Cyclist Magazine

The show must go on

The dying sunflowers said it all. In normal times, the sunflower fields are the perfect symbol of the Tour de France, showing the country at its vivid, high-definition, height-of-summer best. The race should copyright the image: fields of tall, swaying, bright yellow sunflowers, with the peloton as a blurry backdrop.

In September, the sunflowers were wilting and rusty brown. And yet they were still the perfect symbol and metaphor – for this year’s delayed Tour de France in particular, and 2020 more generally.

I first covered the Tour as a journalist in 2005 and haven’t missed a race since. Sixteen Tours amounts to a full year (plus three weeks) spent following the peloton and over that sort of time you become so used to the way things work that you cease to notice the odd quirks and strange customs and etiquette of life on the Tour.

This year, however, was very different. Nothing worked as it usually does, and there was much to learn, or re-learn. That became clear in Nice, which hosted the Grand Départ and, unusually, the starts and finishes of Stages 1 and 2, then also the start of Stage 3.

Touch and go

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