Tadej Pogacar’s domination of the Tour de France and Mark Cavendish’s near-maintenance on the race’s sprint stages drew millions of people in, but they weren’t the only cycling players to pedal in France this summer. .Because Jack Thompson, an experienced and very accomplished ultra-cyclist from Australia, covered the entire route – the 3,500 km – in just 10 days, giving the peloton a head start, then overtaking them to reach Paris. two days before them. .
It was the culmination of three years of planning and a lifelong dream. Has he now taken part in the biggest bicycle race in the world? “Despite a little something, I have already raced the Tour de France,” he smiles. “I think my path is better too. “
Thompson began his journey from Brest on Monday July 5, then made his way through rain, unusually cold conditions for the season and into the Alps, before heading south to cross the Pyrenees, then to north to the French capital. He climbed over 62,000m.
He’s honest when he describes his difficulty – common sense, “it was fucking hard, one of the hardest things I’ve done” – and it gave him a better understanding of how racing is. difficult.
“One thing that really surprised me,” he says, “is that you don’t realize by watching the race on TV, but you watch a sprint finish and think it’s going to be another run-in flat, but then you crank them up and realize that there is a decent gradient all the way to the finish.
“It gave me more respect for the fast guys who come to the finish to run a sprint. It’s like when you go to a velodrome for the first time and don’t realize how steep the banks are.
Thompson notes his feat – coined The Amazing Chase (presented by Wahoo) – of beating the peloton on top of his exploits of completing three Everest challenges in three consecutive days and setting a world record of 3,505 km in one week.
“It’s the best,” he says. “Being on the Champs-Élysées, in the middle of Paris, I didn’t want it to stop. I got to the final and I was just like, “It was so much fun, that’s why I started cycling because I like it”. It hasn’t really sunk yet. It was a three year goal and it finally happened. It is special.
There were times, however, during his week-and-a-half-week expedition where the experience was classified as Type 2 fun: not pleasant in the present, but it will bring a smile on your face.
He explains: “It was sometimes weird because, in my head, it’s France, in the middle of summer, and there are beautiful sunny days by bike. But it was quite the opposite: it was raining almost every day, it was cold and I was going down hills in a really thick fog so I had to concentrate so much, and I was tired too.
“It was a roller coaster – so many ups, so many downs. You don’t have time to understand everything, and after having dinner in Paris, everyone in the crew remembers little things, and I say to myself “I don’t remember! “
A tired and battered peloton has repeatedly declared the 2021 to be the toughest Tour in living memory, relying mainly on the string of crashes and retirements. The route, however, at least for Thompson, deserves the tag on its own.
“I would say this is one of the most difficult routes you can do,” said the 32-year-old, who lives in Girona, Spain.
“When you go to the mountains, it’s hard to ride, but it’s not like you’re on vacation and you can do one and then go back out for a beer: you have three or four tired legs back to back . from the day before, and you do it for several days.
“A climb, the Col du Portet, is really difficult. It’s mental because it’s steep at the bottom, and then there’s a part where you turn on the second section and it’s called the Stairway to Heaven. But, believe me, it’s like going to hell.
Eating is something Thompson masters, because spending hours in the saddle is his specialty. But even he was baffled by the constant task of refueling.
“It’s actually a food challenge,” he laughs. “The Tour is a game about who can replenish calories fastest and best. This is one of the hardest things.
“I drank a liquid that gave me 80% of my calories, but I also ate whole blocks of cheese, baguettes full of butter. You have to try to gain as much fat as possible so that you don’t waste it.