American cyclist Neilson Powless of team EF Education-EasyPost writes a journal for VeloNews.com during the 2022 Tour de France. Powless recently arrived within four seconds of the Tour’s coveted yellow jersey, and his latest entry — written after Thursday’s sixth shift — discusses his close conversation.
Another stage got off and after a medium-length transfer I made it to my hotel room for the night. So far, the stay at the Tour de France has actually not been too bad, although the Wi-Fi sucked last night. To be honest, apart from the fact that I could not talk to my family, a lack of connectivity was probably the best.
It meant no social media and honestly less stress after what happened on stage 5. A lot has happened, but if you want me to summarize the last two phases in a word, it has to be ‘rollercoaster’. It was an amazing ride.
Honestly, I do not know how to describe it differently. I keep up with random surges of emotions. One moment I feel like I can break down and curl up in a ball and then the next moment I feel like I’m on top of the world and realize I’m achieving childhood dreams. My mind wanders back and forth from those alternate states, but when I’m in the race, I feel like I’m still able to focus on the task at hand and chase with my EF Education – EasyPost teammates.
I can push it in the back of my head when the flag falls, but as soon as I get off my bike I flip between thinking ‘wow I’m second at the Tour de France’ to ‘man, I could have been in yellow’ and then to ‘but I’m just four seconds off yellow ‘. It’s so hard to describe. It’s a tug of war in my head.
I think I also just want to fix the record on a few things. First, there is no bad blood between me and Alberto Bettiol. We both raced for the team and I think the race was so chaotic with everyone working with limited information. Bettiol and I are pretty good friends and we never deliberately raced against each other. He just showed again on stage 6 today how much of an incredible teammate he is. He always put his nose in the wind for me and always shouted at me. He was a great teammate today. I have never doubted him.
Today we threw everything there and tried to take the jersey, but at the end of the day I came up against Tadej Pogačar, and the guy is the best cyclist in the world. He’s an amazing cyclist and it’s a shame I could not take yellow. I’m not sorry and the team put all their effort into me. I was proud of them and we are still second in the Tour de France.
Behind the scenes, the directors just tell me to stay focused. They realized that I am a very practical person, so I do not stand much by the past. I learned my lesson in previous races to just trust my body and keep my emotions in check, because the differences now between dropping and winning all come down to split-second decisions you make throughout the day. All they can do is keep me calm and relaxed because I can get excited about.
And if you look at the overall picture, if you told me during the Tour de Suisse, when there was COVID-19 and all that uncertainty, that I would be second to Pogačar at the Tour after six stages I would have asked you which fell out. So far, as a team, we’ve made it pretty far and I just like to ride my bike. I enjoy tactics and thinking on my feet and that’s what this race has been about for the past five days. Now I just have to trust my body that I trained well enough for the mountains.
Looking ahead, my job is pretty simple. I just need to save my energy as much as possible and then essentially chase with the favorites. To be honest, it feels like a pretty big privilege. If that plan changes in the coming days, that’s fine. I will adapt, but I will be proud to race with the top riders.