Jonas Vingegaard had been sporting the famed yellow jersey bestowed upon the chief of the Tour de France for nearly per week when the query got here.
It was not a query about race technique, sustaining pace or one of the best ways to maintain his nerve, and his lead, by extra days of winding roads, sharp curves and punishing ascents. It was not a query about health or type.
Would possibly he be extra snug, Vingegaard was requested, if he was in second place?
“It will be simpler, sure,” he replied. “For positive.”
For all the glory and respect it garners, for all it signifies in a sport obsessive about knowledge and element, the hallowed yellow jersey comes threaded with a shocking variety of inconveniences and drawbacks.
Groups could spend hours utilizing a wind tunnel, for instance, to excellent each element of a rider’s positioning, bike and clothes. The reward, if the rider does effectively sufficient to maneuver into the lead? A brand new jersey from the race’s official sponsor, Santini, that will not match or carry out in the identical manner.
“It’s just a little bit totally different,” stated Tadej Pogacar, a two-time winner of the Tour and a daily wearer of the yellow jersey. “You’re not used to it.”
Then there are the obligations. After crossing the end line of every day’s stage, the race chief is whisked by a dizzying sequence of duties. He’s interviewed by the Tour. He’s interviewed by the race’s official broadcast companions. He indicators a number of jersey facsimiles. He ascends the rostrum, together with a couple of different riders (a gaggle that features the stage winner and the leaders of a number of different classifications) for a presentation and images.
After that, he should navigate a gantlet of journalists and a video information convention. The ultimate cease, and doubtlessly the longest, is at doping management. He’s there till nature calls. “I might be one hour earlier on the resort on daily basis,” Vingegaard stated, if solely he was not within the yellow jersey.
Nonetheless, for each different rider, sporting it for even a day is the best honor, a first-line-of-the-obituary second. “My thoughts is exploding,” Yves Lampaert stated final 12 months, his eyes filling with tears, after taking a shock victory within the race’s opening time trial. “I’m only a farmer’s son from Belgium.”
So universally understood is the mystique of the maillot jaune, because the jersey is thought in French, that there is no such thing as a have to even specify the colour when referring to it. It’s merely, The Jersey. And at an occasion the place the colour yellow is inescapable — fluttering from flags, clinging to sweat-soaked spectators and chosen for the lanyards hanging across the necks of journalists, organizers, V.I.P.s and even cops — it’s truly much less prevalent within the race itself. There, its distinctive shade, Pantone Yellow 1000, is supposed to be seen in just one place: on the again of the race chief. (Race leaders have been identified to journey a yellow bike or put on different yellow gear, too.)
“The fries are performed!” a voice yells as an pressing beeping interrupts the bustle across the trailers and vans scattered exterior the press heart in Moulins after Stage 11. Fabrice Pierrot chuckles and releases the press he’s standing over. After slipping a small block of wooden into the mechanism to carry it open, he gingerly removes a yellow jersey bearing the still-steaming brand of Vingegaard’s staff, Jumbo-Visma.
Pierrot is the Tour’s jersey printer, tasked with producing particular jerseys every day for the rostrum, in addition to for the following day’s race. Backstage on the podium, Pierrot takes notes from the riders, although after 20 years on the job he can normally dimension them up by sight. “This era, like Pogacar, by no means a phrase,” he stated. “ I like working with them.” On today, by the point Vingegaard is completed, nearly precisely an hour after he rolled throughout the road, his staff bus and people of each different staff are lengthy gone. Boundaries are being dismantled, and the rostrum is being folded again right into a trailer. He’s as he has been for days: wearing yellow, and happy with it.
“It doesn’t match as effectively, but it surely suits OK,” Vingegaard stated, a faint smile creeping onto his usually stoic face. “I desire to be in The Jersey over my regular jersey.”