Remco Complains about White Roads in the Tour de France 2024
Bryan Adams sang She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancing, but sometimes it seems that Remco Evenepoel is only happy when he’s complaining.
‘There are specific events and championships for gravel racing. Why do they need to add such stages to a Grand Tour? I don’t think that’s necessary’.remco evenepoel
White Roads on Stage 9 of the Tour de France 2024
Chemins blancs, or white roads, feature on Stage 9 of the Tour de France 2024, which starts and finishes in Troyes.
They are gravel roads through vineyards, and because chalk dominates the local geology, they are white. This short video by the Tour de France race organisers gives a good idea of what is involved.
These roads feature in Paris Tours – see for example the highlights of the 2023 edition of that race.
Thierry Gouvenou, who designs the Tour de France route, explained in an interview that he has been thinking about including white roads in the Tour since 2016.
He and his team were going to put them in the 2019 Tour, in the stage that finished in Epernay, but they didn’t quite find the right white roads and it was too dangerous in the descents because there was too much gravel – so they didn’t go ahead with that idea.
Instead they put white roads in the Tour de France Femmes two years ago.
In the 2024 Tour, there is a long period when the race is on the plains, not in the mountains, and they wanted to break up that run of flat stages with something different – the white roads.
Originally, the stage wasn’t Troyes-Troyes, but having been on site and looked at the white roads, Troyes-Troyes worked out best and enabled them to include the most suitable white road sections.
Exciting for Spectators, but Risky for GC Contenders
The white roads could be compared to Paris Roubaix-style cobbled sections which have featured in Tour de France stages in past editions.
They provide a real focus for journalists and are exciting for spectators, but there are risks for GC contenders. If they suffer a puncture or other mechanical, they could lose several minutes and effectively drop out of contention for the yellow jersey.
Remco’s Travails on Gravel Roads
On Stage 11 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, Remco Evenepoel lost over 2 minutes on the sterrato gravel roads to Montalcino, as Egan Bernal prospered. Given that, perhaps it’s unsurprising that the Belgian isn’t keen to repeat the experience.
On the other hand, he is a more mature rider now than then, and should not have any difficulty with the gravel if, as expected, he makes his debut in the Tour de France in 2024.