‘Road Furniture’ a feature of opening stages
There are no less than “195 dangerous sections” in stage one. This tally of potentially hazardous elements of the course was collated by race organisers.
“The opening stages are nervous enough, and all the road furniture is only going to make matters worse.” Matt White of the Mitchelton-Scott team was summarising what he expects from the racing in the Vendée. He and colleagues have been planning how to manage their anxiety for the first weekend of the Tour and part of that is to take into consideration all the potentially dangerous elements that are part of modern cycling.
Another Australian sports director, Allan Peiper, says that road furniture is one thing that makes racing so much more complicated now than it did when he was a professional. “So much of the radio communication with riders relates to warnings about the obstacles,” said Peiper.
For each stage of the race, there’s a summary of road conditions and each year the tally of roundabouts and speed bumps seems to grow.
If you’ve driven in France, you’ll know about the proliferation of roundabouts: one recent tally lists over 32,000 in the country… but that’s likely to have grown since that data was published.
In stage one of the 2018 Tour de France alone, a 201km stretch of road from Noirmoutier to Fontenay-le-Comte, there are 106 roundabouts!
Mitchelton-Scott prepares its riders in advance and former rider, Julian Dean, is enlisted to make a daily summary in time for the team meeting each morning.
The New Zealander has driven each stage well before race day, documenting the course and even filming the road when it gets tricky for the peloton. “Julian has been recording the stage and he’s vary wary about how much road furniture there is for the opening stages,” said White. “It’s quite frightening actually.
“The first days are always anxious and that makes the racing dangerous but add in all the guttering, speed bumps and roundabouts and it gets really funky.”
According to the French department of roads, there are:
- 195 “passages très dangereux”
- 28 narrowings
- 36 median strips
- 106 roundabouts
Having driving much of the route today, it is surprising that the tally is, in fact, as low as what’s been referenced on the official report. There are obstacles everywhere… and that’s before we take into consideration the crowds that are yet to amass to watch the riders pass.
Oh, the good news? There are bright blue skies and barely a breath of wind.
But still: remember, be careful out there…!