Tour de France: Passion for great race returns in explosive week

Bernard Hinault on his way to glory in the 1985 prologue in Plumelec
Bernard Hinault on his way to glory in the 1985 prologue in Plumelec
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Guy Watson, founder of Portsmouth-based i-Team, gives his verdict on the race so far.

What a week! So much has happened. It has been fantastic.

This week could be another thriller but don’t expect the big guns to start slugging it out for overall glory just yet.

I can see a Spaniard winning this afternoon – with the race entering the Pyrenees – and then a couple of Frenchman, like Thibaut Pinot or Romain Bardet, taking victories to save their Tours.

But the big guns, like my pick Nairo Quintana, will want to keep their powder dry ready for a tear-up in the Alps in the final week.

There is nothing to be gained this far from Paris, so if one of them does attack, it will be through desperation.

I loved the team time trial on Sunday because it reminded me of watching the 1985 Tour.

I decided at the last minute to head over for the first few stages, which began on the same hill in Plumelec where BMC completed their win less than 48 hours ago.

And I will never forget the roar of the crowd as Bernard Hinault came up the hill in the prologue.

He finished so close to me I could have reached out and touched him.

He was just starting out on the road to a record-equalling fifth Tour success – which was made all the more remarkable given he had quit the sport in 1983 because of tendonitis.

I never realised quite how important those moments were. Now I feel privileged to have witnessed Hinault at his very best, winning in front of his home crowd.

Since then a lot of Tours have left me a bit cold.

I was never able to get truly excited about another Miguel Indurain or Lance Amrstrong win.

But this year it is different. I’m starting to get back the passion for the sport I used to have all those years ago.

Vive le Tour! Allez Cavendish! Allez Quintana!