With the Tour de France only days away, we thought we'd ask Team AG2R La Mondiale's Jan Bakelants for some insight into how riders prepare and see what insider knowledge we get out of him about what it's actually like to ride in the Tour.
Jan held the Yellow Jersey for two stages during the 2013 Tour de France. He's also won the Tour de l'Avenir and racked up some other decent results, including a Top 20 finish in the Tour de Suisse a few weeks ago. This is our third interview with Jan and you can read more about his nutrition and hydration strategies here and here.
It was a successful Tour de Suisse for your team with 3 riders in the Top 20, including yourself. Is this a good omen for how you'll perform in the TdF?
Riders are always looking for confirmation. Even if your legs feel good and the numbers are great in training, some affirmation from a good performance in a race is nice.
However, a good TdS doesn't automatically mean the results will come by themselves in the TdF of course. The Tour is a whole other race with it's own atmosphere and the counters of the teams all will be set to zero again at the start of it.
You broke your collarbone in March, what happened and how difficult was the comeback? What did you do in your recovery training?
The comeback was more difficult than a usual collarbone break as I had some complications at the end of April, the bone was not healing well. This meant I needed to do all my training until mid-May on the turbo. Turbo sessions are mentally hard, but on the other hand they're very time efficient. They do make you sweat a lot, but for that I have the perfect partner in Precision Hydration...
You held the Yellow Jersey a few years ago. Is there a stage of the tour you're particularly targeting this year? Without giving too much away!
It's hard to make significant plans beforehand. There are some good breakaway stages, but to be in them, you need some luck and good legs. I think the good legs are there, now let's hope for the luck. Another important stage for me will be the one to Rodez, 2 years ago I finished third on that same stage behind Sagan and Van Avermaet.
How are you feeling ahead of this year's Tour de France? What are your and the team's goals this year?
I am looking forward to it. We have a nice group this year, with our designated leader Romain Bardet who finished runner up last year. We all hope he can better his result this year. His GC ambitions will be the team's main goal, besides that all riders will get their chance to try their luck for a break away stage victory.
Will your family be joining you on the tour this year or will they be watching from home?
My girlfriend Daphne and our baby Julia - born during last year's TdF - will definitely come over a few days. Probably somewhere in the middle, hopefully they bring along some extra motivation with them!
Do you know yet who your roommate is for the tour? How important is getting paired with the right person?!
We have nine riders, so 4 'couples' and one lucky guy who gets to sleep alone! If I get a choice I'd like to sleep alone like last year. That really helps you to focus only on your own routine, which is always better. If not, I can pair up with anybody, I get along well with everybody luckily!
How exactly do you taper into a major Tour?
I finished the Tour de Suisse a week last Sunday and the last 12 days before the tour will be all about recovery. The training is now done, overdoing things at this point won't provide any additional benefit.
This year's Etape du Tour looks particularly tough (Briancon to Col d'Izoard) and lots of PH riders have signed up. Any top tips to help them nail it?
The mountains in the Etape are particularly long this year. Probably the best advice is to stay well hydrated (no doubt you'll have them covered on that front), eat regularly and just climb at your own rhythm.