Procycling - - PROLOGUE -

The win­ner of the 2018 su­per­com­batif prize takes us through some of the highs and lows of his Tour de France.


I re­ally didn’t know what to ex­pect from this stage. On pa­per I was a favourite, but af­ter my meta­mor­pho­sis into more of a pure climber I have lost some of my ex­plo­sive­ness since I got sec­ond at the Mûrde-Bre­tagne in 2015. My race instinct re­turned though. I made a plan, knew ex­actly when to at­tack, stayed calm all day – even when the race split in the wind, and had enough in the legs to carry the at­tack through to cross the line first. It was an amaz­ing feel­ing. The podium, me­dia zone, press con­fer­ence are all now a blur but that stage-win­ning feel­ing is never for­got­ten.


I rode my luck dur­ing the first week. It was cal­cu­lated risk tak­ing. I could have asked my team to ride in the wind at the front for me all week, but I wanted to save their en­ergy and also save my men­tal en­ergy. It’s in­cred­i­bly tough to fight for po­si­tion all day, every day. The con­cen­tra­tion re­quired is ex­haust­ing, let alone the phys­i­cal ef­fort. So I sat back a bit and tried to feel the race and sense when it was im­por­tant to be in front. I man­aged this un­til 17km to go on stage 8 when I crashed. Some­how I got back on my bike and my team lim­ited my losses. But in the bus af­ter, such was the pain, I was con­vinced I was go­ing home, un­til all the scans came back clear.


Be­fore the race, stage 9 was in­tim­i­dat­ing but ex­cit­ing. Maybe it was strange for a climber to have that at­ti­tude but when else would I ride the cob­bles of Paris-Roubaix?

I had lost my con­fi­dence in the pelo­ton though, and in the first 50km I was ter­ri­fied of crash­ing again. My back was shred­ded and still leak­ing through my jersey af­ter the crash. Once we got to the first sec­tion, I re­laxed – adren­a­line maybe? And with every pass­ing sec­tor my con­fi­dence grew. By the end I felt al­most at ease on the stones, my con­di­tion clearly ex­cel­lent, my team flaw­less in look­ing af­ter me. I fin­ished dirty, de­hy­drated but happy. My body was still work­ing and I was con­scious there was still a lot of rac­ing to be done.


A 65km stage with an F1-style grid start? Gim­micks per­haps, but I was ex­cited for this stage. My phi­los­o­phy this whole Tour was to en­joy every minute. The Pyre­nees is a re­gion I love. I’ve al­ways raced well here. The grid start didn’t change the race but I think the added vis­i­bil­ity of the top riders to the fans was good. It was dif­fer­ent. Fun. The race was fast. There was too much wind to at­tack early and the in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult last climb also de­terred at­tacks. I at­tacked from the bot­tom to put pres­sure on my com­pe­ti­tion. I was con­fi­dent Sky would let me go, and I turned the climb into a TT to the top. It was epic. I rode the whole climb 15-20 sec­onds be­hind Quin­tana. Be­ing sec­ond best on the hard­est fin­ish in the race meant I was con­tent… but still, what could have been?


What an in­cred­i­bly daunt­ing pro­file for the fi­nal road stage of the race. High moun­tains. Fa­mous passes. These roads are the his­tory of the Tour - the mist shroud­ing the fi­nal two peaks added to the drama. Long-range at­tacks by GC con­tenders forced a high tempo while the best riders in the race rode ex­hausted but ag­gres­sively, at­tack­ing like ju­niors. Then a break-neck down­hill fin­ish. It was one of the scari­est down­hills I’ve ever done – not be­cause it was un­safe but for the speed that we took the cor­ners. The good road sur­face and open curves made it very tech­ni­cal. I hoped to sprint for the win but Roglic had es­caped, and when the fin­ish line ap­peared I didn’t have the legs any­way. I loved every minute of this stage.


The ride into Paris is al­ways a day to savour. But to stand on the fi­nal podium, as the su­per­com­batif of the race, still leaves me speech­less. I race for fun, be­cause I love it and at­tack­ing comes nat­u­rally to me. The fact peo­ple en­joy and ap­pre­ci­ate that is hum­bling. To be re­warded for it blew me away, as did start­ing on the front row, my red num­bers at­tached and be­gin­ning the pro­ces­sion along­side my ju­nior spar­ring part­ner Geraint Thomas in yel­low. It al­most made the cob­ble­stones of the Champ­sElysées bear­able know­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence that awaited at the fin­ish and that my wife would be wait­ing af­ter the line. The most beau­ti­ful podium in cy­cling on the great­est av­enue in the world. What a way to fin­ish a roller­coaster of a race.

Dan en­sures his Tour is suc­cess­ful as he sprints to the stage 6 win

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