Extract from The Road Book 2020 Edition. To read more of Allan Peiper’s words and much more, pre-order your copy of history today.
Australian Allan Peiper, the veteran of five Tours de France as a rider, is the principal sports director with UAE Team Emirates. Having previously worked with HTC Columbia, Garmin and BMC, there are few more qualified practitioners in the sport. In 2019 he took time away from the sport as he was battling through chemotherapy, after a second recurrence of prostate cancer. His stewardship of the prodigiously talented Tadej Pogačar- and the meticulous preparation he devoted to the decisive day of racing at the 2020 Tour de France- produced a historic stage that will be talked about for decades to come.
I got some tears in my eyes. I remembered back to a year ago, to July 2019, when the Tour had passed my house in Geraardsbergen. Back then I was not even capable of walking down to the corner of the street to see the race. And here I was now in Nice, you know, as the first director of the Tour, with a kid who could do a great ride. There was quite a bit of emotion and gratitude at being back at the start of the Tour again.
Tadej. The first real impression he made on me was last year, in 2019. We were at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong. Tadej was there and did a reasonable race. But we woke up the morning wanting to leave and he found out he’d lost his passport. It was Australia Day, so obviously everything was closed. I used all the contacts I knew to get in touch with the consulate and then with the embassy and got papers drawn up. I had to find him a hotel room and change his flight, then get in touch with Slovenia to check they were OK with him coming back. He stayed very calm in all of that situation, where most kids would have freaked out. Of course he was nervous, but he was definitely not worried, which was a surprise.
Last year he won the Tour of Algarve and I was there as well. I realised he was a kid who really listened to what I said. On the last day, he didn’t panic on the final climb and rode his own tempo, letting them go. You know, he rode better than I suggested. He pulled them back in the final. Staying calm under stress – that was my first impression of him.
I was prepared when I got to Nice. In the first meeting we did a round table and I asked each rider how they felt they were going and what they expected from the Tour de France. We set the expectation that we were riding for the top five, with a dream of the podium. I think probably we were the only two that really believed it. That relationship between Tadej and myself – that trust element between us – was already really firm going to the Tour. I think we were in sync but in different ways. Without any prior experience, winning the Tour de France is quite intangible. But there’s a deeper confidence about what’s possible. And I think he had confidence in himself about what was possible. In a different way, I had a deeper confidence in what he could do.