Friday, October 9, 2020

The Tour on Tour.

It might be a bit of an understatement to say that Covid has interrupted many things. The London Marathon took place last week, 47 000 people ran it. Well 47 000 people all round the world ran/ walked/ hopped 26 miles plus a few very elite athletes ran 25 times round St James Park in London.  Shura Kitata won in 2 hours 5 minutes, the ladies race was won by Brigid Kosgei in 2 hours  15 minutes.

The race is usually run in April, the rescheduled event showed an autumnal London in all it’s glory.

The biggest annual sporting event on the face of the planet was also rescheduled.

Oh what is that I hear you ask. I bet Stan knows.

And the answer?    The Tour De France.

The cycling world went in the huff with covid then rescheduled all the  Grand Tours (the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España). So it’s about  21 day-long stages over 23 days.  It is  "the world’s most prestigious and most difficult bicycle race."

And so much more.

Here’s a quick guide to the excitement;

1)      There are teams with great names like Deceuninck-quickstep, Sunweb, Jumbo Visma, Movistar,  Cofidis,  Bahrain McLaren, Ineos Grenadiers and the Israel Start-up Nation. A team has over 70 staff, and a register of riders to use throughout the year as they wish. Each team has 8 riders, each rider has a different job. About 22 or 25 teams start the race.

2)      Each team will have a protected rider, the leader, (the really good on), he will be protected  by domestiques during the race,  usually  keeping him out of trouble  until the last few k of the stage. This requires really good riders to sacrifice themselves.

3)      The leader wears a special jersey, as does the king of the mountains, the sprint king and the top of the young riders.  Sometimes one rider has most of the jerseys, like Tadej Pogačar. National champions  get to use their own jerseys.

4)      There are races within races, the individual, the stages,   the sprints within  the stage, the general classification  and most combative rider ( the one who had a good idea but ran out of steam)

5)      The fascinating thing is the peloton ( bunch as we call it). It moves as a beast, swarming and thinning with its own inner intelligence. Yes the  team riders are all connected by radio but the peloton is more like a shoal of fish or a murmuration of starlings.  The helicopter view makes it easy to see the teams  lining up in readiness for the lead out. A rider at the front can be sent back to help a team mate through the peloton especially if a sprint is coming up and the sprinter is stuck at the back of 140 riders!  The peloton can suffer from the Washing machine  effect- when the wind changes! It contends with cobbles,  spectators, narrow roads and road furniture- roundabouts, speed bumps.

6)      The riders chat as they go round, they talk to the camera men. The F word is universally understood.

7)      Going round a corner at 70k is not uncommon. A very dangerous descent is called ‘technical’

8)      Julian Alaphilippe is a fantastic character, he cannot help himself and is usually in tears.  ‘That’s Julian bored now,’ is a common phrase from the commentary as the French goes up the road at 65 kph on a steep hill.  Peter Sagan is  the champion sprinter,  see video attached. He got lost riding back to the hotel so some fans  had to give him a hudgie from their mini. After 4000 plus K, the favourite lost the tour on the final time trial, to his friend and countryman. It was very emotional to watch. Tadej Pogačar (SLO) won, Primoz Roglic was second.


They move at a terrific speed, with very little protection  and no chance to get out the way if a crash happens in front. In  the first three days of the Giro, one rider was moving his hands  on the handlebars just as his front wheel hit a manhole cover. It flipped him over the barrier, into a shop window. The handle bar entered his lower abdominal wall, just missing his iliac artery. He was very lucky.

Geraint Thomas, who I have blogged about before, got his big break in the Tour when Froome was injured. He had always played second fiddle to Froome, and when he got his chance he took it and won. He was favourite for the giro this year.  In the neutralised zone, before they race,  his front wheel hit a bottle and he came off. He got back on. He struggled to keep up with the peloton. The team sent back four riders (including the previous day’s winner) to  protect him and help him but he couldn’t get  in contention. Xrays that night revealed nothing.

 MRI scan the next day revealed a fractured pelvis. 5 hours cycling with a fractured pelvis.

That’s courage.  

Here's a video of the incident. Watch for the red bottle bounce across the road at the lower left of the screen. The  female spectator sums it up,   'Mama Mia!'

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend and former restaurant partner who was Greece's undefeated bicycling champion in the late 1950s early 1960s. He talked a lot about his races, but not until today did I understand the intricacies of the sport. You've actually made me a fan! Honest. Now, could you possibly explain Cricket to me...