Tour de France – Episode I

by kpmautner

I make a point of watching as much of the three weeks of the Tour de France as I can every year. If for no other reason than to see the outstanding scenery going by (and the countryside ain’t bad either!). These are some of the fittest athletes in the world. And some of the craziest.

I know there has been scandal after doping scandal, but I still admire Lance Armstrong and his collection of victories (don’t tell me nobody else in the peleton was doing it …) and his will and determination. I still admire anyone who does something at the top of a sport and does it well.

The unsung heroes of the Tour are the domestiques, the team riders. These men do not ride for their own personal glory; they ride to enable their lead rider to position himself in a place where he can do what he needs to do. Thsi is the true definition of a team player. Unless your team manager specifically permits you do so, you don’t break away from your team and try and win a stage ahead of your star rider.

Today, the first day, (I’m reporting a few days late), they’re riding through the incredible landscape of Corsica (now on my list of places to go). They showed a clip from last year’s race, hen some idiot of a driver of a television crew car clipped the riders at the front of the peleton and sent several riders off the road into a barbed-wire fence. The entire crew in the car has been banned permanently from the race (which is a good thing) and the riders are back in contention this year (in fact, I think the fellow who ended up tangled in the barbed-wire actually got up and finished last year, which is awesome).

While I admire all of the guys who ride this incredible race with high honors to the wearer of the maillot jaune (the yellow jersey worn by the overall leader) I carry a particular torch for the winner of the Lanterne Rouge (the red lantern), the prize given to the last straggler who finishes in the maximum time. (The booby prize) I personally couldn’t keep up with that fellow, and I have nothing but admiration for someone who can hold on that long and finish. Just finishing the Tour is a major accomplishment.

More Tour comments will follow, with highlights as they occur.