Omer Goldstein’s Diary of the Tour de France:
On the explosive bursts, the astronomical power, the depressing moments, and the light at the end of the tunnel.
My goal was clear. To do everything to get into the breakaway with Mike Woods and Dan Martin. Easy to say, almost impossible to do. Just the day before I tried and very quickly realized that I wasn’t in the game, and I was seriously screwed. But it was a new day and a new opportunity. We took off for twenty kilometers of flat before the seven-kilometer climb. In every other race it follows the usual script: a few tries for the breakaway, someone goes, the peloton relaxes.
But this is the Tour. Here the explosive attacks develop and never end. Not soon and not after soon. Here there are sixty riders, all of them leaders or all-rounders, and all are at the top of the world with astronomical numbers. And they start out the strongest and then get stronger.
So, what’s left for me to do in a situation like that? Go full gas and hope that it’s enough. It’s an inconceivable pace and it doesn’t stop for a minute – and just as we reach the climb, endless riders drop out.
So, finally, we reach the ascent and start to climb, and I look around – we are only left with sixty riders. I’m still holding on. It’s still enough. Only later I realized I’d broken my wattage record for ten and twenty minutes. But then thirty riders to go forward and I can’t bridge to them.
But this time, I was way less frustrated. I said to myself, you are getting stronger every day. You’ve got the best numbers you’ve ever had and finally, you were close, really close, to doing it and getting into the escape with the “killers”, the one that just takes apart the peloton. I reminded myself that the day before I hadn’t survived the jump with the sixty, but today I did. Now I can wait and continue the Tour with the real hope that at the next opportunity I will be able to really get in the game.
“If you will it” – that’s the story of my first nine days of the Tour de France. You can call it, perhaps, a ‘masa gibush’ [a challenging rite of passage that brings together an army unit]. It’s a painful acquaintance with the toughest race in the world. When I got into the Tour, I had only heard the stories. Everyone said it would be tough, but even very experienced riders, way more experience than Omar Goldstein, 24, of Gilon, say what is happening here this year is the most extreme and unusual example of this. There is no dominant group here to control things, huge groups are dismantled here, and the lack of control creates a brutal dynamic.
I got my first wake-up call to how tough this would be on the first stage with its severe crashes, and then those that came day after day. And those were not even on climbing stages.
You ride inside the peloton, which is terribly crowded, at a frightening speed, and know that every mistake will get everyone down on the floor. The roads here in the early stages were shocking, full of cracks, and we know when we get to the narrow roads, there will be no chance of going up together as a group because you are not given any space. I remember we tried to get closer to André Greipel to help him, but we had to go individually – like fighting a battle by ourselves. I saw him and said, here I am. Then he was gone.
We are constantly told on the radio to “go up” but everyone shouts exactly the same thing – so then everyone is trying to go forward and it’s simply an impossible task.
The first few evenings I watched the reruns on TV, and I was horrified. It took me a while to digest that it’s an experience I’ve never had before – no race, not even in the giant races I’ve been through like the Vuelta and the Dauphine – have I ever seen this combination of tremendous quality riders, tremendous speed, poor roads and everyone’s motivation to prove themselves worthy.
Therefore, you find yourself adapting and going from stage to stage. It doesn’t really occur to me that I don’t belong. I just say to myself, “Omer, work harder, get more out of yourself. Wait for the next opportunity and try to do the big thing you dream of here.”
We have all been through nine really hard days here, but despite the difficulties the atmosphere of the team is good, and we are very united and optimistic that we will still achieve a victory here in one of the stages. Mike Woods was already close to that, and he’s delivering the goods, so there’s something to look forward to.”