DAY TWENTY FOUR
Imagine my delight when I was looking for something to watch and happened across a Tour de France Preview! I was as happy as Paul Revere with a cell phone, or a camel on Hump Day! Yes, it’s time for YELLOW JERSEY MANIA to overtake me. Why?
Ok, here’s the story…
I’ll admit it…Once upon a time, I believed in Lance Armstrong. I still think there’s something about him that was good, but not the way he won le Tour 7 times. I feel deceived. Like finding out that Superman doesn’t really fly. Wha??? But this was 2009 and the truth was then “just rumor”. And, he’d just had additional cancer surgery and was back on his bike making this amazing ride, so he had to be superman, right? In watching “Lance”, I got hooked on the sheer beauty and competition.
Don’t know much about how the Tour de France works? Here’s my explanation:
The TOUR de FRANCE is a bike ride around France from June 29 – July 21. Apparently it also includes a beginning in another country — Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain — this year they’ll be in Corsica for 3 days. They they start across France — across the sunflower fields, past chateaux, up steep Alpen or Pyreneean mountains, through charming small towns. It’s a travelogue that goes past the sights you’ll see in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, the sport channel that covers it uses a helicopter and you get some really great scenic views. The guys who do the announcing on NBCSports (Brits, I think) are good at telling you about the area they’re riding through — I mean, there’s only so much they can say about a 200 mile a day bike ride. I love the scenery.
These men have not a single additional ounce on their toned muscular bodies. (I’ve heard they eat thousands of calories every night.) On the road, they eat on the run. They take a “nature break”, though don’t ask me when… you never seem to see anyone stopping for such a thing. They go day after day after day. Up the mountains, across a hundred plus miles of flatland, switchbacks up dramatic peaks. It’s spectacular theater. The ultimate goal is to be the fastest man to get to the end of the tour — Paris. They do so by passing several tests. Team Time Trials — the whole team rides in a pack. The first team to the end of the stage, gets the points. Individual Time Trials. This is literally one man at a time against the clock. Every second counts toward the Yellow Jersey (the ultimate prize). There’s a prize for the guy who does the mountain stages the best — the Polka Dot Jersey. There’s a prize for the best “young” rider (25 or under) — the White Jersey. But the big prize is the MAILLOT JAUNE – the Yellow Jersey. The man in the lead at the end of each day gets to wear the yellow jersey all day. Sometimes it changes from day to day. Sometimes it stays on the same back for days in a row. There’s a Stage victory prize and a Points Classification prize (Green Jersey) (besides the jerseys, there’s also money awarded for the various categories. Want to learn more? (click here)
CRASHES! There are crashes galore. Last year, some jerk threw tacks / nails into the road and there were lots of flats and there were crashes, but this is an unusual occurrence in a somewhat gentlemanly sport. They crash at the beginning of a day when they’re all bunched up together. They crash when they’re on a steep down slope when they don’t make the turn just right. They crash when it’s raining (or snowing). They crash in the mountains. They crash at the finish line. There’s lots of blood. Actually, this is my least favorite part.
Then there are the spectators. 80% of the spectators are French. (duh) They range from the guys out in the fields who watch the bikes whizz by and probably get back to their haystacks, to the (most likely inebriated) costumed characters who clog the narrow mountain trails as the riders struggle by in single file. They follow behind their favorite, rooting them on at the top of their lungs (er… screaming like maniacs). It looks like people rent campers, pick a spot and party till the time comes to cheer… then they go back to their party.
Sadly, I always expect that the race will be decided on the last day. Wouldn’t that be a great theatrical end to this nearly month-long spectacle? But no, the winner is usually so far ahead of the time of his main competitors that the race winner is known a week before it ends. Still, it’s exciting to see. Will he go down in a pile of riders and lose his advantage? Will he get hurt? (One guy removed a newspaper page from the front wheel of his bike (while riding at like 40+ mph) last year and got his fingers stuck in the spokes and bled to the end of that day’s stage.)
There aren’t many Americans who are poised to win. Last year, the “best young rider”was an American from Colorado — TeJay Van Garderen – he came in 5th overall at just 23 years old. I’m rooting for TeJay (or TJ) again this year! Ya gotta have someone to root for right?
Every year, I have that “post event let down” after it ends. After watching EVERY DAY for 23 days and then you have to go cold turkey for another year… it’s really sad.
But now I’m getting psyched. It’s almost YELLOW JERSEY TIME!