The anti-grimpeur

New Zealand pro sprinter Julian Dean is the anti-grimpeur.

In this year’s Tour de France, for Dean and the other non-climbers, the stages through the Alps and the Pyrenees were all about finishing the stage without being eliminated by the time cut-off.

“For me it was back into survival mode where the focus is just about getting through and saving as much energy as possible for the coming days,” he wrote in his website diary.

And the Kiwi also has some delightful turns-of-phrase to describe his mountains experiences.

“To tell you the truth, I’m shitting my pants about it [stage 9 to Briancon] ’cause as always, if I’m dropped at the start, I’m screwed for the day.”

Dean has been in European pro teams since 1999, starting with US Postal before shifting to CSC and then Crédit Agricole. His original cycling successes were on the track, hardly the typical starting point for a climber but definitely the domain for a rider who can push maximum wattage for short periods of time.

As a sprinter, his world is the high-speed elbow-to-elbow jostling of the final surge for the line: strong legs, steady nerves, an eye for the gap, and a willingness to risk a high-speed crash (of which Dean has had many).

“Ninety-five percent of the result is ‘who has the best legs’,” he told this writer. “But luck still plays a role.”

J Dean

Dean knows all about the ‘hardness’ required to be a pro sprinter

His world is not that of the climber: the rangy high-altitude specialist, battling gravity and gradient, and eking out the tinniest savings in weight and increases in speed to end the leg and lung-numbing pain a little sooner on the long climbs.

The climbers in the Tour de France provide the drama, with the mountains as their spectacular stage.

The sprinters, however, provide the excitement, and to watch them persevere over the toughest of stages is to see riders willing to find new ways of suffering simply to stay in the race for a chance at glory on another day.

To find out more about a sprinter’s Tour, and to exploit an unashamed Kiwi connection, this writer spoke to Julian Dean for to hear about his experiences and his future with a new team.

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