Viva Le Tour!!

I know what you’re thinking: great, a sports post. *sigh*  And I don’t really blame you, I’m not much of a sports kind of gal myself.  I understand the rules but I just have trouble getting very excited about most sports.  I do like swimming (a holdover from highschool when I dated most of the swim team.  Ok, just the captains) but I LOVE the Tour.  I don’t follow cycling any other time of year but there’s just something about the Tour that just really gets me.

Take today’s stage #17, for example. It was right around 125 miles, 40 miles of which ascends three (four) different mountains one of which is so brutal that Versus (our go to station for tour coverage in the US) gave it its own commercial. (That means something to anyone who’s ever watched anything on Versus, this station tries to out man SpikeTV.)

For the past three days the race has been going through the Alps.  The Alps people! These are serious mountains.  Yesterday, on stage 16, a German named Stefan Schumacher in a group and alone led for almost the entire stage.  Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, he did not win the stage (the guys in the early breaks nearly never do) and finished 8th overall (for the stage). But today he was out there doing it again, pushing up these mountains all by himself just because he could.  He had no hope of winning the Tour and realistically very little hope of winning the stage.  And yet he rode.

And it’s not just what they do, it’s the way they do it.  Cycling is a team sport but only one man gets to stand on top of the podium at the end of the race.  For the last three stages the man leading out the main bunch for the majority of the stage has been Andy Schleck from Luxemburg.  He has yet to win a stage, he isn’t even trying.  He certainly isn’t going to win the whole shabang.  You see Andy has a brother named Frank.  And Frank just might do it.  For the last three days Frank’s been the maillot jaune, or yellow jersey so his brother has been, literally, beating himself up, expending his last ounce of energy to take that extra bit of wind resistance off his brother.  If you need me to point out the life lesson here, you’ve got bigger problems.

These guys, the domestiques, ride for the purpose of helping other guys on their teams win.  Ever heard of George Hincapie?  Maybe about half of you have.  How about Lance Armstrong?  Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Lance?  But Lance would not, no question WOULD NOT have won all his Tours without George.  George rode into the wind to block it for Lance, he led Lance up and down mountains.  On at least one occasion that I know of he gave Lance his bike.  And now that Lance has retired he does it for someone else. (Kim Kirchen currently placed 11th.)

A lot of people don’t like cycling because it’s “too slow.”  I’m not going to say they’re crazy (although they are) but to me the pace is the beauty of it.   They’re just ride along for hours but then all the sudden someone attacks and the whole face of the race changes.

Remember the Schleck brothers?  There’s another man on the Schleck’s team, team CSC, who has a chance of winning the Tour and when he attacked out of a group that had been riding relatively quietly together for more than four hours, at the base of the last climb the Schleck brothers, both of them, did what they could to hold off the others riders in their group so that Carlos Sastre, of Spain, could take the lead, both for the stage and for le Tour.  Again, there’s a life lesson in there.

And how about this year?  Who do we Americans root for?  Well, I hate to tell you but America’s great white hope, Christian VandeVelde, at more than 4 and a half minutes back, is out of contention for the Tour, for this year.  Which is another thing that fascinates me about cycling.  We spend three weeks watching these guys racing.  They’ll be on their bikes for more than 100 hours, and four minutes puts him out of the running? Crazy!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Just Grin and Bear It « Alison Wonderland

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