Simon Clarke triumphs over the cobblestones Adrien Petit’s friends have paraded – Liberation

“Come on, it lasts”said one. “Are you sure?”answers the other. “But yes, with the beer bottles on the letters, it’s good.” Twenty seconds later, the letters fly away and the name of Adrien Petit floats across the fields. The time is 15.00, the fifth stage of the Tour de France 2022 has been kicked off in an hour. The hero of the last days, Wout van Aert, the man who strikes with his arms like an albatross, has just fallen and is struggling to get back on the field. But 25 kilometers away, at the entrance to the cobblestone sector between Fressain in Villers-au-Tertre, on the first day of the day, the audience takes care of it. In June, the corner was renamed Adrien Petit, a rider from the region: he is from Habarcq, near Arras. Above all, he is one of the best Frenchmen on the cobblestones, number six this year in Roubaix. So his fan club is busy.

Since nine o’clock this morning, the letters have been installed, a barnum has been set up, the grills are heating up, the beer vending machine is running at full power. Three hundred people signed up, at 5 euros the entrance to sandwiches, dessert, drink at will. “We started cycling at the same time”, says Mathieu Leloup, 32, president of the fan club. Head of an asbestos risk prevention company, he takes to as many races as he can, with his childhood friend. Usually there are about fifteen, sometimes a little more. But there the Tour is different, it is above. The sector is between two villages, surrounded by wheat and corn, in good condition, barely dusty with a nice view. The weather is sunny

Adrien Petit’s sister, Marion, and his wife, Flora-Line, are in charge. They distribute free Panini albums while children play around them. His father, Alain, is waiting hidden between two motorhomes. The black polo shirt with the son’s name and the red cap screwed on his head, the former good track cyclist has a hard time hiding his stress. A fall came quickly. He says : “I never pushed him to ride a bike, but I never stopped him.”

Huge aristocrat

By her side, Philippe Gougeard drinks beer. He is the father of Alexis, another participant. They got on well during the French championship and the two families decided to follow the race together. They exchange anecdotes about trips in motorhomes about the races, like the day in Bessèges when everything was frozen. His descendants of Men in Glaz, as the small Breton team B&B Hotels is nicknamed, are in today’s outburst with five other men, including the inevitable Magnus Cort Nielsen, the first week’s escaped joker.

A good part of the village came to help. City Hall made tables available. A farmer graciously borrowed his field and procured blank. The Foyer des Jeunes et de l’Education Populaire came with its giant aristocrat, Marie-Antoinette de Goyon de Matignon, in a yellow and red dress, wife of the Marquis de Trainel, who after the revolution was looking for coal in the area, on the side of Anche until the finish is ruined. “The youth center is called that, but there are no young people., laughs one of the active members, Olivier Lobry, 64, a straw hat with a blue ribbon on his head and a digital camera around his neck. In the barn they also have the awning as a giant, but they lacked the arms to pull him out.

The former photographer in the mines was born in Villers-au-Tertre, 600 inhabitants, has always lived there, but does not know if he will stay long. “It was nice at the time because people all knew each other. Now it’s becoming a bedroom community. “ The former military conscientious objector also finds the mayor too close to RN. “From a village with a warm and festive welcome we come to a village that makes the mouth.” His wife, Corina, “with a c because I’m already a case”, in her floral dress, takes a picture of the giantess. She posts it on her Facebook with a message marked by smileys: “Because Covid made an infidelity for her lover … Adrien …”

The scattered jumbo

Lying in the wheat, hidden in the corn, not everyone came after Petit, nicknamed Le Bison (after a former Cofidis teammate was impressed with his power). Belgians are there for Wout Van Aert, Welsh for Geraint Thomas, children for the gifts from the advertising caravan. Disappointment, passing through the village, she must not take the cobblestones, she throws almost nothing today.

On the edge of the country, tensions are rising. In the distance we see a procession of helicopters, then a police car, officials on the move, the first motorcycles. It’s starting to scream. Here are the six men who have fled from top to bottom. The cobblestone sector is in a turn, you can see them from a distance and for a long time: almost 17 seconds. Three minutes later, the field: it lasts a little longer, almost 30 seconds, for a six-hour wait. “It does not matter we come for the people”, said a young woman. Adrien Petit is in the top positions, he is hailed. Dust flies.

Everyone is fine, but the brand new cemetery at the end of the cobblestones, probably frustrated at still being so empty, spells. Very fast, everything changes, everything explodes. The jumbo, which was announced as invincible yesterday, is scattered like a jigsaw puzzle. Primoz Roglic falls, Jonas Vingegaard breaks his bike and changes it three times.

We follow the race on television in a motorhome with fathers Petit and Gougeard. Alexis is still ahead. The mood is diligent, between the hope of a good place and the fear of misfortune.

Buffalo Bill and the dust clouds

The horizon is long. Behind the fields, in two other villages, the field passes again and raises dust to the top of the towers. As if, on the plains of the American West, a herd of bison galloped in panic, pursued by Buffalo Bill. One by one, reincarnated cowboy in cracks, haystacks and other dangers on the roads eliminates O’Connor, Meintjes, Haig, Lutsenko, Van der Poel and more. The scene is Danish, and yet it does not rain. Small groups continue without it being clear who is where. Alexis Gougeard is distanced. We do not know where Adrien Petit is.

Nevertheless, in this tangle, a certainty. Tadej Pogacar is the luckiest man in the world, or the strongest, perhaps both. He is not helped by any teammate, and yet he has fun leading the pursuers. With his white jersey, he is not a clown, but an acrobat at the Théâtre du Soleil. Let Ariane Mnouchkine recruit this man! As he passed the cobbled sector of Adrien Petit, he was in second position, happy as a pope, and then continued his journey as if nothing had happened, without a glance, King of Arenberg.

The breakaway plays the victory. In front of the small TV, the small group screams “Go Taco, Go Taco”, for van der Hoon, teammate at Intermarché Adrien Petit. But the victory is for Simon Clarke (Israel Start-Up Nation). Wout van Aert miraculously retains the yellow jersey.

Tonight it will take time to heal the wounds on each other. In Adrien Petit’s fan zone, which finally finished in 40th place, we were busy putting everything away. The two fathers are relieved: the two children did not win, but arrived in good condition. Today was the most important day.

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