The day before ASO announces the route of the 2018 Tour de France, Frenchman Romain Bardet put in his vote for the big event. He wants unpredictability, no status quo, random chaos, uncertain outcomes and risk-taking.
Those are five things that give people over at the House of Sky headaches and irritable stomachs. The British squad is fixated on supporting Chris Froome’s quest to join the Tour de France legends with a fifth victory. There is no room for unpredictability in their scientific and methodical approach. All variables must be nailed down.
That’s not the way Bardet, who finished second third this year and second the year previous, likes to roll. “I am in favor of anything that can make the race more uncertain,” he said in an interview with L’Equipe. Imagine Team Sky’s David Brailsford saying that. A large chunk of their operating budget is reserved for the “elimination of the unpredictable.”
Well, Sky has won four of the last five Tours and while you can question the entertainment value and grinding repetition, there’s no arguing with the results. But that’s nothing a crappy patch of road on a downhill descent in the Alps can’t fix.
“The safety of the riders must not be endangered or make the race into a lottery, but apart from that, we will all win with an unpredictable race” said Bardet. “Cobbles, dirty and difficult roads make it an uncertain outcome and this makes the race more interesting and takes the contenders out of their comfort zone.”
Yes, it’s a clash of cultures between Team Sky and AG2R La Mondiale. One craves predictability, the other hopes for uncertainty. One has a budget big enough to control a three week race and keep the lid on any improvisation from Froome’s rivals. Dull but deadly, boring yet brutal.
With rumors of more windy, dangerous days in Brittany and perhaps some cobblestones, the 2018 route may yet throw something unexpected in Froome’s way. That’s what Bardet would certainly like to see. “I’m a young rider and I’d like to ride on those terrains. You have to get the riders to take risks, to think quickly for themselves and avoid the status quo. There’s nothing worse than the status quo,” said Bardet.
Amen to that sentiment. This season, Team SKy’s dominance in the Tour de France even spread to the Vuelta a Espana. If not for the wild-man exploits of Alberto Contador in his final race, the Spanish grand tour’s GC battle would have been fairly uneventful.
Let’s hope that on Tuesday ASO’s Christian Prudhomme is in no mood for status quo.