allowed me to get inside the “bubble” that people involved with the race talk about and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity.
At times it can be isolating but more often Planet Tour is an amazing place where remarkable things happen.
Thanks to everyone who chimed in with comments and feedback during the race and for following the adventure of one bloke in a car with a laptop and a few cameras. It’s been a long ride over the past 20 years and I hope people have enjoyed being part of what has been quite an adventure.
Every year since 1998, every stage since the prologue in Dublin 20 years ago… I’ve seen a lot of bike racing and a lot of the world because of this thing called the Tour de France. Another one is done but I’m already thinking about the next.
There are more interviews collected and photos taken and stories that are being pieced together in my mind and in time I look forward to sharing these with the readership of RIDE Media, but for now – for a few hours on The Monday – I’m going to rest and realise that the it’s over for another year… and perhaps even go for a bike ride and see some of Paris from a different perspective.
For Geraint the wildest of dreams has become a reality. What comes next we wait to see but for now there’s a moment to reflect and return to “normal”, whatever that is.
– By Rob Arnold