Gear Change Up

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pedal to the medal

Contrary to popular opinion, flat stages are not flat. They happen do be flat when compared to going over the Alps, which is not fair because the alps are one of the largest mountain chains in the world. A big apology to the Hamilton Bike Co-op. Upstate NY would be considered a flat stage in the Tour de France.

And College Hill would be a Cat 4 climb.


As I try to define cycling culture in other countries, I inevitably compare each one to the US. One thing I have been thinking a lot about is how to define the American cycling fan. It's a very small, very fanatic, rather intense group of middle to upper class group white people. Who have for the most part been very successful in their lives, and have adopted a big can-do attitude (which, by the way, is also a very American attitude). They see riders go up and over these big climbs, and there is a small voice inside them that says, "I can do that," and a slightly larger voice that says, "Regardless, you must try." American cyclists honestly believe they could do what the tour riders do if they just worked hard enough. That's why we keep buying more and more expensive bikes. Obviously if we lost a chain ring here and put some carbon in the seatpost, we could do what they do.

And then the hardest rides turn out to be "flat" stages. The cycle of try try try, fail fail fail, try try try again has hooked a very small group of Americans who just can't stop looking for an edge.

Which brings up another plurality of cycling: Sane vs Insane? As my british friend Mark who is riding from Strausborg to rejoin watching the tour on Alp D'Huez said, "When I'm riding, I can't tell if I'm loving it or hating it."

Stage 2 continued the pattern of ride, ride, ride, breakway, break gets minutes, break gets sucked back in, break caught. But it got a little exciting toward the end when the peloton came up on some hills and a rider here and there decided to go for it. An exciting 30 seconds before the sprinters swallowed them abck up and spit them out the rear. Matthias Kessler, a T-Mobil rider almost did the lone break successfully. But the sprinters did it their way. I think one of the most disheartening things I have ever seen was Kessler getting caught about 50 yards after he passed me, maybe like 75 yards to the finish. It was one man out on his own, but you saw the crew coming up on him, you saw his candence and knew he was close, but not that close.

George lost yellow, I think he got caught behind a crash. He'll get it back.

Stage 2: Credit Lyonnas vs Skoda
TPS busted out their own white bucket hats trying to...get ahead (hahaha) in the race to make sure that there is not a single square inch of scalp showing between the finish line and 500 meters to go. Skoda countered with rollerbladers and leading a group of Italians in singing their theme song ("S-Ka-O-De-A") But in the end Credit Lyonnas came back again and actually had distributors stand in front of people and not move until the yellow baseball cap was being worn. Stage 2 vicotry to Credit Lyonnas.

Caravan I Feel The Most Sorry For: The TPS girls that have to dance on the back of pickups everyday, six hours a day, to "Come on Eileen."

Today the riders continue up to Holland, while I opted to cut the corner and watch the stage from a nice cafe in the shade in St Quentin, France. St. Quentin is a town that was pretty much destroyed during WW1, and is doing so much better today. By far my most favorite town so far, as they have put a beach and swimming pool in the main town square.

I have learned a lot about following the Tour, and that is that you must always be prepared to get caught without food, water, and sometimes you must race the sun to your destination. So I took today to ride, restock, refuel, and get psyched for tomorrow. It's hot now, but the clouds are building up to the west, and its looking like rain sooner rather than later.

So leave me your predictions for stage 4 as to 1) Who's gonna win? 2) Who's gonna get the muddiest? and 3) Is Brit's tent going to leak?

1. Thor 2. Ekimov 3. Man, its gonna be close...

Happy fourth of July, all.


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