The Tour de France 2022. Where do we even begin? The pinnacle of global cycling has lived up to expectation and more. The excitement and drama is unlike any event that I can remember in recent years, and something that I feel incredibly privileged to be able to witness first-hand.
Our team’s performance so far has been strong. The guys rode incredibly well through the first two weeks, encountering success, challenges, and unexpected incidents along the way. We have shown togetherness and team spirit as we enter the final stages through the Pyrenees and into Paris.
I couldn’t be prouder of the fight and determination we have shown for each other, as a group of riders and wider team, attacking each stage and giving our best, no matter the situation and hurdles we have had to overcome.
Professional sport can create the highest of highs and lowest of lows. It’s the nature of the beast. To my dismay, I fell foul to Covid-19 just before the start of stage one, and that was the end of my Tour de France. It was a really difficult moment for me.
The training, the commitment, the discipline, the countless hours that have gone into ensuring I was in the best possible shape for the biggest cycling event on the planet – and I didn’t make it on to the start line. It still hurts, knowing you’re not able to be out there doing what you love most and helping my teammates in the most challenging and critical stages of the race.
I still remember being out on the bike going through some final training exercises when the team doctor called to confirm my Covid test was positive. It was gutting, but I had to remind myself that unfortunately this was always going to be something that could potentially happen to any rider and a hurdle that we had to be prepared for.
Overcoming adversity is something that we as professional sportsmen have to be able to deal with. This couldn’t have been more evident than with our leader, Tadej Pogacar, who found himself in a tough moment during stage 11, when he had to relinquish the yellow jersey.
He found himself in a cat-and-mouse situation with two of the strongest riders in the race. Unfortunately for us, Tadej was on the receiving end of a perfectly executed tactic by Team Jumbo-Visma to trap him and gain a lead.
But what makes a great champion isn’t the obstacles they are faced with, but how they overcome them. Tadej is as worthy champion as any and has proved it countless times around the world. The way he dealt with losing teammates – who are crucial to our efforts in the mountains especially – was incredible, and he is still in a position where we as a team are so confident that he can win this race.
Just like in 2020, he will be trying to claw back as many seconds as possible on the remaining climbs before giving it absolutely everything in the final time trial. He’s done it before, and I’m confident he can do it again.
Our coaching team and backroom staff have been unbelievable during not only this race but the entire season. You may see just the riders on the television, but the UAE Team Emirates machine is vast and constantly looking for ways to improve and gain margins.
Whether it be bikes, hotels, massages, food and drink, logistics, media relationships, or race preparation, every single member of our team has a crucial role to play and we are so thankful for their hard work.
Finally, and most importantly, the fans. The support on the roads during each stage has been crazy. The Tour de France-mania has been clear for all to see, and the atmosphere and excitement has just been building with each stage.
To our UAE fans, thank you to each and every one of you. We feel the pride and the push of the Emirati people across every event we compete in. Despite often racing far and wide around the world, we feel your support in everything we do and continually strive to win races for our UAE fans.