A New Chapter
The rehabilitation of German cycling is complete. Over the past decade Germany has rebuilt its faith in cycling, and this weekend’s Grand Depart in Düsseldorf was the culmination of that process, a celebration of the German relationship with this great race.
Staging the Grand Depart doesn’t come cheap and Düsseldorf made the most of its investment. Visitors thronged the city’s pedestrianised old town and knocked back glasses of altbier, the local specialty. Local boys Kraftwerk put on a special show. The teams rolled into the pre-Tour presentation with shiny new kit and equally polished soundbites. Out on the road, despite the rain, the crowds were huge and enthusiastic.
While Marcel Kittel’s victory in Liege from a fully loaded bunch sprint was a fitting way for the race to leave Germany, the story of the opening weekend was of two men resurgent – Taylor Phinney and Geraint Thomas.
Both prodigious track pursuiters, Phinney and Thomas have had careers defined by the expectation of greater things. Despite racking up many solid results and thousands of kilometres of hard work for their team leaders, both men have been discussed as possible Grand Tour winners.
On the wet roads of Germany, Thomas and Phinney showed their panache. Phinney’s return from a devastating injury has been near-miraculous; for Thomas the transition from classics specialist to stage race uber-domestique has been as bumpy as the cobbled classics he has left behind. Today their rewards are a yellow jersey and a polka dot jersey. As the race heads home to France, expect to see Phinney jumping into more breakaways, and expect to see the peloton reluctant to let him go.
For Thomas his frustrating crash at the Giro d’Italia might be the best thing that ever happened to him. The Welshman is unswervingly loyal to Chris Froome, but if the reigning champion falters there may come a moment when Thomas has to make a decision.
To wait or not to wait? On such moments whole careers can be made.
Pictures by Marshall Kappel // kappel.cc