Bahamontes, the great Federico, turns 93, and to celebrate him, the Tour de France, always original, organizes a non-Pyrenean stage, a widely seen gift, but heretical, like him, and as hot as Toledo del Águila in July. Pure homage to being the most individual in cycling, dean of Tour winners, who from his last refuge, in the Tierra de Campos of Valladolid, confesses “very well on his head”. “And that admires everyone, who tells me, but what memory do you have, Federico, but I’m screwed up on my knees and I can barely walk,” says the winner of the ’59 Tour to whom he sings happy birthday, to whom He adds: “And very happy because the Tour has declared me the best climber in history, and there are still some who say that he has been better than me …”
The ultimate goal was, however, for the grieving peloton to celebrate the best sprinter in history, 36-year-old Mark Cavendish, so beloved in his return season to the cry of Cav is back, who wins the 13th stage in Carcassonne, his fourth victory in the Tour of 21, the 34th in his 13 Tours. 34, like Eddy Merckx, solo record holder so far, who laughs. “How can I lose sleep over the stage record …?”, Says Caníbal in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Cavendish only wins sprints, and I won time trials, mountain, sprints, everything …”
It will not be the Howitzer of Man who sins of heresy, in this chapter, at least. “Don’t compare me to Merckx,” he asks, sensible in his exaltation. “I will be the best sprinter, but Merckx is the best cyclist of all time.”
On the way to the enthronement of Cavendish in the medieval walls of Carcassonne, anyway, it did not hurt to put the squad down narrow roads in arid, desolate and beautiful landscapes, deep canyons of dry rivers, the old Minerva, ruins of Albigensian butcher shops and gravel on the D128 road, just paved, which sends several runners skidding into the ravine in a curve taken at 65 per hour – among them Majka, the best climber of the leader’s team, two days before Andorra and the Pyrenees – and A little wind to the right so that Richard Carapaz could have fun in the last kilometers, and so that, always in bright yellow and calm, Tadej Pogacar would show off his calm solitude in the midst of the nervous breakdown of the whole peloton. “If there were problems on the right, I would go to the left, and the other way around, or through the center,” says the 22-year-old Slovenian, very skilled at living off the wheels of his rivals and skimming past without causing wounded the bellies of fat onlookers on the sidewalks, happy tourists tanned in the sun in a red polka dot T-shirt. And everything calms down when the wind blows in the face, at the end. And they all sweat.
Cavendish already rolls on the throne before the enthronement, carried on a litter like a saint in procession by a world champion, his teammate Julian Alaphilippe, more of a hyperactive child than his newborn Nino, and unable to go a day without feeling like a leading actor. . If he is not on the run, attacking to the point of bursting, the Frenchman takes the lead and organizes the Deceuninck dike, which shines in the Cathar lands like the armies of Crusaders. Nothing can spoil the English party, so a silly escape, of only three, is allowed with the folklore value that an Israeli cyclist, Omer Goldstein, on the break, can thus win a flying goal, and the rest are blocked. So to the streets of Carcassonne, where his friends Asgreen, winner of the Tour of Flanders, Ballerini and Morkov organize the final very fast and powerful float, and solidly resists the attempt to disarm it by a strong Asturian, Iván García Cortina, who on the day de Bahamontes throws himself 200 meters from the line and it even seems that he can succeed. Cavendish is in a maze from which the Danish sage Morkov magically extracts him, so fast that he almost has to brake a few meters before the line for his boss to win. Symbol of the Deceuninck’s extra-domain, Morkov finishes second. Cortina, fourth and sixth is Alex Aranburu, debutant with Astana in the toughest and strangest Tour in recent years, arriving from a hamlet in Ezkio-Itsaso (Gipuzkoa) and, with the same tenacity with which he did in home a home gym to heal the knees that plague Federico so much following the advice of the physiotherapist Jurdan Mendigutxia. “It was three years ago and, well, as much as a gym, no, I rode with weights and tires a txoko, a place to do some exercises, “says Aranburu, 26, who will probably share Movistar with Cortina in 2022.” But, well, he says, I’m on the Tour now, you can’t talk about that. “