21 days of the Tour de France - The rest day

With 9 days of racing behind them the peloton enjoys the first of its 2 rest days today. Here at Bon Courage we thought we would have a look at what goes on.

For most people who had cycled 1340km in the last 9 days, you would expect a long lie in, some lounging by the hotel pool and definitely a day off the bike, but sadly for the rider the ‘rest day’ is really just a lighter version of their race routine of riding bikes and press commitments.

The day normally starts with a 2-3 hour training ride at a high intensity which gives the cyclists a chance to flush the lactic acid out of their legs and keep their minds focused on racing. With this many days of riding behind them their bodies are accustomed to the daily strain and if they don’t cycle on this day their bodies will start the recovery process, which will make racing tomorrow’s first mountain stage really hateful.

After the training ride cyclists will return to the team hotel and see their team physiotherapist, masseuse and doctors, just as they do after any stage of the race. With the high level of crashes that have plagued the first few stages this year many riders will need to spend today giving their wounds a much needed day to heal.

After that it is press time. Journalists inevitably camp out in the team hotel waiting for quotes and attending press conferences. The CG contenders and yellow jersey holder will usually do large press conferences for up to an hour sometimes to over 100 journalists. Sport directors will hold meetings and mechanics will spend precious time repairing equipment and setting up the fleet up bikes ready for tomorrow.

It’s a day for looking back over the last 9 days, and for making plans for the next 2 weeks. At this point plans can be adjusted taking into account everyone’s placings and how everyone is feeling. For example Team Sky’s Chris Froome goes into the mountain stages this week as the GC leader, so their plan is to defend the leading position – whereas other teams will have to plan to attack in the mountains if they are to get any chance of taking time out of Froome’s lead and take the yellow jersey.

The rest days haven’t always been so demanding, and in the tours many years ago riders managed to get a day on the beach, or with their feet up reading a book. In 1910 Adolpho Heliere was enjoying a rest day swim in the Mediterranean when he was stung by a jellyfish and drowned whilst swimming! The first fatality of the Tour de France. Maybe its safer to stay on the bike!!