The most grueling endurance event I know of, the Tour de France simply has no equal. Lasting nearly the whole monht of July, the Tour requires the best out of every cyclist almost every day for a whole month, over mountains, across fields and time trials. If you don’t know how the Tour works, better read last year’s post before going on.
Before telling out about this year’s race, first another brief primer. Every day, every rider sets out and tries to do the best they can. Most race in a pack, with racers from all teams clumped together, because being together reduces drag and makes pedaling easier. When a handful of riders break ahead the idea is to stick together and share the time ‘at the front’ doing the hard work. There is a racer who gets to the finish-line first and every day the winning racer is crowned that stage’s winner. In addition to an individual stage winner, there is also the yellow jersey which goes to the rider with the best overall time. Sometimes that jersey hardly changes hands, sometimes it changes nearly every day.
When you ride that close, you’re bound to bump elbows.
This year a TV car caused a crash when it tried to avoid a tree. At one point in stage 7 (we’ve had 9 so far) there was a crash that involved some 80 riders. Last year’s winner and this years race favorite has crashed at least four times this year. He now sits over 4 minutes out of first place. But crashes alone aren’t why I follow the Tour, I follow it because it is the best television I’ve ever seen.
Every day these men set out to ride a bike as hard and as fast as they can, around 5 hours each day, for over three weeks straight. They work as team to ‘share’ the work and support their lead riders while chasing and forcing their adversaries to work harder.
Ever since Team Garmin was created I’ve been rooting for them. The reason: they take drug testing very seriously and go far beyond what is required of them to prove they are clean. In the second stage, the team time trial, Garmin won its first ever stage. They also propelled one of their riders into the overall first place spot, which he managed to keep for the week. Thor (yes, the Thunder God) lost that lead over this past weekend but he isn’t out yet. Will he be able to rebound or won’t he? It’ll take two full weeks of riding to find that out.
Right now though, none of the riders expected to win are leading. The ‘expected’ rider doing the best is in 5th and is over 2 minutes out of first. Last year’s race was decided by well under 60 seconds. In the meantime, one rider is on a pace to set the record for most individual stage wins EVER. He has 17 so far, and needs 22 to set that record.
Competition, drama, teams, what isn’t there to love?