It is the end of March and the region, internationally known from the Second World War, welcomes the team with almost 20 degrees, sunshine and not a single drop of rain. A miracle, as long-time fans and organizers of the race tell. In previous years, there were usually temperatures near freezing and hardly a stage without rain. Due to snow, the penultimate edition almost had to be cancelled. The extremely good mood of the fans and visitors is reasonable already because of the weather alone.
Having just arrived at the first stage in Ouistreham, fans are already crowding around the BIKE AID riders and bikes. The cycling fever and extraordinary interest is palpable. Questions about the frame and the wheels hail in, riders hand out one signature after the other and the rush seems to have no end. The team is thrilled, such an atmosphere they simply love!
It is easy to see that cycling in France is historic. The majority of the fans in the Village du Tour are already of retired age. Nevertheless, many of them are fit. They tell how they set off hours ago on their bikes to see the start of the stage. They go on to talk euphorically about successes from their own professional days, which legends they have sprinted against and how happy they are about the growing interest in this sport in society.
The already beautiful towns and villages that the Tour de Normandie crosses show their very best side for the 40th edition of the race. Colorful decorations, flowers, road bikes and jerseys in the windows of stores show the importance and enthusiasm for cycling.
Despite relatively flat stages, Team BIKE AID comes with strong climbers. Wesley Mol and Jesse Ewart recently proved what they can do in Rwanda and Julian Lino at the Tour of Antalya. Unfortunately, the ascents at the Tour de Normandie were too short for them to play to their full strength. However, in the fifth stage, which was the hilliest, they managed to keep the pace so high right on the first climb that the peloton split. The plan worked and Jesse Ewart spent the whole day in the breakaway group. Two kilometers before the finish, however, the group was caught up again.
Enzo Decker, who had just graduated from high school, unfortunately had to drop out of the race during the second stage. Severe stomach problems gave him a hard time. He expertly massaged the riders from then on and gave bottles from the side. Now that is team spirit!
Jesse de Rooij rode his first race with the team after almost a year of injury. He did not shy away from a seven day stage race. He showed that he can keep up well in the peloton even after a long time out. The season has now also started for him and the excitement for the next races is high!
Léo Bouvier demonstrated his sprinting qualities in the leadout of last year's Tour of Thailand. In Normandy he was now the sprinter of the team and directly showed why on the second stage. Going all out for more than 300 meters was enough for 6th place on this day. A strong performance of the Frenchman. However, a black out on the first climb of the fifth stage should mean his end. Suddenly he found himself behind the peloton, with only two other riders. These did not want to cooperate with him and Léo decided to ride away from them. He rode solo for the next 150 kilometers and nearly 2000 meters of elevation. A remarkable performance, especially mentally! Unfortunately, however, he fell out of the time limit that day. From then on, BIKE AID was only left with four riders.
Even if more was hoped for from a sporting point of view, the team can be satisfied with the performance at the Tour de Normandie. Tactics were well implemented and the riders showed strong character. In addition, the team ranking shows that the composition of new and old riders is absolutely competitive.
Furthermore, we can consider ourselves lucky that BIKE AID got away without any major crashes or injuries. Many devolopement teams showed a high willingness to take risks in order to show the big teams what they can do at any price. The risky riding often led to a nervous field and crashes. At the same time, however, this not seldom rewarded them with podium finishes.
The team leaves, carried away by the French cycling euphoria. The confidence, positive mood and joy for the next races of the season is palpable!